This post is about the struggle between “me” and “we”, especially for children just getting used to school.
It’s the second week of school and the Kindergarten crowd is getting used to playing on the playground with the big kids at McKinney Elementary. The older students are very kind and careful, and leave them lots of room to join in and climb on the playground structure.
In fact, the only problem seems to be that the little ones don’t really notice when recess is over. They just keep playing, even if everyone else has gone back in the school. So some of us do a sweep just to make sure everyone gets back inside.
Here’s how a recent conversation about this with five-year-old Alex went:
Me: “Recess is over now, you know.”
Alex “It is?” (He looks bewildered)
Both of us then share a long pause in the conversation . . .
Alex: “What’s next? Is it lunch now?”
Me: “Well, no. You have to go back into the school now.”
Alex: “Why do we always have to sit on the carpet in there?”
A good question, that one, and you can see why Alex may be wondering why he has to come in from the playground and sit on the carpet with his class when he’s having plenty of fun outside by himself. The only thing possibly better than playing outside is lunch.
I tell Alex, “It’s a good place to talk and listen to other people.”
Though he doesn’t say it, he looks at me as if he’s not buying it at all, and trudges back into his classroom.
This gets me thinking about how much of school is wrapped around learning how to be with others, and what a hard lesson that is sometimes, as being alone and doing things when you want to do them is important for everyone, especially when you’re five years old and feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the new company at school. In fact, there’s really not much room for privacy or just doing what you’d like at school, so it’s not so surprising that some children use the recess to find some time for themselves. Some plunge right into the crowd, some read, some watch, and some just keep to a small group. It’s one of the few times they can choose exactly how they want it to be. The only thing they can’t choose is the time recess ends.