I think I work with the most masterful and quick-witted teacher alive! Here’s just one very small example of how Darlene took a negative situation (partly created by me!) and instantly found the positive kernel inside that could make a child feel encouraged and hopeful.
For the month of June Darlene and I decided to work with our grade one class to create a musical circus performance for our school. We knew it was a crazy time of year to do a major production but earlier in the year we’d promised the kids that we would make a circus in May. When various school-wide plans interfered with that timing, we felt we had to keep our promise and do the circus show in June.
We gathered all the costumes and circus music we could find. Kids signed up for at least two parts each. We had a lion, a tiger and an elephant (and of course, their trainers!) We had a troupe of four dogs and their master, Heidi! We had two ticket sellers, a tightrope walker, six clowns, seven acrobats, five beautiful bareback (hobbyhorse!) riders etc. etc. You get the idea! Along with all the other year-end duties in June such as report cards and classroom clean up, a Tea for Parent helpers etc., a circus added to our to-do list was a bit much. Just organizing the costume and make-up changes was a nightmare alone! We were tired!
One thing that took a lot of time was creating the props and decorations for the show. We invented a way to make plates twirl on a pole for the “Shanghai Plate Twirlers,” sewed a tutu and made a miniature flowered umbrella for Tina, the tightrope walker. We turned a puppet theater into a ticket booth and decorated the gym by having the students paint life-size clowns and a “Welcome to the Circus” mural. We found out that it’s a lot of work to run a circus when there are only two roustabouts!
Although we did have a lot of fun and our students were very excited about our upcoming circus, in the days leading up to the real shows, Darlene and I were no longer tired––we were exhausted. Needless to say, we were just barely holding it together. One of the major frustrations was that most of our homemade props were quite fragile. After we’d re-glued and re-hammered the “twirling plates” on to the doweling many days in a row, the whole idea of plate twirling and circus-making was quickly losing its appeal!
One afternoon in the last week, we were having a final rehearsal in the gym. The kids who weren’t actually performing at any one time were seated at different heights around the floor space. We had a variety of stools, boxes, short stepladders etc. for them to sit on to make the backdrop of the circus more visually interesting. On this day, one of our cutest, youngest and most playful “dogs” was seated on the highest two-level box. Of course, he couldn’t manage to sit still. Over he went, off the box, onto the floor, landing on the strongman’s most fragile (and most difficult to repair!) set of 1000 kg dumbbells––snapping the pretend weight off on one end!
Immediately, our little dog ran over to tell us what he had done and looking in the direction in which he indicated, I immediately saw a problem that would result in yet another repair job. In frustration, I let out an audible groan and sigh, which I instantly regretted as I saw his little dog eyes fill up with little dog tears! With only the slightest of pauses––in which I could tell she was deliberately searching for something positive to say––Darlene pointed out, “Well, thank you for doing the right thing. You came right over to tell us when you broke something.” Immediately, the tears were gone. Relief and a happy look returned to his little dog face as off he went to climb back up on to his post to sit quietly for the next act. All I could think of was how lucky I was to have a quick-witted partner who could jump in to to save the situation and make everything right again for this little fellow.
This is just a little story, but I think it highlights an important DWS skill––finding a positive response even though the situation itself might be negative. As Dr. Marshall points out, “People do better when they feel good.” In this particular incident, what good would have come from focusing on the fact that this little dog didn’t sit as still as was expected? Of course, nothing productive could have come from it and we would have all felt worse, rather than better, at the end of it. I know that in time, this puppy will eventually develop the maturity that allows him to sit as still as all the other dogs, but it’s TIME––not negative discipline–-that will accomplish this.
For me, it was a good lesson in keeping my priorities straight too––people and their feelings are more important than things.