By Amber Norman
At morning meeting today, before I even mentioned any use of the instruments for the book, “Abiyoyo,” Nya said, “I want to use the triangle.” Instruments are typically used by our Sprouts community to sing along with the song in the story. When I picked up the instrument basket, right away, Massimo rushed over to get the triangle, simultaneously, Elle stated, “I want the Triangle.” I could have easily just picked a child and gave it to them, like Nya, because she requested it first. But important opportunities like the ones that unfolded, would have been missed entirely. This moment provided a rich occasion for the children to collaborate on an idea that would be, “fair,” and “just,” for everyone involved.
“Three of you have said you want the triangle, but there’s only one triangle, what do you think can be done about this?” is the question I presented to the group. They all began to share ideas.
“What about eenie meenie miney mo?” Elle suggested,
“Noooo,” a melodic, respectful tone came from the others.
“How about we take turns?” said Massimo.
I asked who would go first then, they couldn’t agree who that first person would be.
“How about someone hits it 5 times, then passes it!” suggested Elle.
This was the idea, in my mind, felt the fairest. Surely, they would all agree to this idea. But, alas, the melodic, “noooo,” filled the room once again. It was in this moment, as a teacher, the great temptation of wanting to suggest that be the solution arose within me, after all, we have been at this meeting for about a half hour now, most of it trying to solve this problem. But, if I did that, I would be taking over, dominating the problem-solving process that is so much more valuable than getting to the book. My domination of the discussion would communicate that I am the most expert at solving the problems, devaluing their capability and competency to collaborate, discuss, and propose ideas in a community setting and preventing them from developing and exercising those skills.
Vera then spoke, “What about if a person counts to 6 and whoever they land….” The melodic “noooo,” chorused this time, but this round it did not feel as respectful. Vera began to say she was not finished speaking and had some big feelings about it, she began to cry. This was a new opportunity to discuss respecting each other’s voices and ideas. I asked them if any of them have ever been cut off while trying to speak, they were able to connect. Some shared how it felt, “I didn’t like it,” said Nya.
Vera was then invited to finish her thoughts, “How about if someone counts to 6 and whoever they land on gets the triangle first.” They agreed! I asked, “Will that person keep it the entire book?” Someone (I can’t remember who) stated, “They can pass it when we turn the page.” I asked what everyone thought of that. There was a harmonious, “yeeesssss!” that permeated the room. They concluded that Vera could choose who did the counting. She chose Nya, and Nya counted to 6 and landed on Colton who initiated the triangle playing.
We read the book, they passed the triangle, and everyone had an opportunity to play it. My only role was to facilitate the discussion free of any suggestive language based on my own ideas about what should happen. This was it, they did it. Even if they never came to a solution, the process of problem solving, discussing, disagreeing, and being heard in a group setting was far more valuable than getting to the book or actually solving the problem.