Guest post by Colleen Donovan, a Kindergarten Teacher at Escuela Caracol:
This month, I’d simply like to share a story with you. It is a story I wrote for my class during our first few weeks together, after watching the children come to class day after day tired, cranky, and fussy. Think of how you feel when after a few nights of bad sleep a colleague says something to you that gets under your skin (something that likely wouldn’t have bothered you at all had you been well rested). I’ll bet that you have said things under these circumstances that you later regretted.
Now think of 15 children, ages 3 to 6, who feel like this. When one of them is irritated by a classmate, a sarcastic remark is not the only reaction. At that age impulse control is still hard at the best of times; when you have a group of overtired children, impulse control goes out the window. After about two weeks of this situation, I admit that I was nearly at my wit’s end. This clearly wasn’t just a blip on the radar, my students were really struggling to get through the morning. What could I do to help them?
Naturally, there isn’t just one solution. Talking to parents individually, having a class meeting on the importance of sleep, and changing our daily rhythm to include rest time have all helped to alleviate the burden these children were carrying. Another way we can help our young ones is through stories.
Storytime can be one of the most magical moments of the day. In Waldorf kindergartens we often tell fairy tales—so rich in language and imagery—or seasonal tales, related to the cycle of the year. We also tell “therapeutic” tales, which can help a whole class or an individual child to overcome a struggle by presenting the problem in a loving and nonjudgmental way, and showing that there can be a satisfactory resolution. Another benefit of working through troubling behavior with a story is that we avoid singling out the child and leaving him or her with the stigma of being a “problem child.” Crafting a story for children you know using your love, interest in them, and creativity is a wonderful gift to give them. I encourage everyone to try! As you can see, my story is neither complicated nor long; it is simply one created from a desire to help. If you’re interested in learning more about therapeutic storytelling, I recommend Susan Perrow’s book Healing Stories for Challenging Behavior.
Turtle Loses His Shell
Those who know turtles know that their shells grow hard and strong during the night, while they are fast asleep. But every night when Turtle laid down, the noise of the crickets was so loud he could not sleep. Night after night, Turtle did not sleep, and little by little his shell grew soft and weak. One morning Turtle was surprised to find that his shell had disappeared completely during the night! Surprised, he went to the pond to find his friends Frog, Duck, and Fish, and they all began to play together, telling jokes and searching for delicious treats.
But something was not going well for Turtle. He was in such a bad mood! When Fish swam into him accidentally, he gave her a sharp nip with his beak. And when Duck’s foot grazed his back as he swam overhead, Turtle got so mad that he grabbed Duck’s leg and pulled him underwater! Poor Turtle was having a terrible time, and his friends were not enjoying themselves much more.
The next day was even worse. Every time Turtle’s friends tapped him on the shoulder, he pushed them away fiercely. One time, he pushed Frog so hard that little Frog fell into the water from the stone he was sitting on! Turtle’s friends had had enough. They could not take any more of him! So they got together to make a plan. Fish announced that he would bring glue to the pond the next day and glue Turtle’s beak shut, so he could no longer bite anyone. Frog said he would bring some rope and tie up Turtle’s feet, and that way he could not push them anymore. But Duck said, “I believe I will help my friend Turtle,” and began to search for the most beautiful stones and pebbles he could find. When he had gathered a small pile, he began to make a mud pit. “I’ll help,” said Frog, and he began to mix mud as well. Once that was ready Duck said, “Now all I need is some seaweed.” Fish immediately swam to the bottom of the pond and returned with long strands of algae. Duck began to cement the precious stones together with the mud, and slowly a shell took form.
When Turtle saw his friends approaching, he quickly grabbed all the delicious leaves he had gathered to eat. He was not going to let his friends steal his snack! But Turtle was surprised to see them holding the most beautiful shell he had ever seen. “Here you are, friend,” said Duck. “We saw that lost your shell, so we made you a new one.” And with the strands of algae Duck tied the shell to Turtle’s back. Once it was in place, Turtle felt so much better. He played happily with his friends for the rest of the day, and that night when he laid down he made sure to stop his ears with cotton so that he could sleep well, and let his shell grow strong and hard.