“OK you guys, the clean-up song is on! Let’s work together to clean up as quick as possible so we can read the next chapter of Matilda!”
The 5 children that were in the room on that Wednesday afternoon jumped into motion. Some were reluctantly dismantling prized Transformers made out of Lego, others were sorting the two types of Lego—bigger ones into a round, cylindrical tube, and smaller ones into a plastic container with a “Lego” label on it. D’Niko, a blond boy with a shaved head, screams with a voice too big for his puny body.
“ANTHONY!!! Does it matter which box the Legos go in?”
“Yeah, I guess it does, since they’re different .”
“SEE? I TOLD you, Marangeli. Stupid.”
Marangeli, a lanky blond with expressive green eyes, frowns, sulks, and looks around dejected, without responding verbally.
I wonder how to address the complex exchange of emotions that have arisen. I’ve told D’Niko hundreds of times that put-downs are not OK. He’s acknowledged it, apologized thousands of times, thought of his own consequences and acted upon them. I’ve had hundreds of conversations with Marangeli about standing up for herself and not allowing people to treat her with disrespect. What else can I do?
By now, the children are assembling at the meeting area.
“I’m done cleaning,” Shamar says, rolling around on the floor by my feet, looking up at me.
“Oh, really? I still see Legos in the play area and some other—-“
Before I can finish the sentence Marangeli and Jaden, a tall, rotund boisterous child with a Chris Brown mohawk jumped to clean up before the words could leave my mouth.
“I see something white. Oh, and something blue, too. And what about that garbage?” I say from my teacher seat at the meeting area.
I look at Marangeli’s face. A smirk has replaced her frown—she feels happy to helpful and seems to have forgotten about the put down doled out to her before. But I haven’t. What do I do about what happened? How do I teach children how to treat each other with respect and how do I teach children how to demand respect?
The entire class of five looks about ready to begin our read aloud.
“What’s going to happen in Matilda today?” D’Niko asks.
I still don’t know how to proceed but it feels like the conversation that I would have with them will go in vain.
I look at Marangeli. I look at D’Niko. They don’t seem to care. It took me so long to get them settled, can I really afford to spend more time talking about this?
“Well, yesterday we read…”
Image: MaganRae, Justice