We are revisiting our Winter conversations about play and friendship in our classroom. This is a discussion from early in 2018 that has become one of our starting points:
In February, we added a tradition to our “You Can’t Say You Can’t Play Circles” called a “check-in.” Ariel explained that check-ins “are when you say how you’re doing and part of that is saying what you might need help with and you can say where you’re brain is at…what you are thinking about. You can also say ‘pass’ if you don’t want to share that right now. And we are going to ask each other around the circle, like, ‘Miriam how are you doing?'”
Wynne: Part of what I need right now is having more space. [people move and shift a little] Emiliana, how are you?
Emiliana: I want my mama and dada. Avi, how are you doing?
Avi: I’m good…Liat?
We went all around and then began to read more of Vivian Paley’s book. It was a part about how she was adding a new tradition in her class of telling ‘Magpie Stories.’ Ariel interjected: “This makes me think of Princet Ayo. I used to tell stories at this school of Princet Ayo and Princess Fishstick. They were silly stories, but they were also about what we were experiencing in our class. Should we make new characters and tell new stories like a big Story Table all together?”
Ariel has since brought a version of that tradition to our lunch table of late.
Then it was time for another check-in question: How are things going? Are we still hearing “you can’t play” in our class?
Everyone yells “YES!”
Netta: I don’t know. I don’t say it anymore. I don’t say it anymore. I don’t say it anymore.
Wynne: I say it sometimes.
Emiliana: Because maybe sometimes people doesn’t remember.
Ariel: What’s a new way to remember?
Wynne: People could remind each other.
We talk a little about what reminding each other in a way that feels good could look like. Ariel returns to the idea of storytelling to remind the whole class instead of just particular people in the heat of the moment. We talk about how Magpie works in Vivian’s classroom. Then we ask something more fundamental: Why are we doing this experiment? Why would we want to try to find ways to play with one another even when it’s hard?
Carly: that will be good so that we have more fun.
Emiliana: To say you can play is good, but to say you can’t play is not happy for people.
Maia: Do we all agree?
Miriam: No. Because it’s not fair to me.
Emiliana: It’s Gooder to let people play to learn to be nice.
Ariel: What’s not fair, Miriam?
Miriam: You don’t get to choose [who you play with] and that’s not fair to me.
Emiliana: If you don’t learn to be nice…
Maia: How do we learn?
Emiliana: If you learn to be nice as a little kid and you do mistakes…a mistake is like if do something that another person doesn’t want to do, like also if you say the wrong thing and then you, like, get really mad. But then you figure out that was not actually the thing.
Maia: This is what’s hard for me too. I agree with both Miriam and Emiliana. I think people should be able to choose who they are friends with and who they want to play with and what sorts of games they want to play. But I also think we all need to find ways of playing all together and finding new ways to be with people that can change our games for the better: I do think it is a way of learning how to be kind and how to be a community–a class together.
Wynne: I have a solution so people stop saying “yes, no, yes, no.”
Maia: What solution?
Emiliana: Talk it all over again and let everybody hear?
Miriam: Like: it was just Emi and Miriam until Frankie came and there were only two persons allowed in my bedroom and then we decided…
Emiliana: …and then we decided to let Frankie in cuz he…your dad told us to let Frankie in.
Maia: Oh. You shared a story. What does that story have to do with choosing and also letting people play?
Carly: Um. Because also because people kinda forget this but it’s kinda important to be nice.
Wynne: I think we should vote.
Maia: Oh. Why? What are we voting on?
Wynne: And whoever thinks the same thing the most…the most people who think the same thing that’s what we choose in this class. We’re choosing if it is a “yes” or a “no.”
Carly: If you can’t play…
Ariel: What are we saying “yes” to?
Carly: “Yes” that we agree on that…yes play or no play.
Maia: How will voting help?
Ariel: Or what are we learning by voting?
Wynne: How many people can play in a game.
Maia: Hey, Winfred? Is it ok if I change our discussion away from the voting question?
Maia: Here is what I am hearing. We are talking about two words, I think: FAIR and NICE. What do we mean by nice, what does nice mean?
Carly: Being nice to ‘nother people.
Ariel: What does that look like?
Carly: People get happier by the second! Saying “no” does not learn us to be nice.
Emiliana: Yes it does. If you don’t make mistakes, you don’t know anything when you’re big. Everybody makes mistakes so that means they DO learn to be nice.
Ariel: Just making mistakes is what you need to be nice?
Emiliana: Not all. Other things like saying “sorry.”
Ariel: Question! Is sharing similar–does it look a lot like–saying “you can play with me?”
Ariel: What if we want to share with some people but not every people?
Wynne: We put it in a place that only some people can reach it, like Miriam, and other people can…
Miriam: I don’t understand.
Maia: How do you feel when someone puts something where only Miriam Angelo can reach it?
Wynne: Sometimes I am sad-mad. Mad at some person because of what they did to my feelings.
Maia: Oh. Here is my question about these two words, FAIR and NICE: How can playing be fair AND nice? Do we get to choose our friends but also share our games? What do we do if we don’t get turns? If we’re not giving turns?
Ariel: I think playing is basically the same as taking turns with friends. Same-same. I think a lot of people in our class talk about fair being about taking turns. Sharing and taking turns is what makes playing possible and fun. And playing with people is what makes us feel we have friends and friends who know how to be nice to us.