For most of my time during this past session, I was in the language area, either helping children with stories or watching them set puzzles. Although several children came through, there seemed to be a few children who primarily stayed in this area and that most of my attention was fixed on.
N. came in first and sat down next to me, drawing a picture. I didn’t think much of it at first, but her father came to me and told me that N. liked having me in the classroom. Although I was glad to have made that connection with her, I also felt like I needed to be careful. In our reading, Griffith points out that “[A teacher] makes no effort to charm or involve the children through becoming the center of their attention, though she is always ready to help when needed” (61). I wanted to make sure that I was being fair to all students as well as maintaining my relationship as a teacher to them. With multiple students at the table, I tried to attend to all of them equally, though N. was particularly interested in interacting with me as well, such as perching an eagle puppet on my shoulder, and it was clear that she was there not to play with the items in the language area but to play with me. I’m interested to see how this progresses going forward: my hope is that my presence won’t be too much of a distraction for her, and she eventually did end up leaving and playing with other children outside. If she does insist on playing more specifically with me, however, I do think I will need to talk seriously with her in that I am not really a permanent playmate for her.
A. was also there, and I felt as though much of her interaction with me and the other students was fighting for attention. When O. started drawing a rainbow, A. started drawing a rainbow, and when O. had me write stories for her, A. also wanted me to write stories for her. When another student made some comment, such as having a certain toy, A. would “one-up” the other student, perhaps saying that she herself had the same toy. Uncertain about what her motivation for this behavior was, I didn’t deal with it directly, but tried to spin it in a more positive direction. Instead of praising one student or another, I would say something to A. like, “That’s a coincidence that you both have the same toy.” In that way, I was hoping to draw more similarities between them, instead of emphasizing the difference, and have them connect on the issue instead. I did have some difficulty giving A. even proper attention however: because her requests always came slightly after another (being a copy), and since her patience was typically shorter than the required activity, I had little opportunity to directly interact with her. Should this happen again, I think I might try to deal more directly with A. in a way that doesn’t reward her behavior but also giver her a better feeling that I am treating her equally.
After snack time, I drifted outside and over to the sand area where two girls were stirring a large tub of water and sand. When I first asked them what it was, they told me that it was a potion, though when I repeated this back to them, they insisted that it was actually an ocean. As they sprinkled more “cinnamon” into the tub, it soon turned into an “ocean of cinnamon,” which both Nandini and I expressed our surprise about. While I was watching and talking to them, they also whispered to each other, and soon they explained that it was going to be a secret. Presuming that they intended that it being an ocean of cinnamon, I asked them, “What will you say if someone asks you what it is?” One of them responded that they would tell the asker what it was. When I pointed out that it wasn’t a very good secret if they told everyone, they then insisted there was a deeper. I didn’t press them for what that secret was, but we talked more at length about the nature of secrets and who we can share them with. Soon, one of them asked me if I wanted to know what the secret was (under the condition of secrecy, of course), and when I agreed, they told me it was a potion. When I asked what the potion did, they initially had no answer, then came up with something on the spot.
The biggest surprise in this conversation was the maze-like, improvised nature of their story. We discussed in class last week that children often do things without a goal, and it seems that they also similarly engage in fiction without fleshing out what seems to me to be essential details. As I went through the conversation with them, they were making up new aspects of their play. Instead of admitting to any contradictions in their story, they developed even more elaborate details to reconcile pieces together.
The deeper issue that caused them trouble in play was their ability for deception, which I find very interesting. In a cognitive development class, we discussed the difficulty that children have with deception and linked this to issues of theory of mind. My experience at Bing has shown that this isn’t strictly true since they are capable of deception, and they’re quite proficient in the ostensibly linked task of understanding and creating fiction. Even so, the girls were unable to both intend to keep a secret (in wanting to tell others what their concoction was) and actually keep the secret (asking me if I wanted to know instead of waiting for me to ask them). Pointing out these problems with secrecy motivated them to create even deeper secrets, which they were presumably guarding.