Opal School closed in 2021. You can continue to access these resources for free at teachingpreschoolpartners.org/resource-library/.

Small moments

I happened upon a small moment today in the preschool that made me stop in my tracks and marvel over the tremendous capacity of children to communicate clearly, respectfully and with a deep sense of caring when they've been given the tools to do so. 

Caroline was introducing the concept of patterning to the children and 5 year old E wanted to share his idea. He was asked to come to the white board, and on the way, he unknowingly stepped on the finger of 3 year old S. S allowed E to finish his thought, and as he was headed back to sit down, S said, very clearly, "E, you stepped on my finger." E didn't hear him, and so he repeated, firm but clear, "E, you stepped on my finger." At this point everyone was quiet, waiting to hear the response. E looked S in the eye and said, "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to." And S said, "That's okay."

At this point, Kimie suggested that E find out if S needed anything, and so he asked. S said, again, clear, sure, confident, "No. I don't need anything right now." And it was over.

A simple and extraordinary small moment. No crying, accusing, defending, blaming. The only assumption made was that E would want to know he stepped on S's finger. Clear messages were heard. All were supported.

Later this evening I received this snippet from Sierra Freeman, Opal School's counselor, who had a story to share about an interaction between two 8 year old girls in Opal 2: 

A said to S, " I know you bring your gift of solving problems to the community and you are trying to help me, but I need you to know that sometimes I need to solve problems on my own and when you try to help, it makes my problem feel bigger to me." They then went on to make some agreements together around this issue.
These moments are commonplace at Opal School. The strategies the children are taught to help them communicate with one another, to resolve conflict, to listen to one another, and the structures that are in place to support dialogue, to build community, and to make each child's gifts visible are highly cultivated values within the culture of the school. But the children take to them so easily, I just have to think they are the most natural way for human beings to be together.
As adults trying to invent, implement, understand and trust these strategies and structures we are likely to bump into our own histories and habits. But the children are always ready and willing. If we pay attention, they'll show us possibilities within ourselves we may have long forgotten. Memories that could stand to be re-awakened.