“Mrs. D., can we talk to you?”
“Sure. I’ll meet you outside in just a minute.” The two 3rd grade girls went and sat at the table outside our classroom and waited. I reminded the remaining students to take a seat and today they all mostly did. After lunch, our routine is to return to the classroom and have 10 minutes of quiet time. We can draw, read or just rest. It is a time to settle ourselves and prepare for the next 2 and a half hours of our day – Reading Workshop, Writing Workshop and Social Studies or Science. It is 10 minutes for me to gather materials and my strength for the afternoon lessons. But not today. Today, two girls were waiting for me outside our classroom.
“Girls, what’s up?” I asked as I took a seat across from them wondering what drama must have occurred at recess or during lunch.
They both looked at each other. Then at me. Then back to each other. Their eyes were saying “You go…no you go…” Then Jill asked, “Do you want me to explain?”
In a low, quiet voice, Mary replied, “Sure”
Jill scooted up in her chair and her eyes got bigger and she began spilling out the drama, all in one breathe. “Well first during Art class, Johnny and Jack were not being nice to Mary. They were saying that her drawing was really small. And I spoke up and told them to leave her alone and that her drawing is great and it was fine that it was so small. And they just laughed and I told them they shouldn’t be laughing. Then at recess they both followed us around. We told them to stop and they laughed more and ran away. And we don’t think they should be bullying Mary.” And she stopped. Mary gave her a positive nod. And then they both looked to me, ready to hear how I’d fix this situation of 8-year-old school oppression.
I took a breath and calmly started, “Well, Jill you are a good friend, sticking up for Mary and being assertive to the boys and reminding them to be kind. So first. Thank you. And Mary, I can tell from what Jill described that today these two boys have really been annoying you. Is that right?”
“Yes,” again in a small voice.
“Well, I could ask them both to come sit and talk with us now. However, as you talked, this reminded me of a scene from our novel – Because of Winn Dixie. Do you know which scene I am talking about?” I asked.
“The one with the Dewberry boys?” Jill suggested.
“Yep. Maybe Johnny and Jack are acting this way because they want to be friends. They just are showing it by teasing you. And do you remember what Gloria Dump told Opal she had to do?
“Be friendly to them,” they both replied in unison.
“Hmmm….I’m wondering if you both try to keep an eye on this situation and maybe you try to follow Gloria’s advice and be like Opal. Who knows, maybe it is the boys’ way of showing that they want to be your friend. Want to give it a try?”
“Sure” both said easily. And then they got up and returned to a quiet classroom.
I smiled as I entered my third grade classroom. My inside voice offered a “Thank you” to Kate DiCamilla Books really do show us how to live.