Yesterday I called a meeting of some of our eldest children of the school. Many of our eldest children are younger siblings, or only children of a family and this role has seemed especially strange to some. It can be hard to keep patience with incoming friends that don’t know the ins and outs of our classroom and I wanted to make space to talk to these children who are somewhat ‘classroom experts’ of what this role means. I love the mixed aged classroom for this very reason- the young learn from their older peers and have fairly quick turnaround of then being the teachers themselves. But I wanted to know what they thought it meant to be an elder. So during choice time, their names were already on the board, indicating a special appointment time. They didn’t know what or why this was happening as the choice board gave no indicating photo of an “art appointment”, or a “block appointment”, or anything at all. They gathered around the table with just a large piece of white paper in front of them and waited for me. “I called this meeting to ask you all one question.”, I said, “I’m going to write the question at the top of our paper and the rest of the paper is room for your ideas.” I wrote at the top, “What Does It Mean To Be An Elder?”.
Many children said, “a big kid!”.
“Did you know that you are some of the oldest kids at our school this year?”, I asked.
They cited some of the elders we had at school last year and I explained that those children had moved on to Kindergarten, and that the children sitting around the table were now some the eldest at school. They all had big smiles on their faces and a couple of them straightened up in their seats as if to boast the badge of honor that they had just realized was on their chest.
“So what does that mean to be one of the oldest?”, I repeated
“The oldest! The big kids!” they chimed.
“The big kids help the little kids be, how at school, how they have to be. “- SH
“Oh! I heard Seaver talk about helping other younger children at school.” I said.
“Yeah, you can help kids get back to circle time.”, said SH and acted this out with NC
“If someone gets hurt, big kids can check in.”- VH
“We can say, ‘Do you need anything?'”-LD
“If someone gets hurt, big kids can get an ice pack.”- EP
They all agreed that they knew how to check in and where to find ice packs. I asked if maybe in addition to doing things for others, we could also teach our friends to do things so they could learn to be elders like them someday too. They came up with some ideas of things they could teach to others.
“I can button!”- CL
“I can teach people how to tie knots!”- NC
“I can teach people how to tie shoes!”- SH
“I can teach people how to take care of our toys.”- LD
They ran to get my boots with laces to show me tying and knots, and other elders wanted to try their hand at tying with pieces of yarn. Then we talked about plans to have more meetings, and I’m so genuinely looking forward to those. To close our meeting we gathered in a small circle and stacked our hands together in the center and said, “one, two, three, ELDERS!”