Meeting of the Elders

TulipTreePRESCHOOL BLOG4 Comments

by Katee

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!”

4 Comments on “Meeting of the Elders”

  1. I’m slightly sensitive to the sub grouping and heirechy created with social systems. Is it possible for all kids at TT to hold this badge of honor through acts of kindness? How can there be fluidity and shifting of roles?
    While I appreciate the presence of elders related to experience, I also envision a space in which the teacher and student with in every child may be emphasized.

  2. We totally agree that each student is a teacher and can certainly be praised for their own acts of kindness and stewardship! This project work is to remind our friends, that have been at our school previously, that they hold a sort of expertise to our specific classroom agreements and routines. Each year the returning students can share this knowledge through patient helping. Of course our new students have plenty to teach as well!

  3. I’m so pleased that this work is happening, especially for our daughter who is the second of three children in our family unit. When Vi started at TTPS she was the youngest at preschool and found her way quite comfortably, but not without some bumps along the way. That didn’t change the fact that she was constantly looking to her peers for connection and to share experiences with. It feels so empowering for the children (at any age and stage) to be recognized for their experiences and I’m so glad she is able to explore this role within the community. Thank you TTPS.

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