4/18/12

A Common Language

When I first began teaching I was lucky enough to fall into a job at a school that was training staff to use Responsive Classroom practices.  The basis for Responsive Classroom was to create an environment and community that felt respectful and safe for children and teachers, by teaching and modeling what expected behaviors looked and sounded like and by using positve language to describe expectations for the children.  One of the many benefits of this practice was to create a common language for our school.  If you were a child in first grade, and you walked down the hall to another classroom or to lunch or recess, all the teachers would use the same type of positive phrasing, and logical consequences, "Go back to the door way and use walking feet this time", "Remember to keep your hands safe", "Quiet voices please."  I have to think it must have been nice for those children going up through the grades to find out that in second grade there might be a lot of things different and new, but this common language was the same.  Although Responsive Classroom did not solve or prevent every problem behavior, it was a nice simple foundation for building an overall sense of community and safety for our students.

Now fifteen years later, I find myself, mom of three, looking for that common language here at home.  The language that most consistently keeps us all feeling respected, positive, safe and happy.  A foundation on which to build.  Somehow it seems like it is so much harder now here with three of my own children, than it was back then with a classroom of other peoples' children.  Back when I left school at the end of the day, week, year, I was free to relax, rejuvinate and rebuild my positive attitude and language.  Now somedays I go to sleep feeling like I got sucked down into the negative spiral that raising a wacky tribe of children sometimes appears to be.  Imagine being swished slowly down the drain with a spiral of water sucking you right down through the pipes and into the sewer.


Then yesterday, I realized we have our own language after all!  We were at our local lake, summer hangout during unseasonably warm spring weather this week.  The second day a breeze payed a seasonal reminder.  The beach was empty and waves lap, lap, lapped at the shore.  My middle guy said, "I like to be here even more when noone else is here.  I can hear the waves. It's so peaceful."  That started me thinking, we have a common language, a foundation, it is Water and it mostly brings out the best in us.


Everyday we use water as our nonverbal method for communication.  How many times did I soothe an unconsolable baby by running water on his little piggies till he giggled, and use the nightly bathtime ritual to show consistent love and care for my children.  A squirt of water from my clenched hand lets them know I have a sense of humor, and a smile when they splash back proves it.  Water can transport my family from a bickering, bellering, belligerent bunch to an amicably enchanted symbiotic organism.   It can bring contented calm to the young fisherman while the toddler fishy wiggles delightfully on the swishing shore.  Like a comedy water can make us laugh and act like children standing on our hands with feet in the air and splashing.  Then in the meloncholy end of summer tale we wistfully leave our favorite lake in Maine for the year, we jump in and take some home with us, in our hair and on our cooled skin, like goodbyes in our ears, knowing we will return again and again and again, because we know the water cleans our bodies and spirits, and rejuvinates our minds and hearts, like a great novel you don't want to put down and are somewhat sad to finish.  Water is our language.


Home :)

Bog time!

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