There's a solitary player in my class, let's call him Brendon, who has just started to notice more of what's going on around him and play alongside others. He's well behaved, and self conscious to the point of sometimes hiding his work. Brendon's not overly keen on 'tidy-up time', having tried a few strategies to avoid participation...
His first was to hide underneath the indoor climbing frame and keep very quiet. He became a victim of his own success...a number of other boys copied him and his cover was blown.
By this time I was experimenting with some ALPS (Accelerated Learning in Primary Schools) techniques. Bruce Springsteen's 'Born to Run' is listed as an energising track, which can enthuse children during 'tidy-up time'. Brendon likes this track. In fact he likes it so much that he goes to the front of the classroom, rests one foot on top of the skirting board and plays air guitar whilst head banging. I have no idea where he got this from, but it has become very popular with the boys who used to hide under the climbing frame with him!
Bruce Springsteen has now become more of a reward for good tidying up...Starlight by Muse is equally effective.
Tidying up outside is a whole different ball game. Now I think about it, I suspect Brendon has outwitted me on this front. Today is the only memory I have of him participating...
I didn't notice him until we had finished tidying up and the children were filing back indoors for snacktime. He threw a container of crayons on the floor and set off round the path that circles our outside area. Brendon doesn't do that sort of thing...he doesn't make a mess, in fact he makes a point of avoiding it (not just during tidy-up time). He had the biggest smile on his face.
Everyone else had gone in, so I was quite happy to watch and let things develop. He came round to a tidy set of crates and threw them in a pile.
There was no anger, and he still had the biggest smile. Time to investigate...
'Looks like you're having fun Brendon, what are you up to?'
'I'm making something.'
'What are you making?'
'A mess!'...at this point he started tidying the crates. It seemed he had 'got it out of his system'.
'It's nice to see you tidying up Brendon.'
'I'm doing it so I can make another mess.'...he threw the crates about again...no rage, just joy!
He ran off round the path, knocking chairs over as he went...I set off in the opposite direction to meet him.
'Yeah, I did it good.'
He was now walking beside me, back towards the chairs. I stood one up, and he did the other two.
We moved to the crates and piled them up neatly. There was no need for any words. We both had the biggest smiles.
I'm not sure I'll ever fully understand what went on today.
Was it some sort of male bonding...breaking through the 'tidy-up time' battle to form an alliance?
Was he unshackling his self-consciousness to make a mess...just like everyone else?
Does he know what a mess actually is...is it something to be constructed and admired?
I'm inclined to think it had something to do with a growing confidence and an ownership of his world. It was his space for those few minutes, to grow and develop in...and he took risks, safe in the knowledge that I would support him through it.