Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Giant Jar of Glitter.

Shortly after my grandson, Carter, turned two, I was visiting his house with a new toy -- a new watertable -- a gift from his great grandmother.  Jennie, his mother, and I assembled it in short fashion, and filled it with water.  It came with two small plastic sailboats, among other things.

Carter played, standing next to the table, trying to sail the top-heavy sailboats, which kept sinking.  It was frustrating, as an adult, to watch as he repeatedly tried to right the boats.  Soon his body was tensing, he was gritting his teeth, his face was getting more and more red.  

I braced for an explosion.

Instead, he pulled his hands out of the water, shaking them in front of him, and walked to the corner of the yard, saying "walk away, WALK AWAY," as I watched in disbelief.

His very wise mother had, somehow, instilled this sense of reflection, and ability to remove himself from difficult situations, without outburst.  And he was only TWO at the time.

Carter is now four.  There are fewer instances of "walk away", and more red-faced meltdowns, which I attribute to his observation of others at school and in society.  (Because, after all, he is my grandson, and I think he's wonderful!)  Jennie still reminds him, as the meltdowns bubble up, and often diffuses whatever drama is currently facing his brain.  

Walk Away, Walk Away.


A Giant Jar of Glitter.

I instantly flashed on Carter's diffusing strategy this morning when I came across an article about a school in Mar Vista, California, that is teaching mindfulness as it relates to anger.  The related video is astonishing, considering the age of these kids.  

I'm shopping this weekend for a giant jar, and glitter.  Why wouldn't this same analogy work for academically overwhelmed students with fixed mindsets?  It was a lightbulb moment for me when I realized that Carter's walk away strategy is a tool that would benefit everyone in my classroom -- okay, in society -- not only for anger management issues, but for dealing with anything overwhelming.  Especially difficult content, multiple tests, and high-stakes evaluations.  The impossible challenge of final exams in two weeks or the pile of final projects and papers that have deadlines that can't be extended.  

What our classrooms need are giant jars of glitter, lava lamps, and anything mesmerizing enough to get kids to pause and reflect, to open their minds and accept their potential success.

Sparkly things are widely celebrated.  If my brain is a giant jar of glitter, at least give me the chance to breathe and watch it settle.