I feel I owe Anna an apology.
Anna was in my preschool many years ago. She was a very focussed girl who took whatever she was doing very seriously. When she worked on an art project, she was entirely absorbed, oblivious to all else. When I gave her a five minute warning to end her project for group time, she paid me no heed and continuing working. But routines and group times were important to me then, so a battle of wills ensued….and of course I won. Anna stopped working on her project and came to group time.
I was reminded of Anna recently as I sat in an art studio with another educator and a group of children and clay. The clay, still in it’s plastic bag, had been placed on a tree round on the canvas floor.
The children worked to get it out of the bag, scraping small bits with tools and fingers, working the small pieces, shaping them, pressing them.
There was deep concentration, and very little talking. Gradually a few kids drifted to other areas, until one child remained. She gathered the clay together and worked for a while on her own, then put it all back in the bag, and dragged the bag back to the tree round.
Then she left.
The other educator and I were left sitting in the studio, looking at the bag of clay.
Endings, we said. We never see endings. We never see how children and materials come to an ending. We adults instigate endings, telling children it is time to be finished, always dictated by our schedule. It was lovely to watch an ending dictated by children.
I’m sorry Anna. I wish I had let you dictate your own ending.