It’s taken me a long time to understand what this word means. From the inception of the playgroup, in 1984, I’ve talked to children (including my own child) about friendship, and how important it is. I’d say it is at the core of the playgroup and it comes up all the time while the groups are in session. Of course this subject is also under the heading of respect, but really caring about others is different. It means that you care what another person is feeling, and what you say, even how you say it, is a very sophisticated and nuanced way to connect with others. It is a thrill to see this change and develop over the school year. In one of last year’s groups, there was a boy absent for a few days. By the second day, one of the girls in the group asked if he would be in that day. I said no, that he would be back the following week. She replied, “We will miss him. He is part of our family.” I must say I can’t take credit for teaching this extraordinary little girl about friendship, she came that way – but it is a great example of what I try to achieve during the year the children are with me.
I understood the idea of community more this past year than all the years before, thanks to my assistant, Kristen Ossmann. I don’t have a “circle time” when the children first come in, in the morning – at least not in the traditional sense. What I do offer are icepops (frozen orange juice/part water pops with colorful holders). Most children, most mornings want one, and they sit around the kitchen table together. In the beginning of the year there is not much talking amongst the kids. The communication is silent, but nonetheless, powerful. As the year progresses, there is more conversation and joking around. I try to stay a little in the background to help this develop on its own. This year Kristen pointed out that this is “circle time.” What a great insight and one that helped me understand that any coming together as a group, such as making art to reading at the end of the playgroup, is about community.