His face fell when the last stone was moved into place. Sharing stones was over and he hadn't been called. I told him to give himself a big hug, to breathe through it, and hold his disappointment because disappointment is real and we all know it is sometimes overwhelming. We all have to know what to do with that feeling and how to get past it. I know that it does not really comfort to say, "There will be more time to talk later," and he knows it as well. This was the time he wanted to talk. He wanted to share something about his little sister and I could see that this was a subject that he really enjoyed talking about. His sister is dear to him, he finds her interesting and funny. He wanted to share then.
In the moment, he trusted me enough to give himself a hug and nodded along as I talked. I talked with him later and even though it was not the same as having his name called and a stone moved for his "comment or question" it was something and it was an opportunity for me to learn more about him and for him to learn about me.
A few days later a question was posed to me by an adult, "What are the children who don't get called supposed to do? Be disappointed?"
Yes. They are supposed to be disappointed.
When you have a practice in place for a long time, it is good to be challenged. "Why are you doing this?" and "Why that way?" Especially something you have been doing pretty much the same way for over 10 years! To be clear, it is not fun to be challenged, but it is a good thing. I had to counsel myself about handling my own disappointment in hearing that something I have carefully crafted needs improvement! I created this system of sharing stones and even though I have reflected upon it before (see blog post: It Takes Time) it was good to do a systems check about the what, why, and how of the practice.
If the child sharing is free to choose any of the children with their hands raised and only 6 will get called it stands to reason that the question MUST be asked, "What if someone never gets called?" Wouldn't a system using a stone for every child be better? How about labeled stones that the teacher predesignates for choosing so that over time we (the adults) would know that every child had a turn?
As a person who was always chosen last for any ball game on the playground, I know that this waiting game is painful. I both wanted to be called and dreaded being called. Interestingly, and this is discussed in the blog post linked above, the children will naturally care for their own once given the awareness of how each child approaches a group situation. This is shaped through practice and discussion. Over time, the children build an awareness of other's feelings and comfort levels in groups. This is not left to chance, rather it is purposefully taught and shared and a common understanding is built.
This is so important to do because introverted children, like myself, will sit in dread of being called -- they will simply not put their hands up -- until they do! There will be something that compels them to raise their hands. They have watched and waited, observing how those children who have a greater comfort speaking in large groups model the process. After having done this for years, the stage has been set for this reserved child to be called when he or she is ready. The children have been observing and caring for each other long enough to know, "Ah, this is something new! I must call you." They care for their own. Assigning names or lifting the decision away from the children about who to call and in turn, the discussion and learning that happens when people do and don't get called, undermines the foundation of caring we are working to build. And like I said, this takes time and also reveals disappointments and lots of stops and starts.
So in the end, I can only say that the sharing stones is indeed an exercise in not getting called. Knowing that children will be able to practice working through these small, but still profound to them, disappointments AND learning how to see disappointment in others in order to figure out how address that feeling, leaves me confident and comfortable in proceeding.
We will all struggle, we will all be disappointed, and we will learn how to handles these hurdles, both large and small, one stone at a time.