The first week of school can be quite intimidating (and not just for the teacher lol). You’re asked to do a lot of things you may not have been asked to do before. Trying new things, like having your feet painted blue, is intimidating. Some laughed and said, “Me first!” while others weren’t having a bar of it. Some rose to the challenge in the end and were praised for their bravery.
The other children can be intimidating also. When you’re suddenly thrown into a classroom full of children instead of being home with mum and perhaps a sibling or two that can be quite scary also. There’s learning about cooperation, negotiation and taking your turn when there are only 6 chairs at the playdough table and 10 children wanting to play with it at the same time (EYLF 1.1.4: Children learn to interact in relation to others with care, empathy and respect). We had a few children decide to resolve this problem by taking a chair with force so we decided we would teach them the skill of using words to solve their problems instead of their hands and to teach the children on the receiving end to stand up for themselves.
The book One by Kathryn Otoshi is a fantastic book for starting a conversation on bullying. The book starts off its tale by introducing us to Blue who is a very quiet colour. Unfortunately for Blue Red likes to pick on him. Red tells Blue that red is hot and blue is not which of course makes Blue feel a little well…..blue.
Blue has friends, like Yellow, who comforts him. She tells him that blue is a very nice colour but she never says it in front of Red. And she never tells Red to stop picking on Blue. Of course when no-one stands up to bullies they just get bigger and bigger and bigger.
That of course makes all the colours feel a little blue. Then along comes One. He is funny and makes them laugh. Red tells him to stop laughing but One stands tall and says, “No!” One tells the others that when someone is mean to him he stands up and says, “No!”
The other colours feel brave and start standing up too. Blue decides he wants to count too, becomes 6 and stands up to Red. This makes Red blow a fuse and he tries to roll over Blue but everyone takes a stand and says, “No!” Red gets smaller and smaller and smaller. Blue calls out to Red and asks if it’s ok for Blue to be cool and for Red to be hot. One says that Red can count too. Red turns into 7 and gets to join in the fun with everyone.
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What I love about this story it teaches the children the importance of not only standing up for yourself but also of standing up for your friends and it shows compassion for the bully. They don’t exclude the bully in the end. They invite him to become part of their group. They are powerful messages.
After we read the story we role played a few scenarios including the playdough table situation. I usually get the child/ren who have done the pushing to play the part of the person on the receiving end. I believe this helps them to empathise a little. Then we pretended to shove them (no contact) off the chair and take their spot at the playdough table. The person being shoved then got to raise their hand in a stop fashion and say, “Stop it! I don’t like it!” We practiced how to say it. We talked about how if you say it in a soft voice that the person probably won’t listen. You have to say it loud and like you mean it.
We also role played being a good friend and saying, “Stop it! I don’t like what you are doing to my friend!” I also have a favourite mantra I like to reiterate on these occasions: We use our WORDS not our HANDS to fix our problems. We talked about how we need to talk it through and use words instead of hitting or punching or shoving.
It was encouraging to see that this story seemed to have worked its magic as the next time we put the playdough out there were 6 children playing nicely and others waiting patiently or saying things like, “I think I’ll play with the cars for a while and come back.”