Monday, December 10, 2012

When a Child Just Isn't Listening

Or are they?

A Montessori principle to which CGS adheres is movement separated from words. We read a passage from the Scriptures, then we move the corresponding figures; we make the gesture from the Mass, then we read discuss, make the gesture, read the prayer, make the gesture, and meditate on it. Only with older children do we bring the words and the movements together - in the case of the gestures, the child might be 5, but usually it is someone else saying the words while a child does the gesture.

I have a video of my son and two of my daycare children - all around age 2 - processing around our apartment with statues held over their heads, chanting, "Ah - la - la - la." It was SO beautiful! They were imitating what they saw at Mass. Then they went up and down a half-flight of stairs: "Ah - la - pause - la - pause - l - pause - a." Their little bodies had to focus on the stair stepping, then they continued to chant.

Didn't bother them any! As far as they heard in their minds it was a continuous chant.

Around this time, in the level 1 atrium, I was leading a presentation on the Last Supper. This was our second year, and we had had sessions through the summer, so some of the children involved had already seen the Empty Tomb. One young lady in particular, age 3 1/2 was attending atrium with me twice a week due to the timing of RCIA for her parents and another commitment on Sundays. On this particular morning, she sat next to me, with 4 other children in a semi-circle around the Cenacle. All of the children were entranced - and fixed onto every single word. This young lady COULD NOT HOLD STILL.

I kept quietly asking her, "Do you need to use the bathroom?"

"No - no." She kept saying.

But I thought for SURE. Yet she was so insistent and I couldn't get the attention of my assistant to come get her.

So I continued. But I thought something was wrong because her head started flopping around and her hands were bouncing on her lap - I was thinking seizure, tourette's, autism.... but it wasn't LIKE that. I placed my hand on her knee while continuing the presentation with the children and trying desperately to get my assistant's attention - to no avail.

When it came time to light the candles, she was absolutely still - gazing at the candles with a smile on her face.

I do not now recall how we ended the meditation and dismissed the children, but I do recall her dashing off to the art area. Ok, I thought - she just really wanted to do artwork and was impatient with me!

She was fine!

About 20 minutes later, she was STILL working on one piece of artwork. I observed her work from behind and I heard her talking under her breath. What I heard was astounding! She was reciting the Scripture passages from the Empty Tomb (heard 5 days earlier) and the Last Supper.

After a few minutes, she adjusted position in her seat and saw me; she started to speaking to me (and I cringed - thinking I had just ruined the moment!), narrating what was going on her picture.

Before I go on - I have to say that sadly the picture came up missing. At the end of atrium, I asked her mom if she would give me permission to send a copy to CGS NA. She said yes, but I didn't have a form on hand. We placed the picture on top of one of our shelves so I could get the permission form and copy the picture on Tuesday.

When we came back - it was GONE.

I am so thankful for the notes I DID take while she was speaking.

She drew a semi-circle with a straight line at the bottom for the tomb. It was colored mostly in black with yellow clearly trying to cover the center of the tomb.

Extending from the tomb she had what appeared to be a "speech bubble" and on it were two small shapes.

She had a crude drawing a figure in the middle of the page, all in yellow. There were two figures to the right and another just below them.

She had other bright colors. And while she speaking she added lines for the candles, with crude orange-yellow flames, but I get ahead of myself.

As I said, she was reciting the Scriptures to herself, over and over and over.

When she spoke to me it was with the following, spoken while continuing to draw and color and add - and occasionally look over at me while pointing to something:

  • this is Jesus' tomb. He was buried here but He sure didn't stay. See Jesus in the cloth (pointing to a scribbled set of circles in the middle of the yellow section - she goes over it again) - this is Jesus with the cloth on. But it didn't stay. 
  • THIS is the cloth (pointing to the "speech bubble"). And it has Jesus' Body and Bluuhd (I love how she pronounced it!). We use this cloth in church. On the altar. 
  • It looks like bread and wine. 
  • Someone is drinking the Bluuhd. Jesus life. 
  • (added the lines pale yellow lines and orange-yellow squiggles for flames) We have the lights on the altar because Jesus is with us. The light was there too. 
  • It wasn't really dark in the tomb because Jesus was there (said mostly to herself). 
  • (pointing to the figures on the side) - The women going to the tomb. 
  • (scrunches her face and pauses) No it's not. Well, it is. But - it's you and me.
  • Jesus loves us so much. 
  • He wants us to be with Him. 
  • (adds some markings all around the Jesus figure in the middle)
  • we belong to Him. He knows us. (recalling the Good Shepherd? were those shapes sheep?)
  • (pointing to the two figures again) These are my sisters. Here's me (pointing to the figure in the corner. 
  • I help them.
  • (She pauses, looks at her picture for a moment. And adds the cross with a squiggle on it - above and to the left of the tomb)
  • Jesus on the cross. 
  • (Draws a figure below it.)  That's the girl. 
  • (she continues to add colors in various places, filling the cross in brown). I quietly asked, not expecting an answer, "I wonder who the girl is."
  • "She loves Him."

Tell me that child wasn't listening! She was listening so intensely, her body just shut down.

Those children who were outwardly listening and transfixed? They worked with other materials. But it didn't hit them as intensely as it did this young lady.

Food for thought.

Further food for thought: 
Almost all of what she said, I did not say in the presentation. I never said, "Jesus Body and Blood look like bread and wine." We didn't really "explain" the Scriptures too  much. We spoke beforehand about what it feels like when we are sick - we don't want to eat. But as we get better we get really hungry, because we are full of life again and we need food for our bodies to have life. One night, Jesus gave us a special gift that would become food for our souls." A *child* responded, "So our souls would be full of life!!!"
Yes! I said. Let's read what happened!

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