Wrestling With the Beginning

When preparing to bring the original “Scarlet’s Superpower” from 13 pages to 26, I was thinking of ways to beef-up the story. While I liked the simple story line, the text needed a little more meat to it. Should I develop characters more? Could we include additional ways that her superpower was utilized? My favorite idea was to show ways in which Scarlet’s ability to shut out noise by removing her coils could benefit her. 

One morning, several years ago, I was driving Scarlet to her before school daycare when an idea hit me: What if Scarlet used her superpower to avoid hearing bullies belittling her? We could begin the book with her wanting to take a nap. She could query about sleeping on a mat in the infant room of her daycare, at the end of the first day of school. Older kids; kids Scarlet’s age; could see and hear this, and they would tease, “Look at Scarlet. What a baby.” 

Scarlet would NOT hear this teasing, though. She would have already removed her coils. She can’t hear anything–nothing–when she takes her coils off of her head. So, exhausted Scarlet lies down, innocent and thankful for peace and quiet. 

The teacher, on the other hand, hears these older kids teasing Scarlet. Because the facility has a “Zero Tolerance” (no teasing) policy, the teacher reports the miscreants to the person in charge of the daycare. They get in trouble. 

I’m not sure if Scarlet finds out about the bullying behavior or not, but by the end of the book she helps these kids, using her superpower. They admire both her ability to forgive and the power to NOT hear. 

Here are a couple of the problems with this beginning.

Scarlet’s mom and I looked at tons of daycare facilities to determine which would be best for our only child. In addition to staffing, cleanliness, and the usual concerns, we had to consider how noisy the place was. Luckily, our area had many to choose from.

While I like using more than one setting for the story, having Scarlet attend a daycare could paint her as privileged; Her family is wealthy enough to send her there. 

I could explain that Mommy and Daddy make just barely enough money to have her attend, and need her to, so that they can work the jobs that pay for her attendance, basically breaking even. This circumstance would explain away the idea of private child care being a symbol of wealth; It is a shackle (Fetters, 2020). A surprising 57% of the working population of America pay more than $10,000 a year for child care (30+ Essential US Child Care Statistics [2022]: Availability, Costs, and Trends – Zippia, n.d.). 

Additionally, Scarlet attending a daycare categorizes her as lucky. According to 30+ Essential US Child Care Statistics [2022]: Availability, Costs, and Trends – Zippia, “51% of Americans live in communities classified as child care deserts“ (n.d.). I do not want someone to come across “Scarlet’s Superpower,” and think to themselves, what an entitled, lucky, rich brat

Obviously, I am totally overthinking the situation. Some kids go to daycare. Some don’t. The kids who don’t go to daycare know about others who do. Is the situation relatable? That is the question. Can readers visualize kids making fun of Scarlet for wanting to take a nap? I think so.

Sources:

30+ Essential US Child Care Statistics [2022]: Availability, Costs, And Trends – Zippia. (n.d.). 30+ Essential US Child Care Statistics [2022]: Availability, Costs, and Trends – Zippia. Retrieved January 10, 2023, from https://www.zippia.com/advice/us-child-care-availability-statistics/

Fetters, A. (2020, January 18). The Working-to-Afford-Child-Care Conundrum. Working to Afford Child Care so You Can Work – the Atlantic. Retrieved January 10, 2023, from https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/01/working-afford-child-care-so-you-can-work/605206/

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2021). Early Childhood Program Participation: 2019 (NCES 2020-075REV), Table 1.

Classy Conflict Management With Cause & Effect Lesson

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Sonia Weimann

The idea for this project surfaced this past summer. My wife Sonia plays keyboard and electric bass in a band that hosts an open mic in Allentown, PA. Sonia also sings.

An open mic is a different venue from a concert. It is more like a jam-style atmosphere. This is an opportunity for musicians to try new things and literally play, rather than perform. You can collaborate on projects, join other bands for a song or two without committing to membership, and meet new people.

more singing
Sonia began to feel bullied by other musicians. (not these;)

Sonia had been going to and playing at this open mic for nearly a year. On a pretty regular basis, people thought that they should go up to Sonia and tell her what she could improve. It didn’t seem like these people were doing this to anyone else, and the pep talks, or whatever you want to call them, were unsolicited. It felt like Sonia was being bullied. She was new to the scene, and had quickly moved to center stage. Perhaps the bullies were jealous.

Whenever Sonia would tell me one of these stories, I tried to only listen, but I inevitably thought about what a classy response might be. It varied on the situation, but my favorite boiled down to asking the purveyor of symphonic wisdom, “What are you doing?” I thought up the idea of interrupting the (let’s presume) ignorant bully, and simply inquiring, “Why do you feel the need to push this lecture on to me?” It isn’t like Sonia had asked to be critiqued, so what was happening here?

singing
What do you do when someone shares criticism of you with you that makes you feel badly?

Sonia is far from insecure, and she is very classy, so she nearly always let the ignoramus spout his advice. She, probably, rightly so, figured he wanted to feel important or knowledgeable. It’s not impossible the guy just wanted something to talk to my beautiful wife about. Wrong move. It was not providing Sonia with positive feelings. 

I transferred all of this to a situation that I could imagine happening in a school setting. If an elementary student was being bullied, what would be the best response? Also, how could I communicate to 3rd graders appropriate ways to deal with verbal bullies? I came up with a lesson involving Cause and Effect that used Google Slides. I began by making a flowchart.

From each action (or inaction) a couple of different things might happen. From your next decision, new angles or issues would appear. What would be the best direction to take?

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If an elementary student was being bullied, what would be the best response?

I made a Google Slideshow that has a simple, generic storyline for students to interact with. As they read each slide, they click on the box that they think will be best for dealing with the given situation. The boxes are all linked to slides within the slideshow, so depending on what is clicked, students will create their own narrative; like a “Choose Your Own Adventure”. There is a box on every slide that allows students to go all the way “Back to the Beginning” of the narrative to start over. There is also one that allows students to return to the “Previous Slide”.

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Bullying is not a 1X occurrence. 

Before using the slideshow, I recommend using yarn to form a story web. Index cards with elements of a story can be attached to a wall, placed on the floor, or read from desks. Yarn can begin at the start of the story and travel back and forth from causes to effects. The yarn is a timeline. This shows students that conflict is not linear. By definition, we do not deal with a bully once and done. Each variation in how we deal with the conflict is a science experiment. You think to yourself, “This time I will ignore the bully and see what happens.” You witness the outcome, analyzing how it worked out for you. Then next time, you tryout yelling, “Stop bullying me!!” Or, perhaps you give telling an adult a try. Never seeing the bully again or successfully dealing with the situation so that there is no more bullying could be represented by cutting the line of yarn. What would simply running out of yarn symbolize?

After the yarn conflict web group exercise, students can independently or with partners participate in clicking through and reading the interactive Classy Conflict Management slideshow. This allows them to take control and explore the concept of cause and effect on their own.

Classy Conflict Management Interactive Google Slideshow

An important thing to keep in mind is that there isn’t one way that works for every single situation. It is different all of the time.