Diversity, understanding, and acceptance are an important part of our curriculum. These are not always easy concepts to teach. We weave them into our daily routine through ‘Gloria’, our classroom puppet. Gloria is just like your child; sometimes shy or silly, sometimes worried or confident, but always a kind and good friend. On the other hand, Gloria looks different. She is old, has wrinkled skin and gray hair, and likes to wear black. She is especially fond of her pointy hat and shoes. At first glance she might look like a witch, but she is not. Quite the contrary!
When we introduced Gloria this week, many of the children simply… stared at her, just as they might have done had they met a person who was very different. It did not take long for Gloria to become an accepted and welcomed member of the Aqua Room. In just a few days, here are some of the things that have transpired:
- Children asked or volunteered to take care of Gloria, making sure she could see the book that the teacher was reading, or was comfortable on the couch
- The children wanted Gloria to be part of our “Jack and the Beanstalk” play. She played the part of the giant’s wife. Gloria was a little nervous at first, but she did a great job.
- Gloria fell off the couch, and a child came to a teacher, insisting that she needs an ice pack. Yes, we got Gloria an ice pack, and she was carefully monitored by three other children.
- A child who was an Aqua Roomer last year was rather quiet when we introduced Gloria. Yet, when the children dispersed to participate in classroom activities, this child walked over to Gloria, carefully picked her up, and nuzzled her. He then found a blanket to cover her. Actions speak louder than words.
Your children are not only welcoming Gloria, they are reaching out to her. Isn’t that what kindness and acceptance is all about? This is fundamental. Learning to be kind and understanding is the first step toward giving, and that is the foundation for becoming a good friend, and ultimately a good citizen. Your children are already a step ahead, thanks to Gloria.
Gloria will always be an important part of our curriculum. When a child feels afraid, shy or upset, it is comforting for him/her to know that they are not alone. Gloria represents all of those ‘worries’ in a loving way that helps children understand and accept their own feelings. The process is twofold. First comes the wave of “I’m glad I’m not the only one”. Next comes genuine empathy for Gloria, which helps a child leave his/her own anxieties and help a friend in need.
I have documented many conversations with the children and Gloria. They have frequently been the catalyst to redirect our curriculum into a much richer, deeper learning experience. I will share those with you over the next few posts.