It is purely a testament to how well this model works, and nothing to do with my skills, that this week turned out really well. Overall, I felt really out of practice. It’s been almost a full year since I’ve done any work with WAS, and it took me up until Wednesday afternoon to remember that *Blindfolds Are Magic*. I remember now that that used to be my number one trick in previous years. When you can’t get a group of kids to calm down and focus, just put blindfolds on them. I’m guessing this works with adults too. By Thursday at lunchtime, they were willing to take the Lunch Challenge, and a group of eleven 6- and 7-year olds actually chose to spend their whole lunchtime blindfolded and silent. Can you even imagine!?
And I remembered also, that sometimes you have to let kids fail at an activity before they’re willing to learn how to make it work. If the challenge is for them to all line up alphabetically without talking, and I can see that there’s no way it’s going to work, it’s so hard not to help. But if I just tell them where to stand in line, then they haven’t learned anything except that they aren’t capable and they should rely always on adults to tell them how to figure things out. If I let them fail at it, and then we talk about why it didn’t work (that part’s the key), then they’ll be able to do it themselves the next time. And when I say “talk about it”, I really mean that. Even this group of six-year olds can tell me exactly what went wrong (“everyone was telling everyone else what to do, but not doing it themselves” “No one would agree on which side was the beginning, even though it didn’t matter” “some people were pushing”). I don’t need to lecture them on what they should do differently, but have a genuine dialogue where everyone gets a chance to say what their experience was, and I maybe subtly highlight some key points (“so, are you saying that next time everyone should agree on where the beginning is before they start trying to get in line?”)
So the way that I got them to *want* to try a blindfolded lunch was to try a silent-but-not-blindfolded lunch first. The goal was to make it all the way through lunch without talking. If you’ve worked with kids, you know how unlikely this is. One kid makes faces at another, the other giggles, a third kid hisses at the second one to be quiet, a fourth kid sees a bug, and soon all hell has broken loose. I was actually surprised that they made it ten minutes the first time, but someone couldn’t help remarking about the cricket they found in the dirt. So the next day, when the subject of the silent lunch came up again (they were trying to earn the chance to make a fire on Friday), I offered the blindfolds (introduced as part of a fun game earlier in the day, so they were already familiar with them) as a way to make the challenge easier. If your friend is making faces at you, you won’t know. And so we spent a really nice 25 minutes sitting in the grass, in the dappled shade, spread out from each other a ways (far enough that one kid couldn’t “accidentally” bump into another kid), eating our lunches and feeling the breeze. When I told them that it was time and they could take their blindfolds off whenever they were ready, one kid took off his blindfold and looked around in wonder. “That was so beautiful!” he said. Another one chose to leave hers on for another 10 minutes or so.
Hobostripper wrote recently about making God human in the strip club, and that’s how she knows she can do anything. I know I can do anything because I can get eleven 6-year old kids to *want* to sit silently for 25 minutes. And both of us, Tara and I, are teaching people how to be human. Hopefully, if they learn how to be truly present in the world, and in their bodies, and in community, now, then they won’t need to be taught the hard way later, when someone like Tara has to take away all their cash in order to show them what’s real.