Most of what I do every day is fun. I play silly games and sing wacky songs and dance embarassing dances. I hold little hands and little minds and little hearts in my care, and I find moments of time to show my munchkins I value them. I pass out hot dogs and give out more chips and slather on sunscreen and find the front of a bathing suit and search for missing underwear (always the underwear) and catch kids in the deep end and clean up messes and compliment art projects and encourage soccer players and marvel at dramatic leanings.
But on some days, and at certain times, I revert to being an educator. And today was certainly one of those days. Specifically, I become a character educator. Of course there are opportunities for "character education" in every day and in many moments, and I truly believe that such education is most beneficial when woven into the daily activities. However, there are some times when "group meetings" are necessary. And today, on the tenth day of camp, I was tattled to 17 times before lunch. And so I convened a meeting of the Pineapples, with the help of co-counselors A~ and M~.
"Friends, I want you to raise your hand if you are four years old. No one? Okay, how about five years old? No one!! So, this must mean you are ALL six years old, right? "Munchkin #1- look at my eyes." Wow- we sure have a mature group of campers. Friends, I want to let you in on a little secret. Listen close- can everyone hear me? Okay, kiddos, the secret is that when you are six years old and going into the FIRST grade, you have to work out your own problems. It is one of the very first steps towards being a grown-up kid."
"Stephanie, what do you mean?"
"Well, Munchkin #7, it means that when you have had a problem with one of our friends in this group, -Munchkin #9, put that down please- you try to work it out with them first."
"Well, what would happen if A~ and I got in a fight, and then instead of talking to A~ about it, I went and told M~. Would that be the right thing to do? NO WAY! "Now I am bringing someone else into the problem. -MUNCHKIN 9!- And that isn't really fair to A~. What could I say to A~ BEFORE talking to M~ about it?"
"Hey, stop it!"
"I don't like it when you say that."
(MUST STIFLE LAUGHTER) "Wow- I love the way you just said those things. Maybe saying 'shove off' is a little extreme, but we should talk to someone before we T on them."
"What is T, Stephanie?"
"T is a word I really don't like to use. It makes me frustrated, and it makes me pretty sad. In fact, I can't even hear kids when they T."
"WHAT IS IT?"
"T is tattling. And tattling is something we just don't do in this group. Can we make that commitment?"
"What are you going to do if someone does something mean to you?"
"Take care of it myself."
"WOW, Munchkins, I am so proud of you!!!"
"Can we sing the moose song now?"
Fast forward two hours. I witness Munchkin #6 and Munchkin #12 arguing about a place in line, and look away. Munchkin #6 starts to run to me, when all of a sudden I hear Munchkin #12 scream out "DON'T FRUSTRATE STEPHANIE! I am sorry."
And all is right in the tattle-telling world of the Pineapple group.