It is June 6th. We have only two Godly Play sessions remaining, and a post which I began over two months ago was still a draft. Where has this year gone?
I’ve been thinking a lot about work time and how each session is unique. I am always convinced that the children are doing the work they need to do, on that day. I have been blessed with having 90 minute Godly Play sessions (which allow for 30 to 45 minute work periods) in both churches where I have practiced Godly Play with young children. Each week I am reminded of the words so familiar to Godly Players…these things are for you and we have all the time we need. In reality, many Godly Play programs have consistently shorter work times, and I wonder if children feel the materials are really for them if there isn’t much time to work with them. We simply cannot say to a child “hurry up and do this very important work!” All we can do is give them time.
Following our session on March 30, when we needed to tell the entire Faces of Easter since we would not meet again in our room until April 27, the Second Sunday of Easter, I began writing down some thoughts about that morning’s work time. The first five plaques were summarized or “custom presented” considering who had/had not been present in previous weeks, but the 6th and 7th plaques were presented in their entirety. We finished our wondering, and just like every other session, I began with the first child to my right, and continued in a counterclockwise direction, asking each child individually… what does this story make you want to do for your work? Often about half the group will work with story materials. On that day, one by one, each of the ten children chose to begin with an art response. The room was as quiet as that Saturday in the story! The only sounds were those of big work. There were several very dark creations, filled not with things these four and five year olds often draw, but filled with feelings. There was one paper covered with black, purple, and blue, and on the reverse (white) side, the child drew bright flowers. There were many crosses drawn or cut out. One child cut out a collection of crosses very much like the crosses in the enrichment story. Someone else glued a cross, cut out of white paper, onto his nearly black drawing. There were several creations with “two sides”, and they were turned back and forth. Some children worked with their original work for the entire period, while others went on and created something else. No one took a story off the shelf. But we can’t say that no one worked with a story. Sometimes children bring their finished work to show us, but very few did that day, I believe because they did not need to.
In our work times there are usually two noticeable waves. Children usually decide quickly what their work is going to be, and within just a few minutes, everyone is working. Then someone will be finished. Sometimes, within a few minutes, several will be finished, and they will start roaming around the room. A storyteller might be tempted to signal that it is time for feast! But it is wonderful that in our room, we can ride this wave of unchanneled energy. We have time for this energy to fuel even more work. Sometimes children are surprised that they still have time… time to do something else! It is in this second wave that the children become even more absorbed in their work. This year one child came and sat down in the circle a full half hour before he needed to. He quietly sat. We can not say he was not working! Another time, a second wave activity for this same child was very quiet rolling around on the carpet. He was not in the way of anyone. He rolled for at least twenty minutes, but everyone was oblivious to everyone else. Everyone was doing the work that was right for them, that day.
I am fascinated by how different each child is, and what speaks to each child regarding work choices. The children may work with (take off the shelf) any story with which they have had the lesson. Some always respond through art, while they still may be “working” with stories that surround them. Some will suddenly want to work with stories – perhaps when a story from a different genre is first presented. Some have favorites they work with again and again. One child a few years ago very systematically worked with all the stories he’d seen, and then would repeat the cycle over again. Last week, a child returned after being away for several months. He worked with (at least) four stories that he’d had in the past, including two that he’d seen but had not worked with before. When ever I ask a child what part of the day’s session was their favorite, most often the answer will be “work time!” Usually I feel we could easily use another 10 or even 20 minutes. But we gather anyway, for feast, confident that we have had “good enough” work time!