For Whom the Bell Tolls


bellWith two staccato jabs at the old-fashioned silver hotel bell, I summon the third graders to the rug. This is their signal, and they have completed their end-of-the-day jobs. I ask the kids to share the “three As” with me as a way of closing the day and explain. This is my first time with them, and the idea is peculiar, and because it’s new, a bit intriguing.

“If you have an apology, something you want to say to someone or even yourself—forgiving ourselves is good, too—now’s the time to let it go. If you have an accolade, an awesomeness about the day, or about someone or something, share that praise. Finally, an ‘Aha,’ any new understanding that today has brought.” I’d read about the three As recently somewhere, I don’t recall specifically, or I’d be giving credit. I love this practice, so I’ve adopted it as mine. It works for substitutes…most of the time.

Earlier in the day after the kids settled in from lunch recess, I’d realized that we were missing two students. I hadn’t worried because students can go to the library, and some have other lunchtime responsibilities during that time, so I figured they’d show up. Then they DIDN’T. I sent another child to search the likely places in the building one more time and alert the office staff if she couldn’t locate them.

She returned—alone. Several minutes later the two MIA girls sheepishly sidled in, taking their seats. I asked about the delay. They hadn’t noticed we’d come inside; they thought someone would come to get them. That was the “playground sweeper’s” job. Rather than play the blame game, I reminded them to pay a bit more attention during recess to what their classmates were doing. And we moved on.

One of them speaks now from her spot on the rug, deferentially, tentatively. “I discovered that substitutes aren’t given whistles,” followed by a small smile.

Note to self: get a whistle for those days on the elementary school playground—my “Aha” moment.

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