Last week, my principal came back from a Leadership Day at Teachers College excited to share what she had learned, from Eduardo Briceño, about the difference between being in what he calls The Learning Zone and The Performance Zone. We can get better at the things that matter to us, by spending time in both zones. Eduardo shares that most of us spend the majority of our time in The Performance Zone, not expecting mistakes and trying to do our best. But when we shift into The Learning Zone, our goal is to improve and we take part in activities that help us with this goal, and we expect to make mistakes. I watched the linked Ted Talk to learn more and then reflected on my own life.
What I realized is that these days, I’m often in The Learning Zone at home, testing out ideas and new learning on my own kids. After spending the day with students at school or reading something online, I’m often left wondering how things could go differently. So I take my ideas home, to my guinnea pigs.
On Thursday morning, I was in the bathroom finishing up getting ready when Adi ran in, panic all over her face. “My tooth is wiggly!” she cried wide eyed. I knew she was scared.
I hugged my girl, holding the tears back (I get oddly sentimental about teeth, another reminder that my kids are getting older) and I began to reassure Adi that she was going to be fine. “You’re ready for grown up teeth. It will come out when it’s ready. Try not to worry. Remember how Wren’s first tooth fell right into her cereal?”
Adi decided she wanted her tooth to fall into her cereal too. Then she declared, “I need to tell Mrs. Cap (her teacher). I’ll have to come home. I can’t lose my tooth at school.”
We worked through these new fears enough to finish getting ready for the day. But as we drove to my parents’ house for our morning drop-off, the worrying came again. “Don’t tell Mimi about my teeth. She’ll try to pull them out,” Adi said.
Fresh off of reading Rasha Hamid and Kelsey Corter’s piece, “Why We Should Help Children Lean on Writing in Hard Times”, I wondered if writing could also help Adi deal with some of her new worries over loosing teeth.
“The story of discovering your first wiggly tooth sounds like it would make a great story, one of those true stories you’re writing at school now,” I said, throwing out the bait.
“I’ll need four pages,” said Adi without hesitation and she launched into planning in the air. “I came downstairs to look for the elf. I ran to tell mom about my wiggly tooth. Mom felt my tooth. I got ready for school.”
“You know, writers sometimes include their feelings in their stories. How were you feeling?” I asked.
“I’m really scared. I’ll write that on the page where I discovered my wiggly tooth,” Adi said before adding, “I’m going to show Mimi my wiggly tooth…but I’m not going to let her touch it.”
As soon as we had pulled into my parents’ driveway, Adi was out of the car in a flash, none of the usual coaxing and pleading needed.
By the time I made it into the house with the other two girls and all of the bags and backpacks, Adi had settled into her usual morning routines. I started to tell my mom about the morning and the story of the wiggly tooth.
“I already know,” my mom said. “She ran in and told me I needed to feel it.”
I’d like to think that the experiences of the morning, including writing the story in the air, helped Adi to feel better about the idea of having a wiggly tooth. I hope that she learns that writing is one way to deal with new and challenging experiences.
An update on the wiggly tooth… two days before Christmas, Adi woke up after a sleepover with her cousins. She was so excited, she jumped right into playing. All was well until Wren noticed that Adi’s tooth was missing! We are guessing she swallowed it in her sleep. When Wren announced that Adi’s tooth was missing, panic once again spread across Adi’s face and she began to cry. “Am I a big girl now? I don’t want the tooth fairy to come.” Once again, we turned to writing to solve all the problems: