The other day during a stirring rendition of Old MacDonald Had a Farm, I paused after every verse to ask a different 2-year-old what animal they'd like to sing. Some children were shy or hesitant and needed prompting from their parents. "How about a sheep?" Nod. With a baa baa here and a baa baa there... "Doggie. You like doggies" Yes! Child shouts "doggie" and we keep singing. With a woof-woof here and a woof woof there... Then it was Alexa's turn. She confidently says, "a grasshopper!" "Oh, a grasshopper?" I repeat. "What sound does a grasshopper make?" Without missing a beat Alexa offers up a three second high pitch scream that sounded like she was trying to scare someone. Ok then. With a "aaaaAAAAaa" here and a "aaaaAAAaa" there... It was my favorite verse of Old MacDonald ever.
I admire Alexa's talent for making choices. And making choices quickly and confidently is a talent my friends. Have you ever tried to pick a restaurant for dinner with someone who does not like to make decisions? It can be excruciating. So I like to celebrate and follow the little decision makers in my classes. I say "follow" because frequently linked to the talent of making choices quickly is the desire to change the game. Or the class. Or the song.
One of my favorite TLG memories is of teaching a then almost three-year-old named Norah. I didn't know Norah when she was born, but I imagine she came out of the womb knowing what she wanted to do. She was fierce and mighty and so much fun. Some days she decided she was a T-Rex. Some days she was the leader of her "dragon girls." She would say to her classmates, "follow me dragon girls..." and they would follow her right off the red mat. Who wouldn't want to be a dragon girl? Still makes me laugh, and it has been YEARS since Norah and her dragon girls were in my class.
But for as much as Norah used to make me smile as she'd lead her gang away from me and my directions, she made her mom sometimes shake her head and apologize. And she's not the only parent to say sorry for similar behavior. Because decision makers know what they want to do next and they ask for it. No matter what we are doing. Sometimes this embarrasses their parents. They apologize because their child comes up and tells me directly what they want to do. Even though most of the time, I'm like "Great idea!" Because I believe just like wanderers need the space to wander, and observers need to feel safe to observe, the leaders need to sometimes lead.
In addition to the apologies, I have often been asked by parents something along the lines of “how can I teach my child to not be so bossy.” To which I say, "What? Bossy? Your child is a born leader. You can’t teach that kind of confidence.” Those leaders-to-be don’t need to be hampered; they need to be nurtured. They need to be taught to respect others rights to say no. They need to be taught that sometimes you have to compromise (even when your idea is the best). And they need to be taught not to be a bully. But bossy? We need some bosses. Otherwise we'll all just be singing some variation of with a woof-woof and a baa-baa forever.
So gather your dragon girls and sing it with me, "with a aaaAAAAaaa here and a aaaAAAA there...."
And now may I present Norah the forward rolling T-Rex...
P.S. I haven't seen Norah in about 4 or 5 years, so I contacted her mom before I posted this to make sure it was ok to use her first name. Norah is now in second grade, and her mom shared this with me, "Norah makes me laugh everyday and nothing gets her down. She is a natural leader and hates to see a child being mean or picking on another child. I have heard quite the stories from her teachers the last couple of years of them sitting back and Norah politely telling the mean child that they need to apologize and that is not how you treat other children. The last child say "ok Norah I'm sorry" and Norah politely says "I'm not the one you need to apologize too, please treat ... With respect!" So proud Norah. Way to lead.