Highlights from a past class

the unexpected visitor

The theme for this term is Growing our EQ. This week I based the classes on this beautiful poem by Rumi.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Rumi (translation by Coleman Barks)

Rumi suggests that we treat our emotions like visitors arriving at a guest house. I changed the concept slightly to make it more familiar for the children. So, instead of a guest house, I asked the children to think of their emotions as visitors stopping by for tea.

This concept of thinking about our emotions as visitors, helps children to acknowledge, welcome and embrace how they feel (just as we would welcome a visitor for tea), instead of trying to ignore or supress their emotions. It also highlights the transitory nature of our emotions. I asked the children whether guests who come for tea end up staying permanently and moving in. Of course, the answer was no! By the same token, our emotions come and go. Some feelings may stay with us for longer (like some guests!) but eventually over time, the feelings go and we cycle again through a range of emotions.

In the younger class, I read the book “The Tiger Who Came To Tea” by Judith Kerr. It is a beautiful story and I found there to be many parallels between the tiger and our emotions. A lovely, concrete way for the children to understand how emotions can arrive, overwhelm us by taking over and then disappear.

With the older children, I read a wonderful poem to them by Jack Prelutsky called “The Visitor”. Again, the parallel between “the visitor” in the poem and our emotions is clear. This poem is a fun way for children to explore the concept of emotions as visitors.

The Visitor

it came today to visit
and moved into the house
it was smaller than an elephant
but larger than a mouse
first it slapped my sister
then it kicked my dad
then it pushed my mother
oh! that really made me mad
it went and tickled rover
and terrified the cat
it sliced apart my necktie
and rudely crushed my hat
it smeared my head with honey
and filled the tub with rocks
and when i yelled in anger
it stole my shoes and socks
that’s just the way it happened
it happened all today
before it bowed politely
and softly went away

Jack Prelutsky

In the classes, we then sat down and enjoyed a cup of tea together. Real tea! Rooibos with milk, honey and a biscuit. But it was no ordinary tea party. On each tea bag label, I had written a feeling e.g. anger, sadness, jealousy, etc.

I asked the children to think of a time when they last felt that emotion. I asked them to try to connect with the feeling again and the preceding situation that evoked the feeling. The children then spent some time drawing the situation and how they felt. I find that it can be very helpful for children to processing their emotions through art.

Afterwards each child had an opportunity to discuss their emotion with the group if they wanted to. I asked each child to try to remember if they felt the same emotion 24 hours after the incident. Most said no. A few said that they still felt it but diluted. I then asked if they had felt the same emotion at the same time a week later. Everyone said no! You can go on to ask the children if they think they might feel the same in a month’s time or a year’s time. Just a lovely way to help children understand that feelings are temporary.

So, this week, it felt like the children’s EQ seedlings germinated and sprouted some roots, with a few even showing the start of a stem and leaves – just like the real seedlings that the children are growing this term.