Many great comments from all sorts of folks on the last post (The first ten minutes…) My friend Michael Zerphy is a performer (clown, mime, storyteller) who does a lot of work in the schools in New England and told me this story about a recent visit – I asked him to write it down:
“I’ve been in schools for over thirty years now and my knees are hurting as well!
I recently walked into a school in New Hampshire for a week long residency and had a pleasant surprise for a first impression. I checked in at the office with the secretary and she told me that I had to be ‘wanded’ before I could enter the school. “OK” I replied, but then asked “What’s wanded?” I was kind of thinking it was some strange security measure. She pointed to a group of decorated play crowns on the wall. “First you have to pick out a crown to wear. I’m the Queen, but you get to wear a crown and I’ll wand you. Do you want your picture taken?” “Sure.” So I picked out a crown and put it on while she put one on as well and got her wand, a stick decorated with many colors and sparkly ribbons. “I am the queen of the school and I welcome you here” she said as she touched each shoulder and then my head with the wand. Then she took my picture with a Polaroid camera, handed me the photo and said “There, you’ve been wanded. Have a good time here at our school.” I was laughing already and I hadn’t even unloaded my car for the performance, someone else was doing my job! There was a real clown at work in that office…. someone who could turn things upside down and have fun. I found out that the kids loved her. They would line up in front of her office after lunch and she would inspect them as the queen and make sure that they were standing in a straight line, that they were quiet, and ready to have fun. They had to have the queen’s permission to go to class and they loved it. They couldn’t wait for her to come out of the office and when she did there were squeals of laughter. I also found out that everyone entering the school was offered the chance to be wanded, but if they didn’t want to it was OK…it was such a playful and safe atmosphere to walk into! I had a fantastic time that week which was sparked by that first ten minutes. I was welcomed into a community with a playful ritual of inclusion. I highly recommend being wanded!”
What does it take for a person to take some initiative like that? Two things at least – 1) some creativity and fearlessness on their part 2) encouragement and support. That secretary is doing something no one else is doing, in her own way. How do you encourage that?