I've never done a 'sticker book' in my life. Never thought that I would. However a few weeks ago when we were picking up a book at the bookstore, they had a bin of sticker books on sale. One was called 'Sharks' and one was called 'Big Cats'. The titles sold me on them. That and the fact that they each cost under a buck.
For those of you who don't know about sticker books, here's the deal. You are given a whack of stickers to place in very specific spots in the book. You need to read the text, see what the picture will be of, and then find the sticker that matches the exact shape of the space available. We placed them on the table beside the chesterfield for Ruby to discover on her own. She did. 'What are these for?' she asked, hoping against hope that they were for her to play with. I told her that we would work on them together.
These sticker books, and I imagine they follow a pattern, have, on the inside cover, a huge picture wherein the extra stickers can be placed to make one very large poster. Ruby took the Shark book and very quietly began taking off the stickers and placing them on the inside cover. She didn't understand that there were some stickers that were for inside the book and some for inside the cover. She just took the one's she liked and placed them on the cover to make a beautiful picture. When she was done she brought it to me for my approval. I didn't do well here, I said, 'Oh, Ruby, these stickers were for inside the book'. Her face fell with disappointment in the fact that I didn't see the beauty she had created.
It took me a few minutes to realize that I had just punished initiative and quiet studious work. Surely values as important as following rules set by anonymous sticker book maker people. True, she needs to learn how to do these things but she also needs to maintain spontaneity and a desire to just pick up and do.
Later, she and I worked on the Big Cats book. It didn't take more than one or two stickers for her to figure out that the stickers are supposed to be put in a designated place. After a page or two, we did finish the book in an evening, she said, 'I did the other book wrong.' There was actual sorrow in that little voice about the Shark book. I thought for a second and then asked her to get the Shark book. Together we looked at the picture she had done. In fact she'd done a lovely job of placing the stickers and had created a poster that had not been envisioned by those who made the book. She used the wrong stickers in the right way. I explained to her that sometimes we need to do work with our minds, like we did with the Big Cat book and there are times we need to do work with our hearts, like she did with the Shark book.
'When I grow up,' she said, 'I want to do work with both my heart and my mind.'
I'm glad we worked that through and I got over my initial reaction to her work. I wonder how often we punish the values that we really want and substitute them by rewarding values that we don't. Passivity over initiative. Conformity over creativity. Predictability over spontaneity. I wonder how often I've made that mistake with others. I sure as heck am going to try not to do that again, ever, with those I serve or those I supervise.
Gosh, being around a nearly 5 year old is a lot of emotional work. Who knew?