Catching Tarantulas

I tend to work in the classroom and usually begin by asking the group to push the tables back. Teachers tend to immediately jumped up and begin instructing the children how to do it. I stop them and explain that watching and observing the children working together to fulfill this task was a useful way of diagnosing the group and the individuals within it. I can see who was taking charge and observe how, for example, some children are not aware of the others around them or that the group can work well together as a team.
I like this opener as it lets me see the groups dynamics but it raised two key points, for me, that I am working through.
1) The girls stand back and let the boys do most of the work. This can go unchallenged and  as they immediately move in to a passive state. What does this say about young girls and their ideas around certain tasks? Why are they standing back? Why are they passive? Perhaps I know the answer but it reminds me to ensure that equality is raised and maintained throughout all tasks. I gently encourage them to help in the spirit of girl power!
2) The second point is the teachers reactions to the task and difficulty in standing back. I see this, also, when I ask groups to get themselves in to a circle. Some just can’t help but do it for them (and some physically move them!) How hard is it to get in to a circle? How hard is it to push tables back? I know that it may take time but we must be encouraging children to take responsibility for themselves as individuals within a group context all the time not just when the ‘activity’ starts. I saw a program once where a group of children (can’t remember which country but they were in a jungle) aged 5-8. The children hunted, caught, killed, toasted and then ate a dangerous, poisonous tarantula. They did this with ease, skill and care. It seems to me crazy that in some countries children are entrusted and capable of taking huge amounts of responsibility and keeping themselves safe and we don’t even trust children to sit in a circle or push some tables back!

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