It was a cold early spring morning at Our Lady of Mount Carmel elementary school. We were greeted at the door of our friend Miss Bev's parent and toddler class with great curiosity about the big boxes we were carrying including our supplies. Within minutes we had been swarmed by young people half our size eager to play with the dirt we had brought with us. That morning we were going to play with mud, work our fine motor skills to make balls, and learn about how we can help flowers, bees, and butterflies by making seed balls!
However, one little boy stood hiding behind his mom. "He doesn't like dirt" the grownups told us. "He never participates if he has to get his hands dirty"...
Alister and I have been experimenting with the Coyote style of mentoring thanks to our friend Sarah Delroy who introduced us to the method outlined by Jon Young. The Coyote style of mentoring is an ancient way of teaching where the person being mentored doesn't feel like they are being taught. Once we started thinking about it, all of our best teachers were the ones who (knowingly or not) mentored us Coyote style by getting us curious, inspired, and wanting to learn more.
So the little boy who hid behind his mom and didn't like dirt was now right next to the table with the other kids who were playing in the mud. Now that he had gone beyond his original limit/edge, Alister came up with another plan to help the boy go even further. First, Alister made a larger ball of the clay, compost, and seeds. Then, he made a medium sized ball and put it on top of the first one. "You're making a snowman!" the boy exclaimed with excitement.
"You're right!" Alister replied. "And do you know what I'm making now? The head! Here, do you want to put it on top for me?" Alister asked as he held out the neat little ball to the boy. The boy took the "head" (which was no longer a ball of dirt) without hesitation and put it gently on top of the other two balls to complete the snowman. The next thing we knew, he was right in there with the rest of the kids making a snowman of his own and proudly showing me and the camera the anatomy of his snowman (to the giggling embarrassment of some of the moms in the room).
At one point the boy who now liked mud became very curious about Alister's facial hair. He asked if it was a beard, and told Alister earnestly that he was like a giant or a bear. Alister told the boy that he was glad he thought so, but secretly thought it was hilarious because he's quite short compared to many adults!
Near the end, Miss Bev lead us all through being tiny seeds in the seed balls and waking up and growing tall when it started to rain so that we could feed all the beautiful bees and butterflies in the city.
Before we left, the boy came and gave Alister a big, tight hug, looked him deep in the eyes and asked "When can you come back to my school?" Alister fostered an opportunity for the boy to go beyond one of his limits, and the boy who now liked mud seemed to thank him through his affection.
And so ends the tale of How Alister Became a Bear, a Giant, a Coyote & a Friend to The Boy Who Didn't Like Dirt.