I currently work at an international nursery/preschool here in Stockholm. I'm doing this to help fund my studies towards a Master's Degree in English Literature. The combination of graduate work and preschool employment makes an interesting dichotomy: I spend my week going from seminars on Postmodernist Literature to changing diapers and singing nursery rhymes. I like to think it keeps my mind sharp.
However, the most surprising aspect of these two worlds is how they collide.
The majority of children at the nursery/pre-school are between the ages two to five. I have started to get drawn into their various personalities and little ticks and flaws, their strengths and weaknesses - it's easy to see the little people they are becoming, little adults growing up very quickly.
Sharing is a constant struggle in the world of preschool. "MINE! It's MINE" is a daily hymn sung to all preschool teachers and we dig deep to find the patience again and again to mediate the settlement of possessions, be it toys, rocks, sticks or, sometimes, an unidentifiable object.
We occasionally have Play-Doh at our school and I do my best to distribute equal amounts of Play-Doh to each child before the Play-Doh-ing begins.
However, there are frequent moments when, do to unforeseen circumstances, the Play-Doh becomes distributed unequally. Thus, havoc ensues.
Usually this situation begins when one or two children obtain a large amount of Play-Doh, (of which, mind you, they are only using a small portion). Their winnings (whether it was a lucky income or stolen by quick wit and maneuver) ceased to be a necessity and more of a symbol of possession.
Meanwhile, the other three or four attendees at the Play-Doh table are playing with less than meager portions of Play-Doh. One of them usually accepts their condition and attempts to do their best with what little they have (making pea-sized snowmen, etc.). However, there are always one or two participants who have surveyed the situation and have deemed the entire Play-Doh area: A site of injustice.
Their demands on the Play-Doh millionaires start out as small negotiation tactics but become louder and more desperate as the millionaires refuse to budge. And then, some poor, innocent bystander sits down in hopes to join the Play-Doh fun to unfortunately find him/herself in the midst of a major Play-Doh economic dispute. Naturally, the misfortune of this newcomer becomes the catalyst for the protester's campaign.
Soon I am on the scene to find the Play-Doh table in total unrest. "Miss April, Miss April, He/She/They aren't sharing! Look how little we have and he has NOTHING!"
It easy for me at this moment to think about the news headlines and how pertinent this little micro-scene would be for the BBC.
"Okay, well then I guess we need to share with our friends then don't we?" I say in hopes that the wealth at the table becomes more equally distributed on its own accord without my physically having to remove some Play-Doh from people's "banks". This does happen a bit, but oddly, it is usually the kids with the least amount of Play-Doh who first offers their income to the Play-Doh-less child.
I find this astonishing.
Meanwhile, the Play-Doh millionaires rip off a piece of Play-Doh that is about .01% of their total net Play-Doh worth.
In the end, I have to relinquish the Play-Doh millionaires' stash and redistribute the Play-Doh wealth once again as evenly as possible. This usually is accompanied with wailing and gnashing of teeth.
However, it should be recognised that after the "Play-Doh crisis" is over, when I redistribute the Play-Doh, ALL the children are able to do whatever they wanted to do before, just on a bit smaller/larger scale.
And, at the end of the day, the fact that they ALL got to play is what matters, isn't it?