A Trip to the Music Museum: Where’s Your Compass?
Recently, I helped chaperone a field trip to the Music Museum in downtown Stockholm. No…not for one of my boys…for Maggie (she’s 3). Her pre-school adventure began with me (along with 2 teachers) helping to dress 12 (3-5) year-olds, in cold weather gear, then walking to a bus stop, then boarding a bus and getting on another train where we walked another couple of city blocks to finally reach the museum…whew! I kept asking myself, “Would we ever do this in the States?” The liability issues alone would make for a “NO!” But here in Sweden the curriculum, even in preschool, includes these kinds of activities as a way to teach children about everyday life.
What helped to keep the children organized was that each child had a “compass.” That is to say, they were each assigned a buddy. It’s a term the Swedes use for a friend (I promise you I’m spelling it wrong, but that’s exactly how its pronounced). The constant refrain throughout the day was, “Do you have your compass?” When the children heard this they’d scramble to find their partner; if they were already holding hands they’d turn to each other and smile. It was adorable.
Maggie’s compass was a girl named Alva who was at least a head taller than her, yet she was careful not to pull ahead. She stayed by Maggie the entire time, was quiet and listened well to directions. (Don’t we all want this kind of compass for our kids?) The teachers assigned her to me because they knew she wouldn’t give me any trouble.
The kids had so much fun at the museum. There were all different kinds of drums to look at and play. In one room they’d constructed drums out of kitchen pot and pans. Just look at the colors on these African drums!
Before the trip home the kids sat and ate their bananas.
Hearing the word “compass” spoken over and over again throughout the day, I couldn’t help but apply my own English vernacular to the meaning. A compass…a friend…it’s a wonderful description! A friend is a guide, someone to point north when you’re lost, someone who risks telling the truth even when the truth is difficult to hear. I’ve had the good fortune of many life “compasses;” parents, most importantly (thanks mom and dad). And teachers, like Doc Wilkerson, who risked taking a group of teenagers to Europe, (even scarier than preschooler). It was my first exposure to a foreign country and to say it changed my life wouldn’t be an exaggeration. Then there was Mrs. McWilliams, my 10th grade English teacher who taught me to love words, writing and the absolute joy of uncovering yourself in a book. (She didn’t even know I’d grow up to write a blog:) I still remember the cider and donuts she brought to class–thank you!
There are too many others to name, high school friends, college roommates, my soul mate Cooper (inestimable) and my children–they’re the best at pointing out when I’m in the wrong.:) And I can’t forget to mention strangers, so many times people I don’t even know have said something that’s stuck with me…they’re a compass too.
So how does one find a compass when they need it? I’ve learned it helps if your willing to be one first. You can’t stay lonely if you’re helping someone else not to be lonely. You won’t stay down if you’re trying to cheer someone else up. It’s just how life works.
We had a good-sized group this week at our Friday Fika (that means coffee and a treat in Swedish). There were some new faces too. We couldn’t stop talking about the elections, raising kids (always issues), and what we’d each buy if we had an hour at Target…ahhh. Topping the list was Reynolds’s Wrap Foil and Zip-lock baggies (how boring) but true. Consciously connecting takes planning, but it’s good to have a “compass” (and nice to be one too).