Wazi-wazi, as I have written before, is a sense that the world is moving too quickly. When that happens, the metaphysical sphere in which one travels is broached, allowing an alien and angry self to come in, making us literally beside ourselves. Most of us have occasionally experienced that feeling; we think of it as being overwhelmed, or if it’s serious, we call it a panic attack. Some children live in a perpetual state of wazi-wazi. This child was the toddler who cried when his parents were in a hurry, the young child who took forever to eat his lunch and who was difficult at every transition, the kid who wanted the same meal every day. Schools are often nightmare places for these kids, especially as they get older. Class changes bring hurry and jostling. Lunches must be gulped down. The daily schedule may differ, according to what day of the week it is. Some kids become accustomed to this; some thrive on it. And some never get used to it but become more and more anxious.
I was reminded of this yesterday when we had some new lockers delivered. We had warned the kids the lockers were coming and would be in place when they arrived Friday morning. They are logical and useful things for us to have. We will no longer have cluttered cubbies, and as winter approaches, everyone will know where to find their shoes and coat. There is a basket for ear-buds and snacks. They are even a cool color. Some kids greeted them with enthusiasm; they like knowing where things are, plus most of the kids fit inside them easily, a fact they find endlessly amusing. There is every reason to accept and even celebrate our wonderful new lockers.
But for four of our kids, the world had moved a little too quickly. Two were fairly verbal in their disdain and dislike, but after a bit, they stopped asking us to take them away and stored their belongings neatly. Another child just pretended they weren’t there. The fourth . . . it shut down his whole day. He stacked his stuff outside the locker and loudly proclaimed that he wouldn’t use it. He worried about it during recess. He was unable to function during his first two classes or go out to lunch with his classmates. He sat huddled outside his locker in a profound state of wazi-wazi, his arms around his knees, literally holding himself together.
In another teaching life, I would have insisted that he put his stuff inside his locker and get to class and do his work. I would have gone to the mat over it. His refusal to put his things away was clearly disobedience. And after all, he has to learn to cope with things and what if everyone pulled what he’s pulling?! It’s just a locker, for Pete’s sake! I don’t have time for this nonsense!
But that was before I knew about wazi-wazi. What good does it do to push a child having motion sickness of the soul to go faster? If a child is telling me he is in profound distress through his words and body language, perhaps I should listen. I ignore his message at the risk of his exploding in a big way. So instead, we will put up with clutter a few more days. We didn’t insist on his coming to class to work. We let him stay behind with a teacher when the rest of us went out to lunch. We slowed things down and gave him time and space and an ipad to play on.
By the end of the day, his belongings were still scattered on the floor in front of the lockers. But he attended afternoon classes and even got some work done. He no longer shouted at anyone who approached him. He was able to sit in afternoon circle, accept his awards for the week, and offer appreciations for his classmates. Monday will again be rough, but we hope not as hard.
And I wonder . . . . perhaps instead of hurrying kids along, we should listen and slow down ourselves. What do YOU think?