One week, I brought a puppet into the classroom. Kyle was immediately drawn to it and obviously liked it. The next week when Kyle felt agitated about joining his classmates, I asked him if he wanted the puppet to sit with him. His face lit up and he happily answered, “O-Kay!”
Kyle’s “buddies,” adults from the congregation, take turns assisting Kyle during Sunday school. The buddies tried communicating with Kyle using the puppet. We noticed that Kyle is more likely to talk to the puppet than directly to a person. It seems to tire him less. When Kyle talks directly with his buddy, he often shuts down or becomes upset about halfway through class. However, when he is conversing through the puppet, Kyle stays engaged the entire hour. Possibly the simplicity of the puppet’s face is less tiring for Kyle. The consistency of the puppet might also be reassuring, since his buddies rotate.
Some things work and others don’t. Instead of taking unsuccessful efforts personally, I have learned to approach working with Kyle like playing an intriguing game of chess. Some moves work, some don’t, but in the end a pattern does begin to emerge. The challenge is interesting and rewarding. Kyle consistently touches my heart and reminds me of God’s artistry displayed in each of my students.
This puppet, from the Marvel “Caucasian Family Puppet Set,” is available from many online sources. Product line also includes African American, Latino, and Asian puppet families.
Maria Witmer-Rich attends Friendship Mennonite Church in Bedford Heights, Ohio.