The Power of the Cotton Mop

By Rene Jantzi

It looks innocent enough. Hidden away in a closet at home, the magic is not apparent. The cotton mop is viewed as a utilitarian tool, necessary and functional. In the classroom the adult mop and the children’s mop each hang on their respective hooks on the wall in full view. At first glance they appear pretty utilitarian here also, not attractive items, brown at the bottom from use and yellowed at the top from bleach. You think to yourself, "This is a community of 2-year-olds." There will be spills. They need mops." If the adult mop is in use, the children’s mop will probably be in use also. One initiates collaboration with the other. But the children’s mop does so much more than absorb water off the floor.

I have observed its power as an anchor for security and order. The first work that Joe has chosen for sixteen consecutive days (and counting at the time this was written) is lifting the mop off its hook. He observes the community from behind the mop. He watches language lessons, he observes Jane wash plant leaves, Tim polishing the mirror, and Jack problem solving a sensorial material. After a period of time, an hour and a half or less, he feels comfortable enough to hang the mop back on the hook and choose a work independent of it.

What happens when Susie has a spill and she wants to use the one and only mop that is in Joe’s hand? Often times Joe has been so observant of what is happening all over the community that he will be over at Susie’s spill, mopping it up before I might step in to model grace and courtesy by asking Joe, "Can Susie use the mop? There is a spill on the floor." One time I overheard him softly repeat "ma-ma, ma-ma" with each back and forth movement of that mop. What an opportunity to develop self-esteem! Joe is gaining independence and contributing to his community in a very positive way.

There is power in the hidden environment, that which the eye cannot see. There is some deeper meaning in that mop for Joe that I will never understand. I am privileged to be able to chronicle his involvement with it. And I will never look at a mop in the same way again.

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