Friday, March 3, 2017
A Quest for Inner Peace
The room before me is surprisingly quiet. There is the rustle of pages being turned and the hiss of whispers rising up from the back corner of the room. Desks have been pushed out of the way, and wall to wall students spread across the floor. Some remain seated in chairs. Some lie on their backs and some lie on their stomachs. Some have arranged the red, green, and blue privacy screens to form fortresses, claiming their own spot of floor space. A few have invited a friend to join them. The room looks like chaos, yet it feels just the opposite.
It has been 15 minutes since we began, so there is a perceptible shuffling of bodies being rearranged in an effort to find a more comfortable position or simply to take a break. Even this late in the year, not all students have built up their stamina. An hour of reading seems like a great idea until you've been at it for 15 minutes and realize the floor isn't any softer than the hard plastic chairs you're normally confined to. Even the pillows, blankets, and overgrown stuffed animals don't offer enough relief from the hard cement that lies just beneath the thin, poorly padded carpeting. Then, there is the quiet. Despite the page turning and the occasional whisper, the room, which was just earlier in the day filled with the sounds of talking and giggling and the banging of pencils and other assorted odd noises, is just so quiet. Too quiet. It seems unnatural. But I know if I wait, if I'm patient, they will settle back down after a while and get lost in their books once again.
So far three students have ventured from their carefully constructed nests to come speak to me in hushed tones. The first came to inform me that she needed to go to the office because she wet her pants. Oh my. She assured me she didn't get the floor wet. but I find that doubtful given the saturation level of her jeans. Just another part of the fun of teaching third grade, I suppose.
My next two visitors had happier information to impart. The first was reading Ultimate Bug Rumble and needed to tell me that he just learned that Daddy Long Legs are not in fact spiders, despite their eight legs. Mind blown!
The next visitor informed me that golden retrievers always look happy because their mouths turn up. That kind of thing is obviously too good not to share.
As I sit here, watching my students read, the thing that strikes me about this simple, low-key Read Across America celebration is how peaceful it is and how utterly content I feel. Sadly, I realize this moment stands in stark contrast to how I normally feel. How I would love to feel this relaxed all day, every day! How much more could I get accomplished? How much more effective could I be as a teacher? And if my students felt like this? How much more could they learn? How much better would school be for them?
I'm just not sure exactly how to get there. I know, however, that it begins with me. Maybe that old adage is right: you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. Finding my own inner peace suddenly seems to be an imperative, not just for my own sanity, but for these young growing minds bursting with potential, who, in spite of protests to the contrary, really do want to learn.
So, where do I begin?
Perhaps the first step has already been taken, right here within the lines of the words I write.