Posted by: karanoel | November 21, 2010

To stop and think

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. (Isaiah 30:15)

It’s been a whirlwind of a weekend. Full of good things and great people. I feel lucky. And beat. But as I am finally having a chance to sit down in a quiet room with my plans wrapped up, my responsibilities accomplished, and my weekend coming to an end, I feel peace.

I was inspired tonight by a post by my dear friend, Sarah, to be quiet and reflect. So, in lieu of writing tonight, I am going to share a post from her blog, Spiritual Wheaties (www.spiritualwheaties.blogspot.com):

Whistle while you WORK, dammit!

You know, I think there is a big push in our culture to suppress ingenuity, imagination and intelligence. We end up with this massive “to do” list that consumes so much of our time that actual thinking and reflection is sacrificed for work, work, work.

I think about my students, particularly my IB students. They have a very big to do list. Between Extended Essays, Internal Assessments, External Assessments, classroom requirements, and college applications, it is a wonder that they have time for any extra-curricular activities (which of course they need in order to have sterling college applications that show their dedication to being well-rounded… whew). Then there is the life they live, which is very complicated because they are very complicated beings, emotionally turbulent, hormonally variable, tired, growing, and sensorily overloaded. It makes my head spin to think about it.

And then I think about myself. I teach, and yet so much of my job is ostensibly NOT about teaching. I have to analyze data, assess school-wide problems, determine solutions for said problems, participate in professional development, participate in surveys, individually coach failing students, promote programs, write recommendation letters, advise extra-curricular clubs, contact parents, and meet with colleagues. All of those are important, and necessary parts of a functioning school, but I wonder how much they add to my teaching practice. As a teacher, I find that in order to be a better teacher, I must reflect on my practice daily. That may involve sitting and staring at a wall. And perhaps this sitting and staring at a wall has been mistaken for “free time” by the powers that be. Henceforth, my obligatory “to do” list grows.

I tried something different with my seniors this last week. They had to visually represent a scene from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and explain how it used the perspective of Via Positiva, which we had been talking about that day. They wowed me completely with these creative, thoughtful, funny, and ingenious ideas. And they came up with these ideas in 10 minutes! Their imagination is intact. Their ingenuity is right under the surface waiting to be unleashed!

When did reflection and thinking and considering become so suppressed? My personal belief is that this idea came about from the Puritans. We are a nation founded on a very strong work ethic. Those people had to work in order to live here. This work ethic founded America, gosh-darnit, and was amplified during the depression when my grandparents grew up. My grandfather was a hard-worker who put in an honest day’s work as a metal worker. Later, in the 60’s, my grandparents couldn’t understand my uncle’s job as a scientific researcher. They couldn’t understand how someone could be paid to think about salamanders.

Where would we be without creativity and thinking and reflection. We wouldn’t have the computer without creativity. We wouldn’t have life-saving surgical devices without reflection. We wouldn’t have the unbelievebly useless devices advertised at Bed Bath and Beyond, products like “The Mangroomer” (really? reaaaaaaallly?). Okay, I guess that isn’t the best argument for my point today.

What I do think is that reflection and thinking are critical (if somewhat pooh-poohed) aspects of any professional practice. I wonder if we can allow ourselves the time to sit and think. The time to reflect on what we do well and what we can do better. The time to stop and make decisions that aren’t based on panic, time, or desperation.

My challenge to you today is that you stop and think for 20 minutes. Stare out a window, listen to yourself, think about what you do and how you do it. Your practices will not suffer from your pausing.


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