I sometimes do my best thinking when I am not thinking too hard. For example, recently I was doing errands when I suddenly remembered that it was Chinese New Year. In my classroom this was always a big deal since I taught ESL and this is definitely a holiday that celebrates diversity and invites cultural comparisons. Besides…it’s fun what with making dragon masks, interpreting horoscopes, learning to count to ten in Chinese, eating with chopsticks…you get the picture. Old school teaching. We followed the rhythm of the year with our small celebrations.
While driving somewhere yesterday, another thought came to me about my daily rhythms. I thought about my newer classroom and how much I loved it after having taught in another closet-sized room for about 15 years. The newer one was spacious and looked out on a grassy area and a huge oak tree, “my tree,” I told my students. I actually physically felt the sensation I had when I reached my classroom every day, coffee cup in hand and obligatory tote bags dangling from my arms…this was My Home Away from Home. I savored the time I often had to myself before my classes actually began. It was a half hour of business and reflection. I collected my thoughts and my intentions for the day, and the rest of the day took care of itself. I was in my groove.
Then I began to think about how much kids also like regular routines, though they also enjoy a break in the routine! But to enjoy a break in routine, you need to have one in the first place. Since we know our students’ lives are often less than perfect, I believe it is important to provide them with as much consistency in the daily routine as possible. School is their safe place, and safe places are calm and predictable and protective. This probably also explains why I felt so good each morning in my classroom. It was calm, protective and predictable.
Now, I am retired and recovering from a life-threatening illness. Although I am “in recovery,” I have been wondering why I have been feeling so dazed and confused…and definitely not as joyful as I thought I would be feeling. I finally realized that due to my retirement followed immediately by catastrophic illness, I no longer had a rhythm to my life that would carry me forward from moment to moment, day to day.
But yesterday my mood suddenly lifted. I realized it was because I had stopped thinking about my feelings and was, instead, becoming more involved in doing things. I have been creating a new groove for myself by joining a couple of exercise classes, taking my daughter out to lunch once a week, reconnecting with the wonderful people in the Long Island Writing Project, reading the NY Times in a leisurely fashion every morning….and last but not least, joining the Slice of Life writing community. Interacting with teachers every day has helped restore my rhythm and has definitely restored my pleasure in writing and my faith in the intelligence and goodwill of the teaching community. It’s so good to be back in my groove!