Tag Archives: Desks

School, Suddenly Silent, Slightly Spooky

For the past year or so, I’ve been able to see what life is like on the other side of the desk. Well, not the desk so much. I mean, I probably spent more time sitting on a floor than I did anywhere else when I was working as a Title 1 Tutor at Awesome Elementary, but I think you dudes get the idea.

Anyway, what I’ve been facing is that my school year didn’t end with the school year.

All the students got to leave on Friday, content that their school year was over and excited that their summer had begun. On Monday, when every other school-related person was sleeping in, I was getting up early. After all, I had to be back at school to help shut it down for the summer.

It was very, very strange, dudes. Let me tell you.

The hallways echoed with the sounds of my footsteps, rather than the sound of hundreds of voices and feet pounding out a constant wave of sound. Everything seemed so big, without the students there to fill the place up.

It is, to paraphrase a title I’ve read around here recently, a bit spooky in there. The teachers are hard at work, taking down posters from their walls, corralling books left behind by students, even cleaning out some desks that students did not. Which, let me tell you, is not something I would wish on my worst enemy. One young girl left behind somewhat finished milk cartons, somewhat finished Capri Sun pouches and half-eaten foods. In her desk. Yikes!

And there I am, wandering through it all.

It’s a lot cooler inside without the students producing all that body heat, making it much easier for the school’s old HVAC system to cope with the suddenly very hot temperatures.

But still, I miss it. I miss the unselfconscious smiles. I miss the surprise-attack hugs. I miss the laughter.

It’s been a heck of a year, dudes. A heck of a year that I spent learning from some wonderful teachers, some astonishing students and, oddly, from myself. It’s something I recommend to everyone if you have the chance. Go into a classroom, volunteer and get to spend some time with younger little dudes and dudettes. I guarantee you will experience something pure and wonderful, no matter the kid or the school.

Teachers do not teach for the money. I’ve always been told that teaching is a calling, rather than a job.

I think, this past year, I’ve come to understand what they’ve been talking about.

By the way, if this post comes out looking all funky-like, please excuse it. For some reason, I’ve not been able to actually write on the blog hosting website. I’m having to send this in via e-mail and, this being my first time with that, I have no idea if it will actually work. Or, if it works, how well it will do so.

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Traditional Philosophy Helping Mold Young Minds

It was the second thing I noticed when I walked into her classroom. A big sign saying “I am who I am because of who we all are.”

Incidentally, the first thing I noticed when I walked into Mrs. C’s room at Awesome Elementary School, where I’m working as a reading tutor, was that the students didn’t have chairs and desks.Oh, they had desks and they were sitting down, but they didn’t have chairs. Instead, the students were sitting, balancing and gently bouncing on large Swiss exercise balls.

Because Mrs. C teaches a lot of kids with learning differences, she said she’s done some research about ways to keep the kids focused. She’s found that having the kids sitting on the balancing balls helps to burn off some of that excessive energy that can make teaching kids with ADD or ADHD or other learning disabilities such a drain on many teachers.

The kids, of course, love them. Except when they get carried away and start bouncing up and down on the Swiss balls like grasshopper on a sugar high. The threat of making them sit in normal chairs usually is enough to get them to settle down.

Despite having what seems to be a bit of a chaotic classroom, Mrs. C keeps things humming right along. She’s got the kids doing what needs to be done in a collaborative method. Heck, sometimes she even gives up the big desk to an especially hardworking student, sitting down elsewhere while the student works at her desk.

But this isn’t a story about how awesome Mrs. C is, or how she perfectly fits into the progressive traditional grove that is Awesome Elementary School (although she is, she does and it is). I want to talk, instead, about the philosophy that seems to drive her educational ideas. It’s called Ubuntu.

The dictionary definition of Ubuntu is quite dry, but illuminating: a quality that includes the essential human virtues; compassion and humanity. When Mrs. C translates it into English, it gains a bit of poetic license. “I am who I am because of who we all are.”

“Originally,” she said, “it was a South African philosophy about interconnectedness and community. It became quite popular after apartheid was overturned. I love it. It says we cannot become successful alone, we cannot fail alone, we are all in this together. It also teaches about the acceptance of others and ourselves by seeing us all through a community lens.”

That’s what I love about this. It harkens back to Hilary Clinton’s go-to catchphrase: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Let’s try and leave politics out of this and look at it for what it is; a plea for involvement beyond your own narrow interests.

Sure we parents would like to think we’re the preeminent forces for moral growth in our little dudes and dudettes, but, if we’re being realistic, we need to understand that society has a massive impact on what our children believe and how they act. Which is why we need to act for the greater good, as well as our own good, because the two are very much intertwined.

We’re running a bit long here, so I’ll be back tomorrow with more from Mrs. C and Awesome Elementary School.

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How To Make Yourself Happy

There’s a growing body of thought that says happiness isn’t something that happens to you, but something you can go out and get, something you can create. Happiness isn’t a place, but rather a state of mind.

You can make yourself happy. If only you decide you want to do it, and find the right way to go about it.

Gretchen Rubin is one of the most thought-provoking and influential writers on happiness. Her booksHappier at Home andThe Happiness Project were both instant New York Times bestsellers, and The Happiness Project has spent more than a year on the bestseller list.

At her blog, Rubin talks about ways she goes about researching happiness and testing out various theories in her own life. One of those ways is to take on a happiness project. That is, consider creating a plan to make yourself happy. People resolve to do things that will make themselves happy.

And, according to Rubin, the number-one thing that people resolve, the first thing that they say will make them happy once they start doing it is. . . making the bed.

Yes, really.

Now, it’s true that some people thrive on a little chaos. They find a disorderly room to be comfy and casual. When one of my friends was growing up, her mother made such a big deal of keeping the house clean that now my friend has gone far in the opposite direction. Very far. Most people, however, even if they may find it tough to keep things tidy, prefer to live in orderly surroundings.

It’s a Secret of Adulthood: for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm.

You dudes have no idea how many times I’ve tried to drive this lesson home to the young dudes in the house. You should see their desks. Well, no, maybe you shouldn’t see their desks. They’ve been known to drive strong men to drink, less-strong men to scream and just-plain men to run into the night, even when it’s daytime.

“Why do I have to make my bed? It’s just going to get messed up again tonight.”

If your little dude or dudette is older than six or so, you’ve definitely heard that sentiment. And, yes, it will get messy again, but for the time it’s not. . . It’s as if theirs is a whole different room.

Rubin is right. When my bed is made, my room looks more open, less crowded, less like a cave and more like a space in which someone might want to live.

When my desk is clean and neat, I just feel better. I feel like I can get things done. Mostly because I usually use the excuse of straightening up to procrastinate when I’ve got work to do. Still, there’s nothing to beat that neat-desk feeling.

It’s something that really is difficult to get across to those young enough that they don’t understand it intuitively, as most adults do. Outer order contributes to inner calm. 

Give it a try. Even if you can’t get the little dudette in your life to do it right now, at least making your own bed will leave you feeling better, happier and more ready to face the day.

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