Education Archives

Finding Silence (and Solitude) in a Sea of Sound

“Find your Happy Place, Happy!” said Chubbs.

You know I had to get my first golf reference in sometime didn’t you?

There is a time each day where I reach the point of no return with external stimuli.

When so much noise, talk, emotions, and elements of the job reach the boiling point.

I was watching the news recently and a story came on which said that our brains need some downtime during the day for us to stay alert and effective. That our brains and bodies are not equipped to be “on” for long periods of time without stopping.

I certainly agree.

As any administrator knows, we are “on” 24/7 and are expected to keep going non-stop no matter what is thrown at us. However, try to take a moment to yourself and it is almost frowned upon. On the other hand, how about you just try to take a moment at all.

Good luck with that.

I get to work early just to be in my office and have some  “me” time. I almost have to sneak into my office because once people find out the time you as the administrator gets to the office, that’s the time they will be there to “discuss” something with you. If you come in earlier, and they find out, they will be there earlier. Parents. Teachers. Students. Etc.

Yes students (By the way, parents, don’t drop your child off at 6:45 a.m. thinking someone will be there to greet them and supervise them when the school opens at 8. We are a school, not a day care).

Sometimes I wish my brain came with an off switch. That way when I am in my “Happy Place” I won’t think of anything except what I want to. That is if I want to think of anything at all. Not the school, children, life, or whatever.

Nothing.

Silence is an unappreciated gift these days, one that students don’t appreciate either.

Why is it that when two students are talking, they are screaming at the top of their lungs even though they are right next to each other? Also, why do they seem to go crazy in a silent room? It’s like their brain suddenly goes haywire and forces them to make noise as if the silence is abnormal.

Teachers who are parents themselves also have my sympathy. How they get though the day with 24 hours of stimulus and sound is beyond me. One high school teacher I used to work with used to say the funniest thing about not being able to find his “Happy Place.” He used to say: “I teach first through eighth period each day and when I get home with the kids I have to work through periods ten through fourteen!”

So I try to find my “Happy Place” during the day to give my brain a rest. Sometimes it’s possible, many times it isn’t. Are we as workers, and not just in education, reaching the point where taking a break during the day is not possible? How many times have lunches become working lunches, if there is a lunch at all? And how many times are we expected to not take lunch, work straight through the day and somehow remain alert and effective?

I hear teachers say all the time: “Sometimes I don’t even have time to go to the bathroom!” I certainly sympathize though many people don’t. They really believe that people, and especially teachers should be able to go non-stop all day and not be worn out at the end. No matter what the students have done all day, no matter what was thrown at you all day, when they come to you at 6 p.m. (after the 100 people who came before them) they look at you and say “what’s wrong?” (and get irritated at the look you give them) not knowing or realizing that at the end of the day we just need some time, just a moment, for ourselves.

People seem to forget that educators are people too.

It is at those moments, many times where it seems like my office is the designated complaint center that I sometimes threaten (privately of course) to put a sign up in my office that reads: Your crisis is not my emergency!

I envy those people I know who can take a lunch or even a break and find their “Happy Place.” I used to know of a teacher whose school was three blocks from a golf driving range and he spent his lunch break there, hitting balls, enjoying his “Happy Place.” He would then come back to the school, refreshed, re-energized and ready to tackle the rest of the day.

Two of my other friends are able to find their  “Happy Place” too. My friend Phil finds his place on a treadmill at 4:30 a.m. and Kim finds hers sitting at the Friday Club with a glass of wine, reading a great book (How she can do that with all the noise around her is beyond me but highly impressive).

Mine is sitting in total silence. For about 30 minutes when I get home after being “on” for 12 hours straight.

No sounds, no talking, no phone, no computer, no television, no lights…and no people. Just sitting and thinking about walking the perfect golf course, overlooking an ocean. Nothing but me, the ball, perfectly cut grass in the fairway, the hole on the green, and plenty of sunshine.

Bliss.

So no matter your profession, no matter what you do, you should find your “Happy Place,” go there, and give your brain a rest sometime each day. You will be much happier and healthier for it.

Trust me.

Can “Education” qualify as an official language?

Can the language you use at your job qualify as an official language?

I think so. I think I am officially bilingual.

Take for example this statement:

“My educational philosophy is that all students can achieve their maximum potential, given the proper academic supports, the most up-to-date technology, and using best practices in teaching, tracked through performance based assessments. These same students can and will achieve a level of mastery in all core subjects, quarterly and yearly which, when all students performing at their highest potential, will be more equipped to compete in a global society with minimal challenges. If we, as educators combine our skills through collaboration at grade-level and department meetings, and through professional development, we will achieve our common goal of making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in every school and meet the benchmarks of No Child Left behind (NCLB).”

Ok, did you know what I just said? If not, I don’t blame you. If, after you read this you still don’t know, don’t fret as the translation will be at the end of this column.

Why is it that in the educational field we find ways to make simple conversations more alien than they have to be? Is the quest to make ourselves look smarter in the eyes of non-educators so important that we strive to make them “feel” inferior and at times, ignorant?

Now, how about this statement:

“The student is not making adequate yearly progress toward measurable annual goals based on established state curricular standards”

Translation: your child is failing.

We can’t even say that a child is failing to a parent without speaking in foreign tongues. Instead of saying: “I’m sorry Ms. Understanding and Mr. Unclear, your son/daughter is failing,” we say: “Ms. Understanding and Mr. Unclear, your child/student is not making expected progress toward quarterly goals which does not allow him/her to master the given curriculum in the time frame given to him/her in comparison to his grade level peers.”

Now after the parent snaps back into consciousness and his/her eyes are no longer glazed like donuts, we attempt to “explain” and “clarify” what we just said but instead of speaking English, we continue to speak Education. “I’m sorry, Ms. Understanding and Mr. Unclear, the reason why your child is in danger of being retained at his grade level is that he is not making any attempt to meet the educational standards, based on state guidelines. There are several minimum benchmarks that he/she is required to meet and based on the classroom, district, and state assessments given to him during each quarter of the current school year, your son/daughter is not progressing at a rate that will ensure he/she continues on with his/her classmates.”

We even put what we just told them in writing and make them sign it (to guarantee receipt) before we send them home to decipher what we just told them. Is it any wonder that we get 100 phone calls after that? 90 of those calls are from the parent(s) trying to get answers for what they were just at the school about, but the other 10 from the district office trying to figure out what in the world we told the parent that has them so confused?

What is the district’s response? Call the parent back and explain it to them again.

Get out the smelling salts, I think they just fainted.

What ever happened to K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple, Stupid)?

So maybe that’s why we as educators seem to enjoy talking to kids over adults. They just tell it like it is and keep it simple.

Unlike adults in education who seem to relish in the creation of a more complex language that only other educators can understand.

Although my friends in the medical and legal professions would disagree and say they aren’t the only ones who have invented another language and can officially qualify as being bilingual.

Oh, by the way, the translation for the first statement is: “I really believe that if we work hard to teach kids well, then they all can learn and succeed!”

See, was that so hard? Simple sentence, easy to understand.

So the next time I am asked if I speak another language, I will say unequivocally: “Yes I can articulate the Educational language in an eloquent manner, both in the written and oral format, in the proper context using the appropriate grammar and vocabulary in daily conversations and communications.”

Translation: yes.