There was a day like no other. The students were making me feel like I was on a tightrope and someone had set fire to the end of it. Students had a non-stop chatter that day and my perfectly aligned lesson plans were just not working. I was wishing the minutes away. Let’s just say that the day did not end fast enough!
Everyone has temples that they go to when they need time to reflect and think. Church on Sunday, a walk in the park, quiet meditation before dawn breaks are all possible options. I have used all of these places from time to time to quiet my mind and think. But, more often than not, I find myself with a shopping cart going down the aisles of a large store with a red and white motif. That’s where I found myself at the end of that treacherous day.
Like a force pulling me there, I found myself in one of the toy aisles. My eyes hazily looked over the shelves and then they focused on something I did not know I was seeking. I reached up, grabbed it and placed it reverently in my cart. My step became much lighter as I made my way up to the register.
The next day I came into my classroom and placed the red slingshot onto my desk. The students noticed it without me saying anything at all. As we proceeded with our day, I never spoke about the slingshot and did not EVER use it. The slingshot had the most power sitting on my desk.
The power did not come from the effect that seeing the slingshot may have had on my students. Most of them, never knew I had it and those that did never thought I would use it. The effect, I later realized, is that it became a talisman for me. It became a visible reminder of what really mattered to me in my classroom.
I realized that focusing on the most important thing was what I needed to remember on days that seemed to be controlled by outside forces or just simply pure chaos. On those days, I would pick up the slingshot to find focus on what mattered. Sometimes that meant trying a new strategy to teach a standard that the students were finding tricky, but most of the time it just meant breathing through the chaos. It meant remembering that the most important thing was that students are children and that learning was messy, noisy and often chaotic business. It also helped me remember to push my students when they needed to be pushed to do creative and powerful work; to have those conversations that made them think deeply; and to have a little fun every once in awhile. I did some of my best teaching the remainder of the year with my slingshot neatly tucked in my pencil cup on my desk.
Now I face a new challenge. This year I have dipped my toe into the leadership pool and it is starting to pull me into different waters. I began to feel that whirling feeling that means you are being pulled by the currents and the waters in school leadership are nothing if not treacherous. My simple thought was: Where is my slingshot? I began to hunt for it and just the thought of it brought me the focus that was needed.
There is a need for all educators, no matter our role, to remember what is most important. There is nothing we can’t do if we focus on that. There is nothing we can do if we don’t. This blog is my place to explore the journey of maintaining and supporting that focus in the school I serve and to think about it within the larger community we serve. So.. what is your red slingshot?