Thursday, August 30, 2018

Back to School

By Cheryl Oreglia

Do you feel it? That subtle shift in temperature, the slightest re-positioning of the sun, a gust of wind that takes you by surprise, it's as if I'm caught up in the long good-bye to summer, freedom, and the gift of unmitigated time. How do we harvest that which we planted in our time of leisure, what fruits can we gather for the work that is before us, who will accompany me into this seemingly endless stretch of the unknown?

Today, near the end of our welcome back assembly at Notre Dame, we were asked to place our left hand on the shoulder of the person sitting next to us, and our right hand over our heart, as we set before God (life) a prayer for the new semester. I felt this heartfelt connection to everyone in the room as over seven hundred people bowed heads, bound to neighbor, bound by heart, offering up our gratitude and joy for the challenges that lay ahead. It was a powerful reminder we do not enter into this work alone. There are co-workers, staff, and most importantly our students who accompany us on this journey. Each dependent on the other, for not only safe passage from one grade level to the next, but a well defined curriculum that stretches the imagination, encourages critical thinking, and a school-wide dedication to life long learning.

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it's off to work I go...

I love the first day of school although I usually get a severe case of the butterflies before the first bell. The students are excited, the classes are short, the expectation is simply to establish community. I've learned over the years if you fail at the first day it is almost impossible to get back on track. I think that might be true for many things in life? 

We have an amazing student body at Notre Dame and I've never been anything but enamored with my students (it is my hope they feel the same about me). This year did not disappoint. I floated home, enchanted, charmed, and excited to dive into a curriculum that not only challenges our deeply held beliefs, but asks us to confront controversial issues with compassion, humility, and respect. Our school motto teach them what they need to know for life.

I find the dynamics of a classroom not unlike the dynamics of a home. A place where you can take off your armor when you walk in the door, abide by agreed upon expectations and rules, confront the work that needs to be done together, striving for peaceful resolutions should conflict arise, and injuries call for amends. It can be difficult at times to keep peace in one's own family but removing the emotional reaction to what appears to be disobedience or a derogatory attitude is key to identifying the real issue. It is almost never about the behavior. It usually stems from hunger, exhaustion, anxiety, or fear of rejection, sometimes even the appearance of rejection. 
A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don't function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick. Brene Brown
I've learned to expect the unexpected the first week of school. My first block went off without a catch (other than a few technical glitches and mispronounced names) we warmed to each other. By block two I was forced out of my room, moved upstairs (due to a student on crutches who needed a ground floor room), and spent fifteen minutes corralling my confused students, sending others to hastily reassigned rooms. It was a bit of a snafu. But our sense of humor prevailed and we eventually pulled it together. My final block entailed a small group of students with an interest in discernment, pilgrimage, and journey. Martin Luther King, Jr. says the function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education. 

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company...a church....a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past...we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude...I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you...we are in charge of our attitudes.” Charles R. Swindoll
After my classes today I picked up my three granddaughters from daycare, their parents had work obligations, and I was available. I liken it to picking the short stick on purpose although managing to get three children (3years and under) from daycare to home is no simple task. The first challenge was opening the stroller which requires not only strength and agility, but an engineering degree, and enormous perseverance. It's a good thing I'm resourceful and when the hidden latch unexpectedly popped open things sort of fell into place. So with a whole new appreciation for previously unknown stroller operating skills I strut across the street to the daycare with a functioning carriage. 

I now realize (lifelong learner) you can leave the triple stroller outside of the facility while you gather the children, bottles, papers, sweaters, art work, and such, but I was blissfully aware of this policy (some people refer to it as ignorance), so I brought said stroller into the unusually small infant exchange area (not unlike picking up clothing at the cleaners) without a clue. I marred every doorway and may have dented the sheet rock in a few places. Try not to judge, it's like an obstacle course in there, wee ones running about, and of course I have the Winnebago of strollers to navigate. I was able to procure all of the grandchildren safely home so that's pretty much a win.

When we enter the house I mistakenly brought our dog Shaggy because he was needy after spending the entire day alone. But he's a dog, not very helpful, and by no fault of his own he sort of knocks the children over with his exuberant greeting. So with three crying children I race to the pantry and pull out the prohibited fish crackers before dinner. As quickly as possible I strap the one year old twins into high chairs, it's so much easier when they are secured, and generously dump fish crackers onto their trays. I hand Audrey a bowl because she is a big girl (three) and as for me I simply eat straight from the box.

As the children are happily munching on prohibited foods I'm able to prepare the fruits, yogurts, and pasta as instructed by Julie. Audrey wants a blended drink? It took about twenty minutes to find all the parts to the blender, cut up the appropriate fruits, not allowing them to touch before blending (which makes them yucky), and managed to create just the right texture. Yeah, I was totally sweating it out. 

In the meantime the twins are starting to fuss so I spring into action and for an entire thirty minutes supply them with an endless array of cut up foods. They are crusted over with unspeakable stickiness by the end of the "meal." I consider carrying both highchairs out back and rinsing them down with the garden hose. I don't think my daughter would approve although I believe I can pull it off as entertainment?

After removing some of the crud I take our little entourage to the back yard where I quickly lose control of the situation. The perfect storm; pool, water, dirt, and dish soap ~ three kids and a dog. At some point the three year old starts losing it, she needs protein, attention, and maybe a little calm. As a grandma you can observe deviant behavior from a distance, it doesn't get to you like it did with my own kids. I can see beyond the expression into the source of the issue. Which is the only way to alleviate her distress as well as my own. With that all said it was not easy reigning her back in, even with professional distractions, and Grammie bribes. By the time Julie walks in the house I'm ready to crawl into the playhouse and curl up in the fetal position. She offered me a glass of wine so I preserved and helped with the baths. 

I guess the very long point I've been trying to make is I'm continually learning because life and the prevailing circumstances keep changing, I'm either compelled to react with empathy and compassion, or ruthless apathy. The goal, my harvest, the fruit of unmitigated time comes in the form of creativity. Creativity expands the mind, stretches it beyond ordinary human comprehension, resulting in a mind capable of transcending, of discerning new and complex situations claims Michael Johnson. We live in an unpredictable world, we need each other, along with creative problem-solving skills, and when strollers are involved perseverance and agility. 
Real education enhances the dignity of a human being and increases his or her self-respect. If only the real sense of education could be realized by each individual and carried forward in every field of human activity, the world will be so much a better place to live in. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

Meet me in the comments, share a few of your own life lessons, or maybe you have a back to school story worthy of repeating.

I'm Living in the Gap when I'm not writing for Across the Board, drop by anytime.

No comments:

Blogger Template by Designer Blogs