October 10, 2023

I learned something about myself today that I already knew. See, I was given the day to clean a room of the library. Just the one room. It was a mess, filled with loose cables and broken computers. Spending the day working on just the one task reminded me of how I work best when I’m given time to focus.

The school days are jagged. You slice through the day like a bread knife, cutting on the peaks of the serrations. Something happens, you deal with it, you move on to the next task. You teach a class, the bell rings, you teach the next class. My days are planned this way, between clear ridges. Today felt more like a chef’s knife, a straight cutting edge that you can pull through the day.

When I was at the workshop yesterday, I worked on only one project – the bookshelf. When I left, I felt all right. Knowing that I had nothing other than the bookshelf to work on, I was able to concentrate on cutting the dados on one side of the shelf. Whatever I got done was as much as I was going to get done. When I’m at the shop next, I’m going to see about doing something similar, just focussing on a single task, one at a time.

My school days can’t work this way, but I wonder what they would be like if they could. Wouldn’t we be able to engage more deeply in the material? Students have trouble sitting through a single period so it’s easy to assume that a three-hour long session would be too much for them. What if it turned out to be the opposite? What if having that much time allowed them to immerse themselves in a learning task? Teaching would be easier, too, even if the planning would be a pain, because rich discussions and larger tasks could be undertaken.

My mind is frazzled, jumbled, muddled, disheveled, and rumpled. I have to learn how to organize my priorities in a way that allows me to focus on one at a time. Some things need to be put aside in order for others to get done. I also need to sharpen my kitchen knives.


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