After I wrote yesterday’s post, I realized something important. It was mid-morning; I was tired, still slowly recuperating from the effects of That Bug; and with the Open House work schedule, I wouldn’t “have to” be at school for another few hours. So I closed my eyes for a moment, woke up an hour or so later, and felt a whole lot better.
It wasn’t my perfect plan, the one I followed for so many years. That plan involved “being a good little teacher,” the kind who’d spend those morning hours “getting the room ready” … or getting the room perfect for parents and students to admire. And it wasn’t the perfect plan I’d developed at the start of the week, the one where I’d do some important errands. But it turned out to be an excellent plan instead.
What was the most important thing for students and parents last night? To know that their teachers care for them, to know their expectations, to have a few moments to interact, to pick up any Really Important Information. For new students, it was important to find their way around the place; for returning students, it helped to see the routes they’d be taking from one class to another. Perfectly beautiful classroom? Nowhere on the most important list.
In the end, that brief rest was a lot more important than hanging more posters or making a perfect bulletin board. Besides, I realized, the perfect classroom would have sent a destructive message. When things are perfect, there’s no room for improvement; when a classroom is perfect, there’s no room for students to contribute.
Years ago, I spent long hours trying to make a perfect classroom and a perfect curriculum … and of course I failed. Had I succeeded, there would have been no room for joyful community.
Instead, by the end of the evening, I could feel four joyful communities begin to form: an advisory group, a large Latin I class, a small Latin I class, and the advanced class. We smiled together, we welcomed each other, we talked about the journey of language proficiency. The beginners had a short preview of the Tres Columnae site, and the advisory group – all new students – got a warm welcome and began to relax. It was a good, but tiring day.
And I even had time to write a lesson plan or two and to make a simple little cell-phone video, mostly to remind me about perfect and excellent but also to share with a friend who’s been asking for it. It’s uploading as I write, and I’ll share it when it’s ready. At its heart, it’s a reminder to leave room for everyone in the community, to make sure there’s enough space and time for building together and feeling ownership. It’s far from perfect, of course, but I hope it’s excellent for its purposes.
I came home to good news from a friend and to one of those connecting moments I enjoy so much: introducing someone who needed information about something to someone who could provide the needed information. That connection didn’t have to be perfect, either, and I wasn’t the only person with connections for the seeker. It feels good not to be “the” source, but to be part of greater communities that help and support each other. And I discovered my friend, the potential source of information, shares a passionate interest with me that I’d never known about.
That was a great discovery.
I’m not sure what today holds other than “finishing getting stuff ready” and, after that, some errands and some family time. But there’s one important thing I do know. It doesn’t have to be perfect … and it can’t be, anyway. But it can be excellent, especially if I let go of “needing” to do everything myself. To build joyful communities, to build meaningful things together, you do have to make room to receive as well as give.
I wonder what we all need to receive and give today.