I hadn’t expected to take a blogging break over the Thanksgiving holidays … but when Thursday morning rolled around I was tired, and by Friday morning I was coughing and sneezing with a bad case of What’s Going Around. My plans for a peaceful Black Friday walk in the nearby county park turned into a peaceful – but very different – day of rest and recovery. It wasn’t until late Saturday afternoon that I felt well enough to leave the house, and a normal Sunday routine left me needing a lengthy afternoon nap.
I hadn’t realized how much I needed to take a break – not just from the school routine, but from normal daily routine, too – until my body informed me, in no uncertain terms. There’s something about the factory-paradigm routine and the notion of incremental progress each day that encourages teachers, students, and Powers That Be not to pay attention to the subtle cues our bodies send us. “I don’t feel all that well,” Many A Ms. X and Mr. Y has said over the years, “but it’s so much trouble to write substitute plans. It’s easier just to come to school.” I’ve said that, too, both as a teacher and as a student worrying about all that make-up work from Ms. X’s class. With the best of intentions and most sincere hopes, we end up prolonging illnesses that could have been brief, infecting others who could have stayed healthy. And then, when we do have to stay home – or take ourselves to the doctor and the pharmacy – it’s even more difficult to write substitute plans because we’re feeling that much worse.
You’d think that a factory-paradigm would stress the importance of preventive maintenance, the way that effective manufacturing companies schedule maintenance of their production equipment. But somehow it doesn’t turn out that way.
When I started to feel a bit better, I discovered I had both the time and the inclination to write some more Tres Columnae Project stories. If you look at the site today, you’ll find that the stories in Lectiō XLI have been published, and several others have now moved from cryptic outlines to drafts. I’ve promised one of my upper-level groups that they get artistic control of the fate of Caius Lollius, but for that to happen, I had to lay the foundations with these stories. I’m sure there’s more to know about the Lollius family’s mysterious relatives, the Quinctii, who are mentioned a few times here. Were they – as this story certainly seems to imply – early Christians, perhaps even responsible for the mysterious Herculaneum cross? What happened to them, and why does Caius seem to know so little about them?
That upper-level group will be working out these details and, in the process, delving deeply into a set of interests they’ve discovered over the past few months. I think they’ll be excited by this article about very recent excavations of the site where Caius’ legion built its next headquarters, a few decades after his service in Galilee. I was certainly intrigued – and I have a feeling I never would have found the article if I’d followed my original plan for the Thanksgiving break. I wouldn’t have had time for this rich Google+ conversation, either … and I might have passed by the Wired article that inspired it. And if that had happened, I would have missed out on two amazing conversations Saturday evening, with all the bright, exciting potential they hold for more users of the Tres Columnae materials.
Why was I open to the possibilities? Partly, I suppose, because What’s Going Around had thrown me so thoroughly out of my expected routine. Partly because I’d been away from the factory-grind for a few days, just long enough to begin to reconnect with my intuitive side. Partly because I’ve been working on listening better to that quiet inner voice, the one that whispers back when factory-thinking yells and labels. There’s a whole cluster of possible reasons, but in the end, the result is what’s important. I did click that link, and I did share it, and I was available for the two friends who wanted to chat on Saturday … and all of it reminded me of how important it is to be open and present, not hyper-focused on the Plan as factory-thinking encourages us to be.
And for that increased openness, that increased presence, I have to give credit to the joyful learning community that we’ve been building and maintaining for these past several months. As it has grown and strengthened itself, it’s helped me open my eyes to all kinds of subtle signs in students, colleagues, and Powers that I probably would have missed a year ago. As we’ve built meaningful things together, I’ve been re-learning to seek meaning in other areas. And as we’ve embraced the quest for excellent, but imperfect work, I’ve been slowly letting go of my own inner quest for perfection, too.
Joyful learning communities – they’re powerful things! And as December progresses, as we move into the last few weeks of the semester and all the winter holiday excitement, I hope we’ll all take time and space – and even a few needed breaks – to notice how much we’ve accomplished.
I wonder what other new discoveries await us all today!