You’ve Got to Know When to Hold ‘Em

“You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em; know when to fold ‘em; know when to walk away; know when to run.”

Used under the Attribution non-commercial share-alike license. Photo by "Konqui"

Used under the Attribution non-commercial share-alike license. Photo by “Konqui”

With apologies to Kenny Rogers and to my readers for the weak metaphor to follow, I have been reflecting on the gamble I took when I publicly committed to 50 days of self-improvement known as #nerdlution. Whether viewed as a re-alignment of self or an attempt to form lasting positive habits, fifty days of three lifestyle changes (meditation, writing and exercise) seemed challenging but doable. Failing in public was the gamble.

I have thought a lot about the basic premise of the assignment and the definition of failure over the last two weeks. Today (Day 13) has been a good day, as were days 1-11. But yesterday, I just didn’t have it. And so, I rested. The morning meditation was successful. In fact I have increased from five to twelve minutes since I began. (Building my stamina!). But exercising every day turned out to be too much of a good thing. Between the cold and the damp and the daily exercise, my arthritic hip decided enough was enough. As for writing (or reading or pondering), it just wasn’t in the cards either.

All of which led me to the conclusion that the fifty-day challenge (for me at least) wouldn’t work. What would work, however, would be a challenge with built-in time off. Acknowledging that within the structure of this self-improvement trial, I could take a little R and R—a resolution sabbatical if you will– without sacrificing the end goal. Without meaning any disrespect, even God rested on the seventh day. And so, taking yesterday off was in fact not a failure but a strategy, a recharging of the batteries of commitment.

This personal revelation has significance for me in my role as teacher librarian as well. Just like me (and I imagine many other #nerdlutors out there), children do not have limitless ability to concentrate and focus. Children also need breaks. They need recess. To them, a fifty-minute lesson might be as difficult as my fifty-day challenge. It is not failure if children don’t bring their A game every day or every minute of the day. It is our job to help them perform the best they can.

In an Education Week article entitled “Classroom Shock: What I Am Learning as a Teacher in Finland” (published online November 26, 2013), teacher Tim Walker wrote,  “Finnish schools often schedule lessons into hour-long blocks: 45 minutes of instruction, 15 minutes of break. Students rarely have back-to-back lessons without breaks—and at the elementary level, it’s expected that children will spend their breaks playing outside, rain or shine.”

Breaks! Every forty-five minutes! The positive result—children are refreshed, and “stay balanced and sharp throughout the day.”

So, what can I do, short of moving to Finland? While I will continue to focus on being a teaching librarian with an important curriculum, I will acknowledge that for some students library class provides a recharging station. This doesn’t diminish the importance of what I teach, but will allow me to be more understanding of those whose concentration wanes.  I can advocate for developmentally appropriate recess in our schools. When the weather allows, maybe I can build in some outside lessons. Storywalk anyone?

I will not be walking away from #nerdlution. Back in the saddle, meditating, exercising and writing/pondering/reading my way to improving my self and hopefully the world (at least a little bit) as well.


2 Comments on “You’ve Got to Know When to Hold ‘Em”

  1. I think taking a breather makes a lot of sense, for a variety of situations and a variety of reasons. I find it recharges the mind. When I am writing (songs, poems, posts), I often need to step away and let my head wander. Sometimes, I discover the most interesting ideas that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. But we don’t value that kind of time or thinking, do we?

    • nrkellner says:

      Thanks, Kevin, for your comment.

      You are so right about the need for “taking a breather” in a variety of situations and reasons (often unnoticed by the observer).

      It is something I really want to focus on recognizing in my students. I am going to try to pay better attention to what is going on behind the behavior. Is it a student who needs a break, an opportunity to disengage, or is it a student who needs some gentle redirection to stay on task?

      I appreciate you taking the time to respond. I know you are making a conscious effort to do so as one of your #nerdlution goals which I think is laudable. Every reply and comment to a blog post deepens the thinking about that post. (And, of course, we all like to know that someone out there is reading us!)

      Take care,

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