Friday, January 23, 2015

Problem Solving


The glory of work is that each day presents a problem to be solved. The mind, that wanderer, must stop its daydreaming and look the issue right in the eye. The brain, that mysterious organ, awakens to the task, flexes its muscles, rolls up it’s neuroned sleeves and shoves aside all distractions; “I got this.” It feels useful and needed and happy that millions of years of evolution leading to this moment are justified. The dog waking up is troubled with no plans for the day beyond “Hey, it’s time for a walk and I wonder if the food bowl is full.” But since some mysterious force in the universe proclaimed that the human brain needed to develop abstract thought, choice and the weird task of deciding how to fill time, we need to step up to the mandate.

In my peculiar case, the question that got me up too early in the morning was, “You have 15 kids coming into your room for 45 minutes. What are you going to do with them?” And it asks that questions five times— one for 6th graders, one for 8th, one for kindergarterners, one for 4th. Well, seven times since just to be ornery and make myself work yet harder, I have two groups of 8th and 4th and do different things with each. If we got another miraculous rain day of no school, I would be thrilled. Both because we need the rain and then I could go back to sleep and continue my dream about… well, I don’t remember it, because the executive function took over and rudely erased it from the board. But I’m sure it was more pleasant than sitting in the dark at 5:30 am in my cold house figuring out what the hell I’m going to do with the kids today.

I said “peculiar” before because many teachers simply think, “Page 22 in the textbook, math sheet number five, bars 42-55 in the score.” But the Orff teacher, that bizarre creature, has to weave anew the myriad threads of artistic possibility each class, create a miniature masterpiece with speech, song, gesture, body music, dance, drama, elemental compositions on all sorts of instruments, none of which can be unthinkingly taught through the short-cut of reading notes, but must be meticulously prepared to unleash step-by-step the music in the bodies and minds of children. As appropriate for each age. With an unceasing flow that unrolls like music itself. The room set up differently for each group, the particular combinations of elements dreamed anew for each class. It’s difficult and demanding and that’s what makes it so glorious when it works. And when it doesn’t, no problem, or rather, a new problem for the mind to tackle and roll you out of bed yet earlier the next day.

Can you guess that I should be class planning instead of writing about class planning? The clock is ticking and my first class is two hours away, counting commute time. Oh, the bargains we make in the nether-zone called procrastination. 

What would it be like to stop working and never have that tension to rub up against? I don’t know about you, but I need a certain amount of tension to keep me alive and alert. Too little and it’s like a slack string that produces no tone. Too much and the string snaps. It’s an ongoing Holy Grail quest for just the right amount.

Okay, now 6th grade first…

1 comment:

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