By Jennifer Williams
I felt I mastered the art of the “teacher pause” early on. Pose a question or a new idea and then wait. Sometimes seconds, sometimes longer. Maybe only a moment in time— perhaps just long enough for words to travel through the air to fall upon listening ears and ready minds. If you are a teacher, you know there is much to be understood within this pause. Seeing connections being created; the fusing of concepts from past experiences to new thoughts. Spaces for certainty and uncertainty to co-exist. Stillness that offers support for continuation on a path or need for a new direction—or maybe even retracing steps once more. The “teacher pause” for me became one of my most essential instructional practices.
Outside of classroom walls, though, stopping mid-thought, mid-sentence, mid-action has never been quite my style. “Head down” on tasks; all set to create and complete. Checklists checked and ready to keep on. Led by intention, reflection, and a constant curiosity for “what’s up next.” Always stretching higher and seeking depth and resolve.
Always stretching higher and seeking depth and resolve. I’ve thought often on this--the concepts of “higher” and “deeper” as my destinations. Two forces working in synchrony or in opposition? This question, however, may be unanswerable for me. My resolve--to find a pause.
Not a hard stop or a break. Not a time for reflection or redirection. But instead, a settled hold to take in my surroundings and allow for awareness of all that is good and right (and maybe things that may not be so good or so right).
And, here I sit. Thinking on a lifetime of aiming and acting and shooting for the stars, that in this moment, I am actually precisely where I want to be. A space of much certainty and still some uncertainty. A pause. And, as motion calms, I realize this place is one new to me. No longer am I seeking where to head next, but instead it is more how can I stay right where I am and do better, do deeper.
This year, my hope is to take hold of each moment. To embrace this time, this opportunity, this space where no longer am I concerned with “next” and “higher,” but instead “here” and “more complete.” Through this awareness and in moments of pause in days and months ahead, there are many things I hope to see…here are a few:
Pause…to seek out whimsy.
Recently an Instagram post for plaid shirts grabbed my attention. And, though I love a good, comfy plaid shirt, it was an unexpected connection made between classic books that intrigued me. Similar color palettes of the two--shirts and books--were the links drawn between them. These two typically distinct items bound together through whimsical and unconventional connections. This year, I will pause to seek out whimsy---find lines and pathways to connect the disconnected.
Pause…to celebrate human experience.
It is interesting what you notice when you move past looking to truly seeing. This past year, I have followed my #oneword2017 to be intentional in celebrating and honoring human experience. As I have begun my “daily pause” rituals, I am starting to see that I am not alone. A juice container. A cereal box. Spaces looking to pull people into good by a focus on the human experience. As our world becomes “busier” and “noisier,” I hope to pause and have eyes wide open to opportunities in front of me that connect me more (and more deeply) to those I love and cherish.
Minute Maid #DoingGood Campaign
Cheerios #GoodGoesRound Campaign
Pause…to ensure we are fixing what needs to be fixed.
Right before the new year, as I was leaving from a school visit to head to the airport, I waited and waited for my Uber driver—probably at least 15 minutes. The time waiting--that years ago would have felt normal--in today’s times of instant gratification felt like forever. My driver never ended up coming, and I, in a new city uncertain of clear directions, started to feel a little nervous. So, I requested a new driver, and he arrived in what felt like moments. Greeted with one of those smiles that just instantly draws you in and lets you know “all will be well,” I was now back on course. John and I were instant friends. A retired assistant principal, husband to the love of his life, and father of five. A man of great experience and, for sure for me, great impact. For our probably 40-minute drive, he shared funny stories and sad ones. Moments of pride and some of regret. And, as our time together was coming to an end, he said—in a way for me that was almost like reading the last page of a wonderful book—“We did a lot of work.” (referring to educators of “his time”) “We did a lot of work and fixed a lot of things. But, you know, I look back now and think we probably fixed a lot of things that probably weren’t really broken.” This year, I hope John’s words stay with me, and I can pause, think not of “missed rides,” but more of the ride we are on, and be sure, be really sure, that what I am working to fix really needs fixing.
Pause…to look into the eyes of my children.
As a teacher that tries to see the world through a global lens, I very much have always viewed all the world’s children as my own. Beyond the students in my classroom, it is my school of students, my community of students, my world of students that I hope to somehow wrap my arms around and lift up and support. Years ago, the kindergarten teacher to all my own three children said to me—teacher/mom to teacher/mom—be sure that when you are caring for all the kids in your classroom not to forget to care first for your own. As moms that are teachers we are multi-tasking ninjas! This year in the moments I am with my own children, I want to pause--really more stop—look into their eyes, listen more than hear, and hold tight to each and every second.
2016 #oneword: BOUNDLESS
2017 #oneword: INTENTIONAL
2018 #oneword: PAUSE