It’s 1:40pm on a Wednesday. Early release day. It’s “hump” day and we have 1st Grade Buddy Reading. After lunch, it’s time for Read Aloud and then sending the kids out for P.E. Erasing the schedule off the white board, I slowly craft the Thursday plan in alternating colors in preparation for tomorrow. Unused papers and recycled from the day and pre-copied activities for the next day are carefully laid out, all with the harsh glare of the fluorescent lights off. The portable door is open and waves of students laughing, yelling & bouncing four square balls filter through. I sharpen a pencil, grab my lesson plan book and my water bottle, look frantically for my keys and then head out for our weekly Staff Meeting.
The agenda looms. Upcoming events to discuss. Union issues to be ironed out. Scheduling of assemblies, special events, loose ends to tie up before the upcoming field trip. Implications of the new standards to work through. And my head?! Ready to burst. I had just walked out of my classroom, calm, remembering some of the day’s light bulb moments, or the struggles walked through together, the conversations had to work out playground issues. Basically our little Room 18 bubble was a lab. Not every “experiment” went flawlessly. Rarely were we able to “replicate” the exact same results. But it was still a living, breathing organism. I truly loved that space. It wasn’t big, especially by late spring with 30 sweaty, growing 4th grade bodies, but it was ours. A place of community—whether easy or hard. A place to learn and grow. A place of acceptance balanced with challenge.
Staff Meetings, though? Woowee, felt like a virtual earthquake for me almost every time. The realities of “the world out there” filled my head with worry. Was I doing enough for my students? How would we fit in all the standards? What methods would help me teach curriculum effectively and meaningfully to our new students struggling with learning English? And on and on.
My worries and concerns had nothing to do with those around me. Our staff was my family. Our administrator was the strongest ally and cheerleader. My grade level team consisted of some of my closest friends. It was more the magnitude of looking beyond the walls of my classroom—when I locked the portable door, leaving behind my little space, I often let the worries, concerns, to do’s of our school and beyond lead me into a downward spiral of stress & worry. Overwhelmed with the what-ifs and problems out of my control, I often lost sight of my role inside those classroom walls.
Reading Emily P. Freeman’s new book, Simply Tuesday, has taken me back to those Wednesday staff meetings. It has brought to light the gift and curse of my to do list mentality. I have had to sit with the truth that my desire for faster, more efficient, my need for productivity and bustle is already taking a toll on my relationships, and even more? On my soul.
Maybe you can relate? “The pull to comparison and competition, the feeling that the work I do is never quite enough…the pain of inefficiency, the addiction of ambition, the longing to build something important, and the disappointment that comes when the outcome looks different than I thought.” Throughout Emily’s book, she reminds that Tuesdays, the most ordinary day of the week, can be a model for how to live EVERY day of the week. The ordinary, the small moments we overlook or run past, can actually hold our true life work and purpose. Rather than living in a place of fear, longing, disappointment, pain and addiction, God is calling us to see His presence in the small, seemingly insignificant moments. To “see smallness is not a punishment but a gift.”
Looking back on my former classroom, I now realize that its smallness, the simple truth of sharing 180 school days with my students, can be seen as a blessing and not a source of angst. My inner need to construct, shape and fill each and every moment might be leading me to miss a connected life. Just yesterday, I was rushing to get our family out the door to church, overdue library books in hand, Redbox movie to be returned, comforting stuffed animals tucked into my purse all while lugging the food & supplies I needed to bring for the church BBQ. I was barking out orders to the boys to get their shoes on and grab their things, to turn off the tv and pick up the living room. My eldest looked at me and said, “Mom, I know we are running late and you are stressed, but yelling at us doesn’t help. It just stresses us out!”
My fast movements. My inner need for speed and hustle. My mental lists and expectations. These often smother the gift of connection. The lessons to be found in small moment, everyday, ordinary living are the ones I need to pay attention to.
As Emily wrote, “People need our with-ness. They don’t need for us to impress them with how spiritual we are. They need to know they aren’t alone. People need us to embrace a relational smallness, accepting we are not the star, the counselor, the convincer, or the fixer. Instead, we are a companion, willing to keep company with the soul of another. We need not compete, we need only to connect.”
Whether it be in your job, your family life, your marriage, your friendships, your morning routine, or your conversations—I pray that Emily’s words will inspire you to connect instead of compete. To mark your days and time with with-ness. To be ok with small spheres of influence and simple agendas. “We were made for presence.” I know for me, as I start the school year in a few weeks, as I parent my boys and seek to strengthen my 11-year marriage, Simply Tuesday has been a much-needed reminder about what really matters.
“God can do anything, you know—
far more than you could every imagine or guess
or request in your wildest dreams.
He does it not by pushing us around
But by working within us,
His Spirit deeply and gently within us.”
—Ephesians 3:20, The Message
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