Sunday, June 15, 2008

Chaos theory


To the casual observer (who on that day happened to have been a teacher's assistant candidate, poking her head into my classroom on her interview tour of the school), the room was arranged in various gradations of barely controlled chaos.

As always, when I sense a newcomer to my room, I quickly scan the goings-on around me and try to see what kind of an impression I'm making on my guest.

What was known to our class that day as snacktime must have appeared to have been a three ring circus to Little Miss Petrified-But-Smiling-As-If-She's-Immensely-Enjoying-Herself. About a quarter of the class was sitting in varying stages of decorum, although Dena was still tipping her chair back on two legs, even after her twice-learned painful lesson from yesterday. Rikki was calmly pouring the contents of her water bottle onto the table and her neighbor's skirt (bless you, Mrs. Diamond, for only sending in mini water bottles!!), four other girls were loudly cheering in a sort of game they developed similar to a beer-drinking contest, Ahuva was attempting to fly off her chair, hummingbird-stlyle, Yael was innocently trying to stick her cucumber spear into her unsuspecting friend's right ear, Rochel's fruit cup peaches had flown everywhere, and Devorah and Chedva were running over to tell me that, wonder of woners, Chana Simcha had made her way into the potted plants again and was attempting to submerge her nose in with the radish sprouts (remind me next time that potting soil and five-year-olds do not make good companions, will you??). In fact, most of the children were either being very loud or very active or very sneaky, but besides for the lovely darling in the plants, I was not worried.

The assistant-to-be hopeful stood by the door, looking slightly overwhelmed. First taking in the entire scene of flying children, and then directing her attention to each individual commotion, I could see her gulp and almost heard her thoughts screaming, "Will my class be like this too?? This is nuts!! I can't do something like this...." The director, well familiar by now with my little brood, just smiled knowingly at me and proceeded to usher the poor girl down the hall to a (thankfully for her) much more dignified and rather dull class. I chuckled and turned back to my children.
AsI surveyed the classroom once more, I tried to picture purely what she saw: Children being very loud, leaving their seats, jumping up and down, making trouble and messes and who knows what. And to be very honest, that's exactly what was going on.

But things were really very, very different from what she perceived. Because although it seemed to any outsider like unrestrained chaos, there was in fact a very strong backbone of stability and mutual understanding in my class even at the exact moment that they looked so positively flying. I've spent a year with my children, and as a result of observing them day after day in countless situations and experiences, I've come to understand each child with a comprehension that even allows me to predict what they will do next. I know each one's needs and wants, what she will respond to, how she will cope when X happens, and I know that I have control over the classroom. I know that when I say, "Girls, guess what time it is?" they will automatically all jump up and put their garbage in the garbage can and wipe up their messes and come on to the carpet. And that's exactly what they did on that day, as they do every day. At this point of the year, I allow them to be a bit more silly than they were in the beginning, to sing a little louder and come out of their seats more and even do a little bit of harmless trouble for creativity's sake, and that's because I know them so well, and they in turn know me so well, that it's okay at this point. No, not just okay, but good for them. And good for me. Good for their development and happiness and love of school and of life...




And then, with the slowly dawning realization that sometimes creeps up on you when you're not particularly looking for it, I became conscious of the fact that I had just experienced one of the most essential life lessons without even putting my mind to it. On that day my classroom was not just a place for children to learn; it also turned out to be (to the ever-esoterically-inclined characters like myself) a small-scale model of the School where all of us learn our Lessons.

So often we observe what happens around us, and it seems to us like utter pandemonium. We see untold pain, confusion, suffering, horrific events, frightening accounts of accidents, abuse, mass destruction...and we ourselves often stumble around blindly, not understanding or knowing why or how or who or when... To the observers, there is no design, no plan that this is all following. It is simply nonsensical and irrational and in a state of acute disorder.




But things are really very, very different from what we perceive. There is a Plan. There is Someone directing all of this. This is not chaos, but rather a finely orchestrated and executed design which we find ourselves living through. He knows us so well, in fact better than we even know ourselves, understanding exactly what's good for us and what's not. And He will always make sure that we are safe and well cared for and learning in the optimum environments that we can.


And so so often, whether we find ourselves either as the student teacher observing from afar, or as a child in the class experiencing it firsthand, we will look around and say "This is nuts! I can't do this!!..." But we can. Because there is the knowledge that we can just look to the Morah and remind ourselves that she really knows what she's doing by now. That she really has everything under control. That she's doing everything in her power to ensure the best learning and growing experience for her students. That there is a security and stability even within the seemingly confusing environment.



Life can be confusing. Very, very confusing. But I've learned that I'm sent my messages at exactly the time I need to hear them. My G-d is so good to me...

I was blessed with a very productive and growth-filled year. Thank you, my precious little teachers, for helping me learn so much.....

Oh, cuties!!.......you will be so missed...

16 comments:

Ezzie said...

That was awesome.

Bas~Melech said...

Aw... sweet. (your students, I mean. The rest of the post, as you well know, was too insightful for me to comment on. ;-P )

Lvnsm said...

glad to see you back

M said...

Wow!! That was so insightful! SOOOOO my kind of post... I loved it. Thanks so much for providing this insight- it really was reassuring to me right now, trust me- you really helped me.. :) Thanks! Hope it al clears up for all of us. (you know that the ultimate clarity is the geulah shelaimah?)

halfshared said...

Your students were really lucky to have you this year! Nice to hear from you again..

FrummeYenta said...

Yay you're back!:)

I remember having a conversation with a friend about this and wow your post really gave me a whole new perspective. I'm going to print this out and show it to her...hope you don't mind ;).

corner point said...

Ezzie--
Made me smile...

Bas--
Comment anyway!

Lvnsm--
Glad to be back. I've missed this place, but hey, you know how chaos reigns
:-P

M--
Glad I could help, and amen.
No, I didn't know that bit about geulah shelaima, but I'm not sure I understand it. Care to explain further?

Half--
Thank you, dear
:-)

Frummeyenta--
Please do. As much as I write for myself, to get myself out on paper (and...I admit...to hear your comments and feedback [sheepish grin]) I really write cuz I want to portray to whomever will listen about the stuff I've learned. Keeping a lesson to yourself kills its potential for changing others... So although it sounds terribly idealistic and almost too mushy to choke out, I write to try and touch others and help them taste what I've discovered....

Hope it's working
:)

Erachet said...

I love this post! That's how I felt when I ran a backyard camp two summers ago for three year olds. Also, people underestimate little kids and the ability to have connections with them sooooo much, don't you agree?

Shprintza Yenta said...

that was really beautiful. What i think is ironic is when we think that we're the morah, like in all the Hoshgacha pratis stories; "oh so that's why it had to happen"... Like when we think we understand somethingwhile really THE PLAN is beyond our comprehension.

FrummeYenta said...

cornerpoint: I try to do that too. While my stuff is nowhere as good as yours, sometimes I get these random ideas of inspiration that I want to convey to others and hear their feedback on.
Oh and yes, it is definitely working! :)

corner point said...

Erachet--
Completely! The quality of some of the conversations I have with those kids far surpass the ones I have with fellow adults. It's wild sometimes :-)

Shprintza--
Thanks :-)
Sometimes we can understand parts of it, and I even think we're supposed to look for the Plan in our lives, but you're right--most of the time even what we think we understand is so far beyond us...

Frummeyenta--
(Got lots of yentas here, eh? :-P)
Awww, thanks :-)
I'll drop by and check your stuff out...now I'm curious!

grinfish said...

ok... you are way cool...and you've got me... you've introduced me to the world of blogging... i should be working on our interactive newspaper.. but hey ---way too busy here... i've got to set up my own blog now...

David_on_the_Lake said...

Great post...
About halfway through I was already thinking how God-like you sounded the way you knew to anticipate every action...yet did not interfere with free will..
Ahh children they teach us so much...in their own chaotic way...

Freeda said...

wow, this mashal is really great- similar idea to one I once read (in Mirrors and Windows, by Malky Feig),
While I'm cleaning, I make a bigger mess, cuz I've taken everything out and and while i'm in the process of putting everything in its right place, someone walks in. That someone would look around and say, where's the balabusta? this place is a mess!
That's our view of this world; we may question, where's the Balabusta? Where's the One running this place? Another attack, someone else is ill- this place is a mess! We don't see Him- He's actually the One cleaning it up.
Knowing that He's there, and looking for Him make life so much easier. and from experiance I can say, when you look for Him, you really can see Him everywhere, and every step of the way.

rickismom said...

Just stumbled on your blog. Very nice! And a nice piece this was.I am not (teoretically) a teacher, but I am the person who adapts all the school material for my daughter, age 13, (who has DS)and is included in a school is Israel.

EndOfWorld said...

*Gasp* a teacher who actually fosters creativity? Be still my heart...when can I sign my kids up?