When Bonner School, a Montana middle school, resumed classes this fall they decided to shake things up a bit and try to implement some changes that would help the students through the difficult transitional years of sixth through eighth grades. Studies show that body awareness combined with wide ranging levels of physical maturity, often cause girls to hang back and participate less in coed gym classes. But in a small school, same-sex classes were a scheduling challenge. To make it all work, in addition to gym the computer classes are now single sex as well.
After nearly two months, the results are even better than expected. Gym teacher Josh Illig sees more participation by girls that are less athletic and has seen their confidence grow, not just in gym class but in general. The boys are louder and more physical during gym, but exhibit far more concentration during the computer class time with the same-sex environment.
There is still plenty of class time and free time when the students share the classroom and develop the skills to work with each other. In this critical time though, the girls especially, have the chance to increase their body confidence and activity levels; both critical developmental issues in the middle school years. This preparation for the larger world of high school and beyond gives all the girls a chance to feel strong and confident, critical to success in any setting. The boys as well are benefitting from increased activity during gym and a more focused environment in another critical skill area, the computer class. The girls as well remarked that it was quieter and easier to work in the computer class with the all girl setting.
This is a win-win solution, requiring a little imagination and the determination to foster the growth of all the kids in one of the most difficult and important times in their schooling. The result; strong bodies and strong minds growing from resourceful and creative administrators and staff.
There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” ~ Calvin to Hobbes ~ Bill Watterson
Some days it feels so good to put the to-do list away and take time to do nothing in particular. Of course we still breathe and eat and sleep, so we aren’t actually doing nothing, but the delicious extravagance of unscheduled time is a luxury many do not often allow themselves. We feel the need to be doing something, anything, that we can look back at and say, I crossed that item off my list. As we go-go-go we then impose that on our over-booked children as well. How many times has your child had to choose between one activity and another because there just wasn’t enough time to fit everything in?
Teaching our children the art of appreciating down time, simply sitting and observing and taking in the world around them. A trip to the park that does not involve soccer, or elaborate preparations; just a walk down the block to swing or not, to mosey rather than hurry, to just slow the pace to know how that feels. We owe it to our children to teach them the value of quiet that does not involve study, but just the simplicity of being.
At each stage of life these moments of doing nothing seem hard to find. But in the end, will it matter if the floor was swept 1000 times or 1000 and one? One can always find something to do, but it may also be an excuse to avoid paying attention to the quiet. Discovering the inner peace that comes with mindfulness and the sheer joy that comes from free spontaneous play are gifts we give our children when we allow them to do nothing at all. And in that nothing grows imagination, observation, love of the natural world and the ability to be self- entertaining.
We all deserve our down-time, our doing nothing moments. Breathe and jump in a pile of leaves.
“Each time of life has its own kind of love.” -Leo Tolstoy
Rereading the chapter in Tolstoy’s work “Family Happiness” from which this quote springs reminds me that this is about the sorrow of love that has changed and dissipated over time. Yet I chose the quote for altogether another reason. It brought to mind the ever-changing focus of the love that we hold within, and the varied expressions as one passes through each phase of life.
The last few days I have thought about how much I love my life; especially that in this time in my life I have allowed myself to choose a path and take the steps that carry me fully in the direction I intend to go. In the past, I felt carried along on a tide of which I had no control and felt helpless to tug against. Yet in reality I was making choices and often they were taking me in a direction that was rewarding and suited me well.
It is only in this time of life that I am able to reflect on the nature of the lasting loves and the newfound love of my way of life. I now more clearly understand the steadying nature of the love of a long marriage, one that has certainly seen its share of heartbreak, but has endured in spite of all we did to harm it. The love of my children has grown and changed dramatically over the years. At its inception it was a strong physical bond, wrapped in desire to protect and shelter, the need to hold them close. As they grew, I loved who they were, even as the physical bond lessened, the emotional bond grew. Even later as the struggle to hang on and let go all in the same movement, love became something to come back to when confusion and disconnects threatened. And now I enjoy the love of acceptance, loving them for who they are and aspire to become, much as I have finally learned to love myself. As the awful burden of expectations has fallen away, the underlying beauty of the fact of their beings returns to me as it was in the first hours of their existence.
Ultimately this love is such a powerful presence in my awareness and appreciation as a result of the great gift of being present in the moment and looking not forward, but all around. This time of life has offered up, and I have gratefully accepted, love of place, love of life, love of home and family, and the ability to revel in each of these.