Folding down the visor to avoid the evening glare, I fight my way out of the far-right lane, and onto 280 traffic that is already backed up, aligning my car towards home. Taking the Southwest Expressway exit, I consider stopping at the new Zanatto’s Express Market, just to browse around (I’m sort of hungry). I glance at the single homeless encampment just past the off-ramp, a ragged man in a ponytail is sitting in a beat-up beach chair, holding out a cup to the cars stopped at the light, but my car refuses to socialize, I’m hoping to be safely tucked in the garage by four, and I go speeding past yet another opportunity.
Isn’t that always the way with me?
It’s decision time every second of every day. I especially feel this as a teacher. Before the second bell I’ve usually answered at least nine important questions, sixty-eight by the end of class, and at least two hundred and twenty-two by days end.
- If I turn my journal in tomorrow will it be considered on time?
- Can I redo this reflection, I didn’t realize it was 500 words?
- Can I research something other than the Gospel of John, he’s so dramatic?
- Can I run to the restroom, I had a meeting at lunch?
- Is it my day to present?
- I don’t like so and so in my group, can I switch?
- What are we doing today?
- Can you write me a note to the sick room, I ate something rancid at lunch?
- Did I miss something important last class?
- I don’t like sitting in the front, can I move to the back?
Okay, that’s ten, but who’s counting.
Like a demigod, my objective is to say yes, whenever possible. Can you guess the one I refused to acquiesce on?
- Check the pacing guide.*
You might be wondering what the hell is a pacing guide? I wish I had one for life because believe me it has all the answers. At the beginning of the semester, I tell them to sleep with it tucked under their pillow, referring to it before they close their eyes, and get out of bed in the morning. It’s their Bible for the semester.
The pacing guide is an intricate google document, I organize it by date, an entire row is dedicated to every single class. It lists the specific topic for the day, agenda, objectives (what students will [should] be able to know by the end of class), homework if applicable, with links to clips, readings, and handouts, even the PowerPoint (this is a frame by frame outline of the entire class with speaking notes attached) linked for their convenience. How do you think your life would go if you could refer to a daily pacing guide? A sanctified little document that tells you exactly what you need every day (coffee, wallet, smile), where to be (present, mindful, conscious), what to prepare (heart, soul, mind), expectations (be on time, yoga pants, open to the opportunities), outcomes (compassion, kindness, peace) all in one place. Something God updates minute by minute depending on how you’re doing?
Some people will say God already left you a pacing guide, The Sutras, Vedas, Tanach, Mishnah, Talmud, Midrash, she updated it with the New Testament, and again with The Quran, and Hadith. What more do you want? But those are complicated documents, difficult to interpret, although the focus is soft skills, the outcomes are inconclusive. This is 2020, I want a new app, with a swanky icon for my iPhone.
I post my pacing guides on google classroom (this is a portal for students and parents to access information in regards to each of the disciplines), I adjust the documents religiously (pun intended) as schedules are wont to change, guests cancel, issues arise, and topics need polishing from time to time. Truthfully the students essentially don’t need me, they can browse through the materials posted, do the assignments, and pass the assessments. But like Albert Einstein claims education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.
So what is my real purpose?
The activities are only a means to an end, like our lives work, that is not the primary purpose. Anyone can figure out what hard skills (math, reading, writing) need developing. It’s the soft skills (problem solving, attitude, ethics) that are hard to edify. What is the take away or goodie bag I want my students to leave with each day? But also what do I want them to remember thirty years from now or for all eternity?
If you’re still with me, this is what we’re really doing. If the ability to think is uniquely human then what is the burning question?
Not, what are we doing today Mrs. Oreglia, but what are we learning today?
I know, I know, such a good question for life. Do you hear God clapping, she’s jumping up and down on her heavenly bed, cheers to my play dough creation!
The visible part of our lives is work – what we do, who we do it with, where we do it, how long we do it – is not easy, clearly important, but subjective in terms of our eternal rest. You can cook in a five star restaurant or over a camp stove, same skill, taking raw food and making it editable. The invisible portion is much more difficult and in my opinion more important.
- What is our purpose?
- Why am I here?
- What am I supposed to be learning?
- How much time do I have?
- Why all the judgement?
- How do I find some new playmates?
- Can I change directions?
- What if I need a health day?
- Is it possible to leave and come back?
- Did I miss something?
- Can I be the wing man (inclusive) instead of the driver?
The lessons learned are the miracles, and thankfully God is continually adjusting the curriculum, not just for me, but for everyone. Ends up we all in this together, strung together like twinkle lights (I shamelessly overuse this metaphor, deal with it), if one is out, we all don’t shine, and the bugger is we’re irreplaceable. Every single bulb, yeah, is irreplaceable, and I might add our string is looking pretty shabby.
Maybe I’m learning humility this week, compassion the next, empathy tomorrow, so I can be more malleable, useful, valuable to the ones who needs me. Our matriculation is sort of self-driven, especially when you tuck the lesson plans under your pillow each night, resting your head on those hard-earned soft skills.
I watch my daughter Julie get down on one knee so she is on the same level with her daughters, using words they can easily understand, helping them through a tough decision. “Honey, there are two paths we can go, but were going to take the one less traveled, and believe me that is going to make all the difference (usually it has to do with dessert before dinner but you get the general idea).” She meets them where they are and with great tenderness tutors them in the direction they should go.
On a completely different scale it’s like God entering the human condition in order to meet us at our level, the extraordinary compassion we were shown by this very act, and how he went about illuminating a path for everyone.
Have you heard the story of the good Samaritan? You know how I love a good story. It’s the tale of a injured man laying on the side of the road, beaten, near death. A Priest and a Levite (influential people of their time) walk right past the man in need, and a Samaritan (a marginalized, discarded, rejected individual of the day) stops to help. He pours wine and oil on the wounds of the victim and pays for the injured man to stay at a local hostel. Jesus tells this story in response to an important question.
Who is my neighbor?
You guessed it. We are all responsible for the injured persons we come across as we journey through life. The weird part is when I’m the injured one I don’t like to admit it. But trust me, the people you come across when you are in need are equipped with the essential skills, the right brand of generosity, the appropriate level of compassion, that’s why your paths have crossed. We get beaten down enough by life, let’s raise each other up whenever possible, restore one another, pour a little wine on those wounds.
Folding down the visor to avoid the evening sun, I fight my way out of the far-right lane, and onto 280 traffic, aligning my car towards home. I’m exhausted, but it’s family dinner tonight, and I nudge the accelerator with my right foot. Taking the Southwest Expressway exit I see the ragged man sitting in a beat-up beach chair as I clear the offramp, he’s holding out a bent tin cup to the cars at the stoplight.
This time I’m determined to be the Samaritan, I roll down my window, and wave a five-dollar bill at the tired man. This is when I notice he is a she, there’s a moment when our fingers touch as she takes the bill gently from my hand, she says, “gracious.” I’m stopped at the light, you know me, I hate silence, so I try a little high school Spanish, “Cómo se llama?” She turns back to me and says, “Maria.” I say without being asked, “Cheryl,” as the light changes I yell out the window, “buenas noches.” She smiles and waves, “buenas noches.” She’s missing a couple of teeth, it’s sweet on her, and that’s when I see the car behind me waving a bill at Maria from his window.
For once I didn’t speed past an opportunity.
I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, we’ll talk soft skills.
- Many people feel so pressured by the expectations of others that it causes them to be frustrated, miserable and confused about what they should do. But there is a way to live a simple, joy-filled, peaceful life, and the key is learning how to be led by your own wisdom, not the expectations of others. Joyce Meyer
- There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning. Jiddu Krishnamurti
- The Four Agreements don miguel ruiz
- Be impeccable with your word – Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
- Don’t take anything personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
- Don’t make assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
- Always do your best – Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.
This post was previously published on Living in the Gap and is republished here with permission from the author.
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