SOMETHING OUT OF NOTHING

This is an essay about – – – nothing. That’s not precisely true, but it’s about the moment after something ends and before the next begins, and what fills that moment of transition.

I was talking with a new colleague about the end of the year here at Landmark’s Elementary/Middle School (EMS), and how powerful he found the end-of-year assembly where teachers speak briefly about each transitioning student. We also have an end-of-year faculty wrap-up session, and we had the added treat this year of having three 8th grade students speak powerfully and poignantly to faculty about their experiences.  Both events, it could be argued, occur after the expressed business of the teaching year is over.

Transitional moments are rich opportunities and while they occur frequently, I wonder if we need to be reminded of their potential. In a teaching context at Landmark EMS, we might fill a period with a well-designed lesson plan right up to the moment class ends. We have all had students who are engaged until the bell rings and then bolt for the door. We also know teachers who impart information or conduct activities until the bell rings, and then have to scramble to impose some closure on the lesson. Wouldn’t dedicating a couple of minutes to intentional transition enrich the academic hour and solidify the lesson’s goal?

It can be unsettling to move too abruptly from one activity to another. Think of a performance that has just ended. Do you prefer a moment of transition to let the experience settle into your consciousness or are you one who strives to be the first to break the silent aftermath with applause? What about the moment you close the last page of a book? Do you spring into your next activity or take a moment to think about the literary journey you have just completed?

Some events come with built-in transitional periods. Yoga classes have savasana, a time to attempt total relaxation while your body integrates the preceding session. For years, we have ended the final day at EMS with a debriefing meeting, a structured time to say farewells and reflect a bit on the experience just concluding.

Some students instinctively yearn for a transitional moment at the end of tutorial. I know one boy who is only in fourth grade, but he senses when there is only a minute or two left and expresses to his tutor that they should stop, because he doesn’t like to be in the middle of working when the bell rings. Other students make a point of saying goodbye or thanking their tutors as they leave. Certain teachers observe a ritual of transition as well, routinely preparing for the end of class. Some even have students fill out an exit ticket, mandating a bit of self-evaluation in various areas of performance, or verbalizing what the takeaway is from that particular class.

In this age of multitasking, and in our haste to move to the next item on our agenda, perhaps we need to dedicate more time to conscious reflection and summary, to grafting more transitional moments purposefully onto each event.

Leave a comment.

Head of the Landmark Elementary/Middle SchoolSubmitted by Robert Kahn, Head of the Landmark Elementary/Middle School

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3 Responses to SOMETHING OUT OF NOTHING

  1. Carole Rein says:

    Rob, well said. It’s like the micro-moments between breaths, tiny pauses that connect everything else and allow us to relax.

  2. Roberta Stacey says:

    Rob, first of all, the annual transition ceremony at EMS etches an unforgettable memory for every student who has been honored by his/her chosen faculty member who presents “two minutes in the sun” for the student at that ceremony.

    Yes, I strongly agree with you that transitional periods are vital toward enhancing reflection upon each experience. My question: So why does my husband grab that remote and immediately switch to another program when I want to see Red Sox commentators wrap things up, even when they are losing miseralbly??? sigh

    • Rob Kahn says:

      hi Robbie ~ Thanks for the comment. I love the transition ceremony too. As far as post Red Sox telecast behavior goes, I’ve heard modern day cultural anthropologists link control of the remote in present-day males to prehistoric hunter-gatherer instincts – a stronger human need than transition perhaps? You have to be unique in actually watching any Red Sox game to conclusion this past season. That sort of commitment demands its own blog post!

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