Things I Know 63 of 365: I want to build a sanctuary

When a man finds no peace within himself it is useless to seek it elsewhere.

– L. A. Rouchefoliocauld

St. Patrick’s Cathedral made me feel small today – small and peaceful. After 2 hours of driving and then walking the crowded Saturday streets of Manhattan, walking into St. Patrick’s with my mom was like being consumed by peace.

Though I wouldn’t count myself as religious, it was a spiritual experience.

A couple hours later, in the Reading Room of the New York Public Library, I experienced the same sensation.

As we left, my mom explained she couldn’t help but contemplate the thousands, if not millions, of people who’d occupied both buildings before us. In either case, they were there looking for something.

She mentioned the disheveled man sitting on a bench in the library attempting to sew his hat back together while the outside world buzzed by. I thought of the patrons I’d watched waiting in line to have their necessary books retrieved. They sought piece of mind.

In St. Patrick’s, the scene had been similar, people seated and kneeling, queued up to ask for answers. They sought peace of mind.

Both of these cathedrals offered sanctuary. Visitors to both could seek or simply sit without their outside lives barging in.

I want my classroom to be a sanctuary.

Beyond the discussion of safety, sanctuaries offer something more. They offer a pause.

If everything in their social, familial and academic lives is clamoring for their engagement, my classroom should provide a silence that rises above the din and stresses disengagement.

Controlled chaos can be beautiful. A boisterous class discussion can amaze the mind. I attempt to orchestrate these moments in class as often as possible.

What are missing are moments of stillness. Uncomfortable as they may be, if they can experience them physically, then maybe my students will allow themselves to experience them internally as well.

That’s the larger goal – helping my students to find comfort and sanctuary in the quiet spaces of who they are.

3 thoughts on “Things I Know 63 of 365: I want to build a sanctuary

  1. I started a personal reading day with my juniors this year. It has become our sanctuary: there is a total, companionable silence for 26 minutes. Many of them have included an entry in their journals about their enjoyment of the “break” in their day, the chance to do nothing but read. It has become this safe time in the day to just BE. That is not what high school is about most of the time. We love it.

    • Leslie, I definitely know what you're talking about. I've implemented texts
      of choice with my G11 students this year. Not a day goes by that kids aren't
      walking into my room asking, “Can we read today?” It's an excellent thing to
      see.

      I've also had to remind myself that reading for me doesn't look like reading
      for each of them. While some need complete silence, others need music
      blasting in their years. I learned from an occupational therapist a few
      years ago that I should trust what my students are telling me their brains
      need for them to focus. So, while blasting Whitney Houston's greatest hits
      sounds like a war zone to me, it's a sanctuary to some of my students.

  2. Pingback: Things I Know 94 of 365: The difference between inside and outside voice at Autodizactic

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