Finding a Balance amid Chronos and Kairos

A MiddleWeb Blog

I spend about six hours a day in a very large room with a large pack of nine and ten year olds. That is a lot of time to spend with any group of curious, energetic, impulsive people…myself included.

This week, our gaggle of goofy gigglers is finishing up the last chapters of this year’s Global Read Aloud selection, The Wild Robot by Peter Brown. And it’s been a wild ride.

We’re here each day to learn for five or six hours, with minimal breaks. One and a half of these hours is dedicated to reading, writing and talking about what we read. Yet it always seems that our time is cut short.

Time is a mighty force.

Each morning at home, I take some personal time to sit quietly, read an inspirational passage or two, and take some deep breaths before heading out to school. This twenty minutes or so is a big part of what enables me to want to go into that large room every day. It sounds a bit corny in these days of frenetic policies and politics, but I really do love my job.

There are, admittedly, some components of the day that aren’t exactly inspiring. Most of these take place outside of our classroom, in the halls, or at staff meetings. It’s then that I see the impact that the lack of time has on the people around me as I notice its effects taking the toll on my colleagues, on our profession, and on our lives in general. The intensity of the pace can be overwhelming.

But the majority of my day is spent inside our big room. If it wasn’t, I’m not sure how I would feel waking up for school each morning. Being inside any classroom requires a lot of patience and energy. The energy is there most days, but I need to take the time each morning to harness that energy – to direct my thinking into time well spent.

Wisdom from the Greeks

One book I take time to read snippets out of each morning is Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy. Just the other day its author, Sarah Ban Breathnach, was discussing the concept of time with me, as we settled in with coffee to prepare for whatever wonderful madness awaited in 4T. She wasn’t actually there, of course, but it sure felt that way.

Breathnach observed that the ancient Greeks had two, very different perspectives on time, two distinctly different words. In her meditation she explained each idea in more detail.

Chronos is clocks, deadlines, watches, calendars, agendas, planners, schedules,” she revealed. “Chronos keeps track.” The other concept is that of kairos.

Kairos is “reverence, joy, passion, love, the Sacred…Kairos requires space so that it might be savored.” I find that idea of time to be quite beautiful.

We certainly do have the space in 4T for plenty of kairos, but often it seems we just don’t have enough of that chronos! Ms. Breathnach reminds me that kairos is conducive to learning. Kairos is time well spent. The teachable moment. Chronos can be its foil. I have to keep my eye on chronos.

Given the nature of chronos, 4T has been spending a huge amount with it with our first major reading unit, as we continue to participate in Pernille Ripp’s Global Read Aloud program. This year’s selection, The Wild Robot, written by Peter Brown, has given us yet another opportunity to experience kairos, as we invite it to join us on the reading rug.

The kids are totally hooked and we finish Brown’s story this week. It’s clear that we have all become vested in Roz and her animal community; we care about what happens to them, to their island.

When we began reading, we each came in with our own opinions on Artificial Intelligence and its role in our lives. Ryan, or “Slide” as we call him, made it quite clear that Roz was a robot who was not able to feel.

When I asked him the other day if he still thought Roz couldn’t feel, he replied, “No, robots can’t feel…but I wish she could.” The sadness in his eyes as he said this was a moment of…pure kairos. Times like this just can’t be identified on a curriculum map. Our Wild Robot has much more to offer than that view of encapsulated learning.

Our learning doesn’t have to be confined to the chronos inherent in a lack of flexibility, in always “sticking to the schedule” for fear of “not getting it all done.” In kairos, we use time well. Striking some kind of balance between the two isn’t always easy.

Kairos driven learning: Resources

I would be utterly remiss if I didn’t recognize and thank all of the inspiring and dedicated educators who spent their valuable chronos developing ideas to accompany Kairos-Driven-Learning (KDL) into 4T’s relationship with Peter Brown’s Roz, and her unusual island family. KDL, the passion of learning, meets KWL, the plan book, if you will.

Here are some links to the moments of kairos those educators have given me on-line, while lost in the kairos of cyberworld and the innumerable moments on the reading rug we’ve had so far this year with our Wild Robot:

✻ Resources created by Sean Fahey, Karly Moura, Heather Marshall and Michele Waggoner  

Incredible Smart Board slideshow is another resource with Hyperlinks I am still trying to learn how to use…that’s a process too! And there is a teachers guide.

✻ For even more, click: Resources I found while lost in kairos

If I take the time to connect, to invite the kairos of each day into my life, I see the value of time well spent…and I keep chronos from nagging too loudly. It is only then that I get to experience the joy of what I do each day.

Learning that lasts

Last week I got an after-school visit from “Bongo.” He was in 4T last year. Bongo spent the first few weeks of fourth grade playing invisible bongo drums on his desktop. Drove me nutty…until it didn’t.

He just stopped by to lend me a book. “It’s the sequel to Kayak,” he smiled. “It’s really good!”

Nowhere in my plan book last year had I allotted time to read The Red Kayak to that group of curious, enthusiastic learners. I had, in fact, planned a different final read aloud for the year.

I’m glad I changed the plan. Evidently, those moments of kairos on last year’s reading rug had an impact on Bongo as well.

One book that I do plan to read with this year’s crew is the new novel by Katherine Applegate. Her latest tale is entitled Wishtree. I read it in one sitting, the day after it was delivered to my doorstep, lost in an extended moment of kairos.

One of the supporting characters in Applegate’s beautiful story is a crow named…wait for it…Bongo. When I mentioned this to him the other day, I got the distinct impression that he was going to find the chronos to get that book.

Chronos is inevitable. Kairos is a choice.

Chronos is needed at school to accommodate all of the schedules and agendas. Kairos is why I want to go to work each day.

My Planner is still ridiculously busy. I still try to squeeze in more learning than chronos allows. Knowing there isn’t enough time to do it all doesn’t stop me.

I feel excited about the possibilities. I feel inferior about how to deftly use technology, how to Tweet, how to understand how to use the resources available to me. I’m learning…very slowly.

Chronos is inevitable. Kairos is a choice. For now, I’m just going to settle into my spot on the global reading rug and join in on the conversation.

Mary Tarashuk

Mary Tarashuk teaches 4th grade at Wilson Elementary School in Westfield, New Jersey. Mary has been an educator for over 20 years. She has served as content writer and creative consultant for the national, award-winning initiative The Walking Classroom since its inception in 2005. Mary’s work has been published in Education Digest and was honored with the SmartBrief Education 2016 Editors’ Choice Content Award. Trying to balance her old-school teaching style with New Age methods that integrate ever-changing technology keeps her on her toes. She believes that fresh air and exercise enhance learning and engage students of all ages. Follow her on Twitter @maryrightangle and visit her personal blog (launched in 2021) Behind the Doors of the Teacher's Room for some adult conversation.

2 Responses

  1. Mary Langer Thompson says:

    Love these thoughts! I will definitely check out Mary on Twitter and “Kids on the Cusp.”

  2. Mary Tarashuk says:

    Thank you, Mary…we finished the book today!

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