Crossroads of Humanity

Mar 25, 2014

Are you a juggler too?

I've often thought about my job in terms of juggling. I do a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and then I go over here and do this, and then someone needs my assistance, so I drop what I'm doing and help. Sometimes it can be hours before I get back to what I was doing, but eventually, I pick up the balls I dropped and resume juggling.

Right about now, you may be thinking, "Yeah, that sounds exactly like my life!" or you may be wondering, "What is it this woman does for a living?"

I'm a teacher, but I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who feels like I'm juggling day in and day out. Still, I had a revelation today.

I knew today would be busy before I even walked into the classroom this morning. It was an off schedule with a lot of special activities and events. For example, we started the day with a birthday celebration. Birthdays are always a big deal in my classroom, with that special child getting a half hour ceremony in which they get to share a little bit from every year of their life so far. Photos, signing and a read aloud from a birthday book make up the majority of the celebration, and the child being honored usually brings in a snack for the entire class to enjoy at lunch.

Ah, lunch! That was another something special for today. You see, last week, I taught the students about how a bill becomes a law. They even got to practice Parliamentary Procedure, and the law they passed had to do with an extravagant pizza party that took place today. The party included an hour's worth of fun and games, pizza, cake and ice cream, and many drinks of choice. The students were really great about it. They considered cost (Little Caesars was voted upon because it was the most cost effective pizza choice with their $5 Hot-N-Ready pizza deal), and they baked and frosted their own cake. They even decided to bring in their own drinks to help cut down on cost. Yes, this really was all their own doing. I just taught them how Parliamentary Procedure works and started them off with a note to one child who read aloud, "I move to have a pizza party next Thursday." In the discussion that followed, they decided to have the party today instead so as not to exclude a child who will be gone later in the week.

Anyway...back to juggling. Ball one: birthday celebration (birthday treat of Doritos added to the pizza party). Ball two: Parliamentary Procedure pizza party (cake to be made and pizza to be picked up). Ball three: special evening event.

The evening event happened to be a hunger dinner that was being hosted by an after school group of students from my class who were trying to raise awareness about world poverty rates and to raise money to help fight the problem. This meant that 1/3 of my students spent some time cooking yesterday and today to prepare for this evening's event.

To top it all off, this week is SPIRIT WEEK in our class, and today was costume day. That means that I was juggling with an entire class in costume!

Talk about busy! The best part of today's juggling act is the simple fact that the students were focused, courteous, and cooperative. Yes, all of them. Yes, all day! As I finished my lessons for the morning... (YES, I was able to teach all of my regularly scheduled lessons even with three balls in the air.) So as I finished my lessons for the morning, I realized that everything was going not only well, but very well. When I was finishing up the afternoon, I had to pause and wonder, "How on earth is everything going so smoothly?"

That's when it hit me. My revelation! I was not keeping the balls to myself. At that moment I realized why I like to juggle and why it usually does go smoothly. It's because I don't keep the balls to myself. I pass them off to other jugglers who invite even more people to join in the fun. For example, the students decided on a cost effective pizza party, so I picked up a cake mix instead of purchasing a cake from a bakery. Yesterday afternoon during Writer's Workshop, I passed off the making of the cake to two students who were caught up with their current writing projects. When they had to go to Spanish class, one of them told me how much time was left for the cake to finish baking, thereby passing the ball back to me. I assured him I would get it out of the oven in 10 minutes. The other asked if she could bring in cake decorating supplies today to finish it, thereby taking a ball back. Throughout this morning, a handful of students asked me if they could help decorate the cake too. I said, "Sure!" So everyone who wanted to, got to participate in the fun.

That is the secret of effective juggling. Think about it. Which is more fun to watch: one juggler tossing three balls around and around, or two, three, or even more jugglers tossing bowling pins back and forth to each other? It's more fun for everyone if more people are included in the show. I really know how to juggle in the traditional sense?

Yes, I do!

S. L. Wallace is an upper elementary Montessori teacher and a published author. Please visit her official author website or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

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  1. A fantastic post which I thoroughly enjoyed. It sounds as if you have a great class ad you're teaching them in exactly the right way. Participation rather than competition.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

  2. Wow, courteous. well behaved, helpful kids. You sound like an amazing teacher.