Morgan Sprinkle | Brevard, NC

I am busy, and I’ll bet you are too. I know that I’m busy because the running to-do list on my phone tells me so. Also, I know from the calendar on my refrigerator, the post-it note that lives beside my bed and the constant ding of Google notifications that comes from my phone. My head is full of appointments and commitments, replayed conversations and missed opportunities, and thousands of nagging worries that I’ve forgotten something.

A recent NPR story explores the idea that the new status symbol, even more than wealth, is a busy schedule. It’s so true. We live in a society that wants to out-busy each other as a way of proving, what? That we’re too important to slow down?

One of the reasons that I love our school is because this kind of busyness for its own sake gets no love here. The Mountain Sun classroom is a sanctuary from these external noises. We, students and teachers alike, have time to slow down, to clear our heads and to luxuriate in the pleasure of meaningful, mindful work.

As teachers, we’re on the floor with our students, giving lessons or engaging in authentic conversation.

We have the freedom to take our students outside and spend ten minutes watching the progression of a praying mantis across a field.

Our classrooms are places for children to choose one work at a time and experience the immense satisfaction that comes with doing work that they love. They are able to truly pay attention to the task at hand, whether that be sewing a pillow, observing a colony of ants working together to move a stick, or using the moveable alphabet to turn the story in their head into a piece of writing. They engage in deep work which requires their sustained attention, fortitude, and a conviction to complete their task. It’s the opposite of my to-do list. And as much as I enjoy checking items off my list, their deep work feeds their soul in a way that my list just can’t.

The psychiatrist Carl Jung spent months at a time living in a tower in Switzerland without running water or electricity; he found it easiest to think without any distractions. Mark Twain also famously did much of his writing sequestered in a cabin in New York. For people to produce anything of quality, we need to harness the power of our brains, which requires us to concentrate with focus and intention on one task at a time. We need to tune out the distractions that rob us of the sustained work required to produce something meaningful. The distractions that keep us from fulfilling our potential, tiny as they seem, add up to a lot.

Our classroom is a place safe from distraction. There are no alerts or interruptions to distract our students from their work. Teachers are present and mindful, careful not to disturb those who are working while gently encouraging others who haven’t quite settled in.

How dare we interrupt the child who has found the sweet spot between a challenging task and the verve to take it on.

To learn more about deep work and the effects of the distractions in our world, check out this Hidden Brain podcast from NPR: https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=539092670

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