August 22, 2022
By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President, Center for Inspired Teaching
Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students.
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Late summer has always been my favorite season. This past week here in the DC region the warmth of summer persists, though I’ve enjoyed a few evening walks cool enough to require a sweater. According to the 5 element theory in Chinese medicine, late summer is a time when our bodies and minds are primed for savoring. Savor means to enjoy something completely, and savoring “is the use of thoughts and actions to increase the intensity, duration, and appreciation of positive experiences and emotions.”
My beloved acupuncturist Kate Stewart explains it this way: She distinguishes between consuming, which many of us do habitually, and savoring. “It’s the difference between wolfing down a granola bar while driving from point A to point B and thinking about topic C versus sitting down to a skillfully cooked meal, feeling gratitude for the land, plants, animals, and people who produced it, enjoying the colors, flavors, and textures, and giving yourself time for the meal to settle. Both get calories into you, but only one feeds you on a deeper level.
How might this translate to the classroom?
Imagine a school experience in which we encourage students to savor their learning experiences, instead of racing to consume them – to pick a math concept to wonder about for a whole week; or delve into a single poem by speaking, singing, and drawing it; or spend 30 full minutes without multitasking.
Imagine modeling this kind of savoring as adults – spending time really listening to the stories our colleagues share, or even allowing ourselves to get excited at the prospect of delving into young adult novels or geometric proofs alongside our students.
The pressure of making up for learning loss and covering much-needed academic content can push us into consumption mode, where we cram in as much “learning” as we can between Monday and Friday. In our current educational context, being intentional about savoring might be considered an act of rebellion.
So be it. It’s a joyful rebellion – one worth savoring.
I invite you to join me in savoring these late summer days and evenings, and in savoring meaningful learning with your students all year long.
Resources for Savoring
Savoring doesn’t prevent us from covering a lot of ground. In these first days and weeks of school, when we are learning new names, new procedures, new instructional goals, and of course, new content, we must process a lot of information. But as we take it all in, we can, if we act with intention, devote time to savoring the experiences we’re having. One way to do this on a regular basis is to incorporate a question like “What did you find fascinating about that math problem/chapter in the novel/period of history?” into our regular classroom dialog.
Here are some additional concrete things to try:
Profile Pages – Take time for each student to savor who they are and what aspects of themselves they want to share with others in this reflective activity. Once every student has created a profile page, spend a good chunk of time during a class period having students read what others have written and encouraging them to find shared interests and experiences among their peers.
Scribe’s Record – See what happens when you close each day with a student-led reflection on what they’ve done each day that was most meaningful to them. (Bonus: when their parents ask “What did you do today at school?” this activity decreases the likelihood your students will say “Nothing”!)
Do Just One Thing – In this #Inspired2Learn activity, students practice stillness and focus, important skills for savoring vs. consuming knowledge.
Build Sensory Awareness – when you guide students through mindful activities that tap into their senses, you are teaching them to savor, sharpening their skills of observation, and building bodily awareness. The activities linked here offer prompts for this reflection, but you can also simply go outside and notice what’s going on with the air temperature, the humidity, the smells around you, the texture of the grass, the temperature of the concrete or asphalt, the sounds of birds, insects, cars going by, and, for our DC area readers, the helicopters flying overhead.
Savor Favorite Foods – Invite students to bring favorite foods for others to try. If your school has strict food rules have students write descriptively about these foods and what makes them delicious and then host a “feast for the ears” where students read what they have written.