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Thursday, March 28, 2013


Kairos is one of two Greek words for "time". The other word is Chronos. Chronos is what we traditionally think of as time, seconds, making minutes, making hours, days, etc. Chronos is the succession of moments, time clearly delineated and parseable. Kairos refers more to time that is un-defined, or undefinable, un-bounded. Kairos isn't about the changing of the seasons. In kairos, a moment can seem to last forever, and not all moments of kairos time are equal. Kairos is defined more by the quality of the experience contained within the time. For this reason, in the Christian era, Kairos came to be thought of as "God's time".

Kairos is also the title of a common high-school retreat for juniors/seniors. It's been around for nearly 50 years, and doesn't seem to be fading in popularity. I recently returned from directing my school's Kairos retreat for our senior class. Every Kairos retreat is unique, because of the combination of leaders and students, but this one was very special. Several of the leaders were alumni to whom I am very close, and several of the students on the retreat were students that I've chaperoned on school trips, where we've gotten to know each other outside of the classroom.

It occurred to me on this retreat that these opportunities for students to learn about themselves and their classmates, and for me as a teacher to relate to my students on a spiritual level outside of the classroom, outside the arena of academic material, is a really vital element of a healthy learning/school community. The connections and perspectives made and gained from this kind of experience are not replaceable, and give me great insight into my students as human beings, thus helping me be a better educator. Likewise, it helps them understand me better, helping them be better students. Because, as much educational research has shown, the quality of education correlates strongly to the quality of the interpersonal relationship between student and teacher.

Anyone out there have any thoughts about student/teacher relationships and/or school retreats? Feel free to share.

Have a happy Easter! Monday starts national poetry month, and I'll be sharing a favorite poem each day of the month to honor the creative wonders of poetry!

Thursday, March 21, 2013


My visit to Ireland last week occurred during something my school calls "Intersession". Instead of having a Spring Break, we cancel traditional classes for one week in March (between the third and fourth quarters), and every teacher offers an alternative learning opportunity. Every student is required to participate in intercession. The offerings are diverse: working on an inner-city community garden, learning about comedy in American cinema through the decades, self-directed intersession activities, martial arts classes, golf lessons, improvisational acting techniques, local or regional trips (New York, Chicago, etc.) and international trips (Ireland, Rome, Greece, etc.).

This is one of the unique features of the school where I teach, that I mostly enjoy. Like all things, it has its pros and cons, but I think it's more good than bad. We had an excellent trip to Ireland, and the kids learned a lot about navigating another culture; they also learned a lot about the history of Ireland.

Myself and the other Latin teacher offer Latin students a trip to Rome every other year, and it's quite amazing as a teacher to see the places we've learned about in class come alive for our students when they stand in the Colosseum or walk through the streets of Pompeii. There is no substitute for those kinds of experiences.

Intersession also gives teachers a chance to share our interests (outside of class) with students, and to meet them more as equals and get to know them better. Over my four years, I've had some really honest, mature conversations with students while on intersession. The setting opens both of us up to interacting more as two people rather than as student-teacher (a relationship which is fraught with stereo-types and false expectations).

I'm directing our senior retreat next week, so I might be a little quiet on the blog until next Thursday (when we come back). But I have a real treat in store for April (National Poetry Month). Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Meditations LXXVIII

From Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations":

“What a small portion of vast and infinite eternity it is, that is allowed unto every one of us, and how soon it vanishes.”

This seems like an appropriate quote upon which to end this series on the "Meditations" of Marcus Aurelius. Make the most of your "small portion of vast and infinite eternity"!

On to Kurt Vonnegut's "Player Piano"!

Giant's Causeway

On the last day of our trip, we visited the Giant's Causeway. This amazing geologic structure was formed 60 million years ago on the northern coast of Northern Ireland. It is composed of hexagonal basalt columns. Enjoy! (PS I'm spending the night in the airport at Atlanta with my students because our flight got delayed.)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Kildare: National Stud Farm

Here's a picture of the astrolabe at the National Stud Farm in Ireland (unveiled for the Queen's visit)! The guy who started this farm believed that horses that could see the moon and stars were better racers, so all his stables had skylights! He also matched horses for breeding based on their astrological signs. He was wildly successful. We saw Invincible Spirit, who has sired many winners in Europe.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cliffs of Moher

These were stunning! It has been one of the highlights of the trip for me. Here's a picture of me at the cliffs!

Galway Bay

Here's a picture of me with beautiful Galway Bay behind me! Taken from corkscrew hill in Co. Clare.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Meditations LXXVII

From Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations":

“Happiness in life consists of this: for a man to know thoroughly the true nature of everything; what is the matter, and what is the form of it: with all his heart and soul, ever to do that which is just, and to speak the truth. What then remains but to enjoy your life in a course and coherence of good actions?”

So blessedly simple! Understand correctly, do justly, and speak truthfully. A solid path to happiness!

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Tomorrow I leave for the land of saints and scholars! Myself and several other teachers are taking a group of students for a 10 day tour. It should be a great visit. We're very excited. I'll try to keep updating the blog, but my updates over the next 10-12 days will probably revolve around Ireland. I'll get back to updating Marcus Aurelius quotes when we return. Thoughts and analysis of Kurt Vonnegut's "Player Piano" is up next, and April is national poetry month! I have a surprise in store for that! Stay tuned!

Meditations LXXVI

From Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations":

“If it be not fitting, do it not. If it be not true, speak it not. Ever maintain your own purpose and resolution free from all compulsion and necessity.”

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Meditations LXXV

From Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations":

“I have often wondered how it should come to pass, that every man loving himself best, should more regard other men’s opinions concerning himself than his own.”

Amen! Perhaps this is my observation because I work with teenagers, but I think many adults suffer from this malady as well. All too often, I see people place so much value in the opinion of people they don't even respect!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Meditations LXXIV

From Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations":

“God beholds our minds and understandings, bare and naked from these material vessels, and outsides, and all earthly dross. For with His simple and pure understanding, He pierces into our inmost and purest parts.”

So often, ancient Romans are un-charitably characterized as pagans and poly-theists. While it's true that their socio-cultural structure had a poly-theistic fabric woven into it. There is so much evidence, as with this quote, that many educated Greeks and Romans believed that there was one uniting force or God to the universe. Food for thought...

Monday, March 4, 2013

Meditations LXXIII

From Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations":

“To righteousness, in speaking the truth freely, and without ambiguity; and in doing all things justly and discreetly.”

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Meditations LXXII

From Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations":

“We should always observe with great care and heed the inclinations of our minds, that they may always be with their due restraint and reservation, always charitable.”

Civility first.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Meditations LXXI

From Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations":

“Epictetus said, ‘Of the free will there is no thief or robber.’”

This is profound in its brevity. There is tremendous power in this statement, reminding us that no one can take our free will away from us. But with our free will comes great responsibility: to use it rightly, for good.