I got a reminder of the link between air and change in a dream I had last night. It involved a kindergarten boy who roamed my school’s halls, fleeing from adults, and shouting out “Let me out.” as he ran up one set of stairs and down another. As several of us chased him, I remember feeling out of breath, as if I could not get air. In contrast, the boy opened windows on each floor. Toward the end of this dream, he climbed onto the school roof where a staff member scrambled up a drain pipe to bring him down. There was a contented expression on this boy’s face. He looked at me and said “I like it up here.” I guess, on the roof, he’d found that the sky was the biggest open window of all.

When I reflected on this dream, I was able to break the meaning down.

Each year, I get a bunch of new kindergartners that do not fit well within what we call a structured learning environment. They seem to need air in the way my dream implied. My school, like most, uses right-angled tactics to fix and tame such children when they become disruptive. Desks in rows, bells, lines, and lists of rules are evidence of the structures that permeate all aspects of school culture. When an unruly child shows up in a classroom, a progressive hardening of the terms of engagement can ensue. The idea is to mold a child into a shape more to our liking. While the adults may speak of providing consistency, to a child it can feel as if the walls are closing in.

Now, make no mistake – structure and safety are vital. A few well placed walls never hurt anyone and without them you have a place where people get hurt. Learning to live in a structured setting is a non-negotiable survival rule. But too much safety can also suffocate. Without air, we cease to exist. So, the kindergartner on the school roof who showed up in my dream became a fantastic if unwitting teacher. I am entering my New Year with a visit from a disruptive little change agent. He gave me a vivid reminder on how to open up and let more air in. I’ll take it as a good sign.

I sometimes attribute my biggest lessons to someone else. My best teachers, however, may not have intended to teach me anything. They may not have wanted to fix me. And, I can’t recall instances where I was brow beaten into an epiphany. After years of teachers (myself included) raising voices at little ones who do not follow along, I know that few changes come from this approach.

Last night, as a way to greet the New Year, I opened up all of the windows in my house that were not painted shut. It was too cold to keep them open for long, but I wanted to bring on change in a real and memorable way. Air is a good thing. Opening up windows will initiate an airing out that leads me to more authentic answers to the things that intrigue, confound or confuse me.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Change will come when the time is right.


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3 Responses to Air

  1. Collin February 9, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    Happy New Year!

    Great way to model using your dream world to learn from and inspire you to reflect. This column is spectacular. I hope you’re reaching a wide enough audience.

    Here’s a poem I came across a couple of days ago.



    By Contradiction Blessed

    By contradiction blessed, we’re all-powerful, my love.
    My opposite self welcomes you, this is how wings let us fly:
    this daily tension, then, is a rare happiness that grows and grows.
    My sorrow does nothing but shed light on you, a lamp for your celebration.
    In your silence humanity sings with fervor and distance makes our bridges take on fragrances.
    If you don’t listen, the need to seek out your hands comes over me.
    If you don’t see me, I must insist on becoming a sun.
    when you don’t touch me, I break into song.
    Because you love another, I can face those who are sorrowful.
    And because I also love another, you’re my resurrection.
    Are we like the stone recently hurled?
    Yes. And like the river that runs on and on, and knows itself.
    You are like the driving force that makes the trees bear fruit.
    Let us give thanks that, even being together, we don’t feel complete:
    this makes us look outward, as through a window.
    Let’s enjoy each other down to our smallest wounds:
    it will allow us to despise the scar,
    to give the best corner of memory to grief and to full sanity, action.
    Let’s express the affirmation the other holds in doubt.
    Let’s expect from the other what we don’t expect him to expect from us.
    Love becomes a diamond because it had the chance to become ashes.
    You make me become like you.
    Wanting to hurt me, you get through to me and my betrayal is your new reward.
    You, who are myself.

    Roque Dalton
    trans. Hardie St. Martin

  2. Rusty June 24, 2014 at 5:27 pm #

    Some pearls for your day:

    The Value of Slowing Down

    We can afford to drop our defensiveness and listen to our colleagues; we can afford to be imaginative and open. If we slow down and drop our resistance to work’s unpleasantness, we discover that we are resourceful enough to be daring, free from fear and arrogance. Such confidence enables us to know instinctively which situations need to be confronted, which should be nourished, and which can be disregarded. Mahakala reminds us to sharpen up during times of conflict, to be mindful and pay attention. With such alertness we can in fact preserve the sanity of our workplace even during extreme discord.

    – Michael Carroll, “Mahakala at Work”

  3. Beth June 25, 2014 at 8:34 am #

    Very nice and good to remember. Back at you, the latest version of my ongoing project of an essay. And yes, they’re doing away with honors at middle and high school (except for 11th and 12th grade.) Or at least they’re going to try, though I expect parents will be up in arms.
    The girls are looking forward to starting back to school. I hope you are too…

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