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edu180atl: holly chesser 12.13.11

Whoever wrote the holiday lyric “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” never worked in a school. December promises stress, deadlines and head colds.  Students and teachers dart anxiously from one activity to the next, keenly aware of the clock’s pressing demands.  We live perpetually in a poverty of time.

This past week, in an effort to bring some sense to the madness, I asked my students to consider the distinction between the ancient Greeks’ two words for time: chronos and kairos Only chronos, the term for measured, sequential time, endures in our language, but kairos, the word for the opportune moment or encounter, describes when real living occurs – discovering the perfect moment to act, to speak, to touch, to listen.

Chronos is quantitative, operating on us…

…while kairos is qualitative, operating within us.

In our conversation, the students acknowledged that when pursuing their passions, “time seems to stand still.”  Hours drift by as they become absorbed in their activities.  Most importantly, they assume a sense of personal control and tune in to their own desires, strengths, and beliefs.

At present, they only hear time’s drumbeat. Their collective December malady recalls a passage from a Yeats poem:

But O, sick children of the world,
Of all the many changing things
In dreary dancing past us whirled,
To the cracked tune that Chronos sings,
Words alone are certain good.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid that we educators, far from offering a cure, aggravate the sickness by shackling our students to the clock.

About the Author: Holly Chesser teaches high school English at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School.  She stays busy squandering time. You can read her blog here.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Several parts of this I especially like. For example, I love the short “e” sounds in the sentence about December promises. Can’t help savoring the sounds.

    Also, if I ever knew about these two words for time, I had forgotten them. So I am grateful for being reminded, or learning, or both.

    Lastly, we have to find ways to help students, and ourselves, breathe and take our work to heart. In my classroom, I have a framed quote from Dave Eggers’ WHAT IS THE WHAT to help me remember this.

    Thank you for the valuable reflection. Plus, I am glad to learn about this project.

    December 13, 2011

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