What I Can Do



athleticfield“‘I think about actions, not outcomes,'” Gretchen Rubin tells Ryan Halliday in a recent interview. Halliday—among the many hats he wears— promotes the philosophy of the Stoics and authors a daily email/blog: Daily Stoic. While I receive the mailing, it’s only certain statements that strike at just the right moment, like catching lightning in a bottle. That’s Rubin’s quote, exactly what I decided yesterday as I drove the winding Pacific Coast highway to my substitute gig.

I can travel as much as half-an-hour north or south to reach a district school. Yesterday brought a.m. perfection, the kind of morning that makes me glad I’m alive. Uncertainty coupled with that joy. Teens and pre-teens individually have a lot going on. Put them in groups, on an invitation-to-spring day in a place where they are compelled rather than choose to go, and best laid plans, a teachers’s raison d’etre, become futile.

So I decide, a day before Halliday publishes today’s Stoic wisdom, “I can only do what I can do, my best. I will bring my 100%, and that will have to be enough. What the result will be, I must let go.” And that is how the day unfolds.

There’s a scheduled fire drill the penultimate period of the day. At its end, my students join their special on the field leaving me to spend the last period of the day free. The promise of a perfect day realized, I walk up the stairs that flank the bleachers heading toward the building. I notice a young man from one of my classes earlier in the day sitting on one of the shaded benches, gazing down at the track and green field spread below. (This is the Pacific Northwest and green is our signature color!) High schoolers have met there to practice field hockey. Track team members have begun warming up.

I walk into the row and sit beside him. Almost everyone has gone where they need to be. The last few stragglers, like me wont to leave this idyll behind, call out typical comments, “You in trouble, Ricky?” “Hey, Ricky, wha’ did ya do?” “Oooo Ricky, you in trouble now.”

“He’s not in any trouble,” I softly counter. They move on.

Ricky and I sit silently, the afternoon scene spread before us. He turns to me and says, “I guess I better go in. Seems like a shame though, right?”

“Absolutely.” We rise and head inside.



One thought on “What I Can Do”

  1. So glad you had a god day. I think it is the nature of the beast that when one student sees a teacher talking to another student the assumption is that the student is in trouble. I know there were days when I as an adult didn’t want a fire drill to end because being out in the afternoon sun just felt too good.

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