Last Friday when the first of May arrived, I walked into our kitchen and with all seriousness informed my children that a major holiday was upon us.
“Mother's Day?” they said.
“Ooh, good guess. But no, that's the next major one. First we have something else.”
“Aunt Amber's birthday?”
“Okay, yes, that one's important. But Aunt Amber's birthday is actually on the major holiday.”
“Um… what is it?”
“Guys, it's May the 4th — May the 4th be with you. You know? Star Wars Day?”
“Ohhhhhhhh,” they said. “Okay. We should dress up.”
Having established the enormity of the situation with my children and made proper plans for celebration, only one thing is left: to impart upon my dear colleagues around the globe a lesson that Star Wars may have for us as we facilitate emergency remote education throughout the galaxy.
Drum roll, please…
“Your focus determines your reality”
Before Liam Neeson was telling human traffickers about his “particular set of skills,” he was a short-lived, long-haired Jedi master named Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Now, I'll admit: in the Stuart household, we don't often choose to re-watch Phantom, agreeing that it belongs in the outer-rim of our top-secret rankings of all the entries into the canon. And yet — and yet! — it has its share of timeless treasures.
Today let's focus on a moment when Qui-Gon kneels down to talk to the young, immaculately conceived Anakin Skywalker.
“Always remember,” Qui-Gon tells Anakin, “your focus determines your reality.”
Now, all jest aside, Qui-Gon is right. It's true that:
- In your emergency remote teaching right now, you can fixate on the kids you're not reaching or the kids you are. Pick the former, and you'll drive yourself crazy thinking that you're not doing enough. Pick the latter, and you'll discover a sense of community and productivity that will otherwise elude you. That sense of community and productivity will serve as a motivational core from which to give an hour or two each week to reaching out to those who aren't responding. You're a teacher, not a savior.
- In your home right now, you can fixate on the moments in the day that are terrible or the moments in the day that are lovely. Even on the days when I seem to be living in the Murphy's Law dimension, there's at least a robin outside my window searching for worms, or a couple taking their daily quarantine walk and smiling, or a note from a student that I can totally hear them saying in their voice. By focusing on the things that are good, we create a reality within that is not so scary to face the things that are bad and see about attempting to solve them.
This isn't a new age concept — it's old. Yet science writer Winifred Gallagher goes so far in Rapt as to claim that “your life — who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love — is the sum of what you focus on.”
So may the force be with us as we heed Qui-Gon's teaching, even amidst our bad feelings about emergency remote teaching.
Special thanks to John Reynolds: Colorado educator, friend, writer, and fellow Star Wars aficionado, who also wrote a special post for today.