I had some unexpected time with students today during the last hour of school, which also happened to be the last hour before Spring Break. I was counting down just as much as the kids. The week before break is always hard. The kids check out a little early, they’re super excited, and generally, just a little more difficult. We had several volunteers for our tutoring program no-show today, which meant we had two options: absorb those kids into other tutoring groups or group them all together to do something different. It’s hard enough to absorb kids on a normal day – you’re used to working with your group, you’ve figured out the dynamics, and for the most part, you’re successful. The few hours before Spring Break – well, that’s a recipe for disaster. So, I took the 15 or so kids that needed something to do. Considering the circumstances – again, the fact that we were in the FINAL HOUR BEFORE SPRING BREAK, and the lack of notice/planning, I did what any reasonable adult would do with 15 middle school students: color.
It sounds ridiculous, but it was great! Earlier in the week I brought in my new “grown up” coloring book that I had for myself for over Spring Break. The kids went NUTS over it. It features mandalas, meditative symbols that are relaxing to color. They also loved another super detailed peacock coloring book that I have. While they thought it was funny that my big plans for Spring Break simply included coloring and sitting on the beach (I’m seriously burnt out at the moment), they didn’t think it was too funny to join in. All week they’ve been begging for copies of coloring pages. So, when I discovered my afternoon plight, there was no question.
We colored peacocks and mandalas; listened to jazz, bluegrass and the blues; and relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company. All of those independently are major feats for a middle school kid. Collectively, it’s nothing short of magic.
It was neat to see the quiet fall over the kids as they colored. To see them have relaxed, uninterrupted time to think. It’s hard to come by for many kids, virtually impossible if you’re one of the kids with 10+ people in your home. I imagine some would be quick to criticize time spent coloring with middle schoolers – unimportant, a waste of time, etc. But if it enables them to think, to be with themselves, to speak to & hear from God, to reconcile things in their mind, well, I’d argue that’s a gift we should give them more often.
A coworker and I are planning to attend a zentangle class in a couple of weeks, with the hopes of hosting a club next fall. Our kids may not be given a lot of time to think, process, or just be, but my hope is that we can teach them to create that space for themselves.