I recall a band from the ‘90s named Diamond Rio—highly unlikely to be discussed often, if ever, at classical schools and with the Great Books—who had a catchy song called “Meet in the Middle.” In this song, they sing about meeting in the middle with friends and in doing so, “We'd gain a lot of ground / ‘Cause we'd both give a little / And there ain't no road too long / When you meet in the middle.” While I think that meeting people in the middle by seeing their side and going halfway is obviously beneficial, I also like to ponder the middle of things. more generally. I find the middle interesting. And in this case, I want to look at the middle of the school day.
I’m not sure why, how, or when my curiosity began. I know it started well before midway along the journey of my life. Maybe it was when, as a kid, I first encountered Middle-earth. Or maybe it was my fascination with reclining on my parents’ roof at night, pondering how things began and will end, and how we are just spinning in the middle of the eye of this storm of life. Those epic poems that start in media res and sagacious Odysseus saying, “balance is best in all things” likely added to this. I also find it—though obvious and inevitable—delightful that our living is done in the middle of time, neither in the past nor in the future. And I think I’m in good company with the contemplating of this significant time of day, for many years ago in the middle of human history, in the middle of the known world, on the middle of the cross, and in the middle of the day when the lesser sun is highest in the sky, the greater Son met Death in the middle of the battlefield and changed everything.
So, after that rambling introduction, I want to get to the heart of the matter and talk about the middle of the school day in my second grade class. During this point of the day, I’ve literally been up for 8-9 hours, and have about that many more to go before I rest. This is a magical, often-overlooked time of day. Maybe it’s because it is neither the beginning of the day with its sunrise and all of its hopes and fears, nor is it the end when we can rest after our having, hopefully, fought well the good fight. But, at this time of day, some ups and downs have happened, and yet more are still awaiting.
In our class, the little ones have done morning prayers, recited poems, practiced phonics, read or been read to, played outside, learned some history while dabbling in art, and learned about how the scientific world glorifies God. Then comes a little respite and change in the routine of the day. We gather our lunches and have the prayer leader for the week lead us in prayer before comparing, sharing, and staring at other’s food. During this free time, they are being nourished and, in a way, resuscitated. I then let them go outside to frolic and find further quickening from the benefits of play, exercise, and sunshine. I often walk around and absorb these vivacious “lights” from the sun, from the joyful play and laughter of the kids, and—when I’m lucky and doing it right—from the Son. Once this period ends, we head inside, and I read jokes and riddles from my Silly Jokes for Kids. Beholding these little minds figure out the riddles, grasp some of the dad jokes, and laugh or wholly miss the jokes, is a delight.
The best part is reminding these students to make moments in the daily scholastic schedule to rest and to laugh. Once we’ve been relieved, revived, and reenergized, we stand up for Orthodox midday prayers and then our prayer leader comes to the front of the room where the kids enthusiastically raise their hands in hopes of being called so they can ask that we pray for something. We’ve prayed for passed dogs and cats and seeing them in Heaven, the health of grandparents or loss of them, headaches of moms, surgeries, teeth, Santa, wars in the world, parents letting them have a bunny, sick chickens and peacocks, a dad’s promotion at work, earning House points, healings from cancer, baseball games, gymnastic competitions, and peace for the world. I’ve enjoyed stopping in the middle of the day for this as well to remind us of the importance of prayer and instill in them the habit of slowing down, reorienting oneself with what matters most, and listening to the hopes and troubles of others as well. It’s this little lesson that I might enjoy most out of all the lesson plans for the day.
And then, after this interlude of food, sun, fun, and the Son, we are better armed to take on the other half of the day.