Saturday, April 24, 2010


When a friend was telling me recently about hydrostatic balance – the state of equilibrium in the atmosphere when the forces of gravity and air pressure are balanced -- I couldn’t help but think about the atmosphere and forces in my classroom. My friend explained that in our atmosphere we are constantly under intense pressure, from both gravity and the air, but because the pressures are usually well balanced against each other, we generally live our lives fairly unaware of them. There’re just there, always pushing and pulling us in different directions with considerable force. As I listened to my friend, I realized that I hope the academic atmosphere in my classroom produces similarly balanced pressures. There’s nothing wrong with having students labor under powerful pressures – the pressure to complete demanding assignments, the pressure to unravel the truths in elaborate literary works, the pressure of their own desire to achieve, and, yes, the pressure their sometimes insistent parents place upon them. In addition (and this relates to the counter-balancing pressures in our physical atmosphere), there’s no doubt that my teenage students also work beneath reverse pressures – the pressure to be liked by friends, the pressure to occasionally put one’s head in the clouds, and the pressure, sometimes, to just be purposely foolish and irresponsible. When all these various and contradictory pressures are perfectly balanced in my classroom, a fine kind of peaceful intensity can come into being -- passion and concentration nicely balanced by lightheartedness and looseness.  In this ambiance, the kids work hard but also smile and laugh hard. They grit their teeth to understand a sentence in Joyce, but they also lift their eyes to take pleasure in the sight of birds at the feeder outside the classroom. This is hydrostatic balance, Room 2 style.

© 2010 Hamilton Salsich

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