Teacher’s Thinking Chair


The 1950 wooden, “thinking chair” has been waiting for me in the balcony.

I don’t sit in it when I have a talk with my husband or my son. I don’t take power naps in it. I use it only for thinking. I do a lot of it in school, when I do my lesson plan, summative tests, grades and various reports but my “thinking” with my “thinking chair” brings me somewhere else.

This chair doesn’t think for me, but it does speak to me whenever I meet it. In times that I haven’t sit in it its presence subtly reminds me that I’m not devoting enough time to the all-important task of thinking.

When we fail to make thinking a priority, we develop what author Gordon MacDonald calls “mental flabbiness”. This is not a life-threatening state, but some ways, it can be quite dangerous. MacDonald puts it this way:

“In our pressurized society, people who are out of shape mentally usually fall victim to ideas and systems that are destructive to the human spirit and to the human relationship,” he writes.T hey are victimized because they have not taught themselves how to think, nor have they set themselves to the lifelong pursuit of growth of the mind. Not having the faculty of a strong mind, they grow dependent upon the thoughts and opinions of others. Rather than deal with ideas and issues, they reduce themselves to lives full of rules, regulations, and programs.”

I cannot be an effective teacher-leader with a mindset like that.

There is  an antidote to mental flabbiness: making time to think. I realize this can be overwhelming assignment for people like me whose schedules are already bursting at the seams, whose time is spent so much in talking and thinking. And yet, when we don’t make “thinking” a priority, we’re actually sabotaging our own creativity and success.

As an elementary teacher, one thing that I should greatly possess is a great idea. A great idea has transforming power. It can take me and my students to places we may have never dreamed of going. But great ideas don’t come out of nowhere. They begin as thoughts. The more time we spend thinking, the more great ideas we’ll have. It does not take much hours of thinking each day to generate ideas and stay in good mental shape. You can accomplish a great deal in a few moments of concentrated, intentional thought.

Before I enter into the door of my classroom, I have to make sure that I’ve met with my ‘thinking chair” and did “big picture thinking”. “What is today’s main event? Of all the things I’m going to do, of all the students, parents and co-teachers that  I’m going to see, of all the experiences that I’m going to come across ,what is the main event? I have to pick out my main event early, because whatever it is, that is where I had better be at my best. I am a teacher but also human and I don’t always hit my target in school. But at the main event, I had better hit a home run. Big-picture thinking helps me achieve that goal. At the end of a really tiring day, I meet with my “thinking chair” for five to ten minutes doing my “reflective thinking.” I go to my “thinking chair” and spend time reviewing my whole day.” How did I spend my time with my students? My co teachers? How did I add value to those people? What lessons did I learn.” Reflective thinking does not take long, but it’s an incredibly exercise because it turns experience into insight.

For teachers like me especially those who are married and with children, such routine is unmanageable. But imagine what would happen in our life if we practice big-picture and reflective thinking? We would stop wasting time on things that don’t really matter, which would give us more energy for the really important activities. We would be more organized and efficient. We would experience less stress .Most importantly, we would also take more away from each day that would enable you to lead better the next day.

The bottom line is, if we find a place to think our thoughts, we’ll have more thoughts. If we find a place to shape our thoughts, we will have better thoughts .And if we find a place to stretch our thoughts, we will have bigger thoughts.

With merely 3 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes to ten minutes at night, the results  will far outweigh the time investment.

By Celiamar Duhalngon Lavarias