What Compels You to ‘Do’?

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What Compels You to ‘Do’?

Christine Ruffolo


The idea for this post first came in the summer of 2021, down time for most teachers here in the States.  When you have a secured income (our salary is split evenly between the twelve months), and are given the gift of time and freedom of what to do with that time, what do you choose to do?  To truly gauge one’s answer, and before judging one’s behavior, you must consider the typical circumstance or environment that surrounds such decisions.  What is their life like?  What, if any, habits and routines have been established, and to what degree do they contribute to (or restrain from) a comforting baseline of safety and assurance?

A universal example would be the concept of home.  For some it is a location, others’ a shelter, and still others’ a set familiar surroundings (including people).  Personally, I see it as an impermeable sanctuary.   It occurs in my mind, my body, my house and my lot of land.  When I rented my dwelling, I travelled.  I wanted to see and expand and compare.  Since purchasing my home in 2013, however, I spend most of my time and energy on maintenance and improvements.  I want to care for that which is mine.  This expands from self to my work, my classes, and my students.

Caring means I give it my attention.  I look, I observe, I make notes.  I seek out potential problems — the seeds to issues that will only get more serious — or imperfections that annoy me.  The time I spend scanning and taking in information to ‘catch’ something sooner makes ensuring a harmony of later much easier.  I believe that I have a say in what my future might be like,  and faith that it will be better.  This trust is why I am willing to give it so much of today.

I am excellent at planning and preparation.  So much so that I don’t actually ‘get’ to anything.  Staying here and experiencing more and more within here, making here better and more understood, seems to encompass everything I scrutinize and am compelled to do.  It is my what, why, and how.  As far as the when, I tend to keep my working day schedule — get up early and move around, task-task-task (make mental lists and cross items off), eat my large ‘earned and deserved’ meal around 4p, and then start the shutdown of shower, lay, watch.

I’m writing the first part of this as I sub in a classroom.  Like most subs, I don’t care much about the lesson left getting done.  I don’t spend my energy circulating and probing and asking questions.  I tell them what they are expected to get done for the day and let them be.  As I observe distantly from my desk, of this class of 20 (20!) , six have been verbally socializing, six have been on their phones most of the time, one has been in the bathroom for fifteen minutes (and counting), and nine have been what looks like working on their laptops (cannot confirm WHAT is on their laptops).  These stats reflect a higher functioning group.


Care takes time and energy.

We save it when we’re not sure we’ll have enough.


The kids are generally acting as one would in a no-one-knows when it will end pandemic.  They have trouble autoregulating .  They haven’t had the environmental stability to elevate their baseline of safety.  Many lack fundamental resources of support, and because of that, their friends mean everything.  Of course they will do as little as possible.  They’re trying to survive and make the most out of what is, while they can.  Who knows when and how it might be taken from them.

Their emphasis on the ‘now’ is different than mine of here.  I want my here to stay and spread.  ‘Now’ has no ownership, and without ownership, no responsibility.  ‘Now’ expects to lose everything, and so it will subsist to maximize enjoyment of the present.

I grew up in the 90s and was both a product and a witness to the realization of the American Dream.  We always had enough and worked to keep it and get more.  They are growing up amidst a backdrop of American strife and unrest and truth-telling, where there doesn’t seem to be enough for anybody. They are waiting for things to get worse, and since that worse seems inevitable, why would doing anything other than just existing be a priority?

The only thing they truly have is this moment.  It makes sense that they are reluctant to give it away.


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