A Matter of Time

At the recent NAES Head’s Retreat in Chicago, facilitator and former school head Fran Scoble led the group through a series of powerful reflections and engaging questions. Sitting together without the interruptions of school life, e-mail, or cell phones, we talked one morning about two Greek notions of time: chronos and kairos.

Schools know the tyranny of chronos only too well. Chronos is the time of class schedules and the to do list, datelines and deadlines (consider the word itself!). A practical necessity and, when well-managed, a helpful good, chronos gets things done. But chronos also compels us to “cover the material” even though the children need a different kind of lesson, to get to the next appointment even though someone is in need, or to stick to a plan when there is an opportunity for fresh action.

is that other notion of time and purpose, one freed from a schedule or clock. While chronos is quantitative, kairos is qualitative. Kairos is God’s time. It makes space for the soul’s work. Kairos requires a keen awareness of the “now” and a comfort with the unknown where outcomes are not scheduled but revealed. In the “fullness of time” and “in due time” speak of the non-linear reality of kairos.

Of course, we need chronos to carry out life’s practical, daily details. But we need kairos to support the soul’s unflagging search for a home in the world. To be schools where people can be fully human means that we must create a space for the soul’s journey; as Thomas Moore said, “to entice the soul to emerge from its cocoon.”

How can we make space for kairos in a chronos-driven world? Here are a few ways schools are working to meet this challenge:

  • Incorporating a labyrinth, meditation, and other reflective practices into school spiritual life
  • Creating a “spiritual journey week” that includes time for new learning and reflection
  • Sponsoring “parenting and faith” discussion groups to provide parents a place to reflect on their child’s life journey from childhood to adulthood
  • Incorporating student retreats into selected milestone years
  • Emphasizing personal reflection and opportunities for growth in issues of student discipline

How is your school making space for kairos?