Battle Creek

The Blog: Finding new and old hobbies

Editor’s note: This is the most recent installment of our new blog. We will be asking for insights from people from across the community who have something to say about their experiences, the ongoing state of affairs, or their lives that will speak to our current time together. Today we hear from educator Brian Macon. If you would like to contribute please let us know. — Kathy Jennings, Managing Editor, Southwest Michigan's Second Wave

Like many of us, for me, the stay at home order has been full of a large spectrum of emotions. This time at home has been especially hard for me when it comes to my job.

As a literacy teacher for Battle Creek Public Schools prior to the pandemic I worked in a classroom at Valley View Elementary. My job required me to work with first graders in a one-on-one setting or in a small group helping them with reading and or writing. In this setting, I developed a bond with the kids both in my small group as well as the entire class. So naturally, when all of our schools shut down I felt a sadness and an uncertainty of how the rest of the year would play out. I found comfort when the district switched to remote learning and it allowed me to virtually interact with my group.

This process was intimidating at first because it was a new way of teaching and it was something that I had to adapt to. I found that I could make the videos fun and interesting by making worksheets and reading stories about animals and their habitats. 

The kids loved these videos and I found myself getting interested in wildlife, particularly the wildlife in my own yard. The easiest animals to observe were the many birds that visited my patio area. I found the birds that frequented my patio the most were Sparrows, so by doing research I ordered the appropriate birdhouse and feeder. I made a new hobby of bird watching and learning about Battle Creek’s native bird population.

My new hobby of bird watching also opened the door for even more interest in nature. It made me think about our classroom and the fish that we had. Not only did the kids enjoy watching them but they seemed to relieve stress in the class. Like many people during this time being stuck at home can cause anxiety so I decided to get a tank for my office space. 

This also opened the door for me to find the mental space to use this new hobby to revisit an old hobby. That old hobby was writing fiction.  My degree is in English, and obtaining that degree demanded that I write academically. Doing this, I had lost some of my passion for writing creatively. I found that watching the fish peacefully swim next to my writing desk helped me to compose myself and sit down and began to write. 

I also used this to be more interactive with my school group. The more that I learned about animals the better I was able to teach the students about what I was learning. This also helped me to write my own stories to read to my group, which the kids enjoyed. Doing this reignited a fire for writing inside me—something that I had not had for some time.

These new hobbies, both things that I could do at home and, given the times, that were inexpensive, allowed me to appreciate nature and reintroduce me to my first hobby. With this spark relit I made the decision to look into getting my Master’s of Fine Arts degree. 

When the state's stay at home order first was put in place I was like most people—in a state of disbelief and sadness. What I found helped me was to identify something at home I could work on that I had been putting off or to observe my natural surroundings. 

Every person is different and understandably what works for me may not work for everyone. I do think, however, that this can be a template to try something new at home, something that you may have not even have known you like, and maybe this new hobby can bring back the love of an old hobby.

Brian Macon is a Literacy Tutor at Valley View Elementary. He is an alumnus of  Battle Creek Central, Kellogg Community College, and  Western Michigan University.