Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart


teachers, ‘my kids,’ & lovingkindness ~

This is a photo (of me) that one of my students photo-shopped a couple of years ago (no, I wasn’t really wearing a troll mask…). It went out on our class listserv. A private joke — well, not toooo private, I guess, if the whole class is privy. It represents the best things about teaching: the students. Which is why we (teachers) become so incredibly attached to our students.

A dear friend says he wouldn’t continue teaching if he wasn’t always learning from his students. And what I miss most about teaching is just that: learning. Every day, something new. Every class period, a new perspective, new music, a term or a book or an idea. Day in, day out.

Recently I read a meme on Facebook that said students are always ‘our kids,’ once we’ve taught them. Irrespective of their ages, or how they grow, once in my class, you’re my kid.

But a colleague contends that this is one of the problems teachers face in the popular culture: by calling our students ‘our kids’ we infantilise teaching. Turn ourselves into moms/dads & babysitters. I’m not so sure about this… My students never treat me like I’m their mom, nor their babysitter. It’s more like I’m a valued teacher… (gee, ya think?)

This makes me look at my own teachers — spiritual, academic, professional — through a completely different lens, now that I’m fielding the questions I once used to ask. What should I write in my teaching statement? How should I answer this interview question? What should I WEAR?? :) I wonder if the man who told me to follow my dreams even if I didn’t think they would pay would agree with the warnings of penury I offer my students (teaching is NO get-rich scheme — quickly or otherwise!). And what about the teachers who couldn’t believe I submitted A papers for revision? Did they think I was a total OCD nutcase?

And the answers? I have no idea. But somehow, remembering what it was like to be a student is good for the teacher in me. And looking back at the men & women who so generously answered my questions, helped me along my professional path, and took time to mentor me is — still — a kind of learning.

I know not all teachers LOVE their students (I’m thinking of a dear friend & colleague who would be shaking his head in dismay at the thought!). But it’s so very hard NOT to. And nooo fun. :) Lately there has been article after article about what makes a good teacher. And you know what I think? Love. Love maketh a good teacher.  Actually, lovingkindness — Buddhists actually have two words for lovingkindness: metta and karuna.

Metta has the connotative meaning of a state of being — a generally positive attitude towards all beings. Karuna is more active — more of a kindness, even (as some sources say) a kind of pity. I don’t pity my students. Although my heart sometimes aches for the burdens they carry: poverty, depression, abuse… The general travails of today’s messy, complicated world.

What I miss most about teaching is lovingkindness. My own, for them. And if your life is, as dharma instructs us, a kind of theatre for us to polish our buddha natures, I suppose it’s time I figure out a way to translate that feeling of general benevolence into other venues.

Teaching was just a LOT easier. And more fun.



Previous Posts

a bardo for Richard
My friend Richard died this week. Tuesday, to be precise. And in light of that precision, he was really my sister's friend, at least at first. But because we ended up talking across her FB page, we became friends

posted 4:48:57pm Oct. 30, 2014 | read full post »

foxholes
The word 'foxhole' has multiple meanings. First -- of course -- is the den foxes build for their young: a skulk of foxes. The other comes from WWI -- trench warfare, a hole to (hopefully) save your life. Today's

posted 9:03:25pm Oct. 28, 2014 | read full post »

vernacular scholars, pointy-heads, and regular folks: a tale of bewilderment ~
This is a story about what happens (far too often) when you have a PhD, or at least when folks find out you have a PhD (and I rarely confess to this!). It's the sad story of a culture where folks either react w/ ins

posted 8:43:15pm Oct. 23, 2014 | read full post »

autumn roses, a metaphor
In the spring, when my roses begin to bloom, it's wonderful: it means winter is over! And I'm always ready. But to be honest? The fall roses are more lovely. They're more fragrant, more vivid in colour, just overa

posted 3:47:34pm Oct. 22, 2014 | read full post »

a happy birthday for my beloved
If you've been following the blog, you know that my beloved broke his ankle about 6 weeks ago. He was unable to walk these past weeks, since the accident and the surgery. Noooo load-bearing on that foot, the doc said. And believe me: we were NOT happy about it. It's amazing what you can't do when yo

posted 5:50:32pm Oct. 21, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.