Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart


plain ol’ human (loving)kindness

last day at comp 2012This is a picture of the last day of the last undergrad class I taught at OSU. You won’t get the joke, so I’ll tell you. Bear with me: :)

Every day there was a note in our classroom saying, Please put the chairs back in rows. And every day my students left them in the circle we sit in whenever I teach. N.B.: I’m a HUGE believer in circles. They disrupt the wrong kind of hierarchy, putting everyone in eye reach of everyone else. And it’s very hard to text or just space out in a circle. You’re visible.

After I explained to my students the first day that we will ALWAYS sit in circles, they decided everyone else should, as well. Since I also teach that you are in control of your education, and told the students that putting the room together was their ‘job’ each day (as is pulling up all window shades if we’re lucky enough to get windows), they decided it was NOT their job to ‘enable’ rows.

The last day, as a statement, they decided to do this. And here’s where folks don’t always agree with me: I thought it was enchanting. They took total control of this room, and dominated it! This was the kind of protest that hurts no one (well, I did feel a bit bad about janitorial, but I also know they probably got HUGE mileage in the lunch room from the story).

This is all by way of saying that every class has its own stories, and this is only one from this particular semester. In that same class was a young man I won’t name. He was having a very difficult time — recently divorced, joint custody, an ‘away’ job, and trylovingkindnessing to carry FT classes. We spoke often about how hard it is to be a returning student (I was one as well). How hard it is to single-parent (I did that, too). And just how school may not be your main priority sometimes. Nor should it be.

It’s just school is the mantra I teach all my classes. Not your life. Not your family. Not who and what you are. Just school.

Today that very nice young man wrote me a note via FB. Thanking me for mentoring him through that semester, a rocky one, he remembers. And the funny thing? I did nothing unusual. Just listened to his life, and tried to be kind.  Just kind.

I was touched that my former student took the time to write. It brightened my day considerably. But it also saddens me, a bit, to think that lovingkindness is so unusual in so-called ‘higher ed’ these days that he felt fortunate. What does this say about what we value? Not, I think, what it should.

lovingkindness imageWhen did ‘rigour’ — a term often found in education these days — come to exclude plain  ol’ human kindness? When did we decide that testing and deadlines were more important than the student people who are in our classes? What will they learn from us if not how to be good people? What content area is more important than decency? Than what Buddhists (and many others) call lovingkindness?

This vexes me no end, as my great-aunt Bonnie would say. She never went past 8th grade. But she knew far more — about life, about gardens, about children, about loving kindness — than anyone I know with a doctorate. She knew enough to realise that w/out kindness, education is a hollow promise, at best. I would rather have the note from my former student, and this picture of his classmates’ exuberant disobedience, than a letter from a dean, or an academic honcho. But then, I also found the pile of chairs enchanting ~



Previous Posts

more wonderings about (today's) Puritans, and a broken education system
Today I was thinking -- again -- about the similarities between contemporary conservative Christianity (at least in everyday life) and historic

posted 4:48:45pm Sep. 19, 2014 | read full post »

measuring up
Rarely do I feel inadequate, like I don't measure up. If that sounds overly confident, I don't mean to. It's just that I don't normally spend a lot of time comparing myself to others. From a very early age I knew my life wasn't like most American kids, so while I may have wished I had a different

posted 5:25:45pm Sep. 18, 2014 | read full post »

letting go, or, what teaching teaches
You know that old joke about giving a party and nobody comes? Well, for presenters, it's a truism. I've given workshops w/ only one person (and she left early!). Last night, however, was a new one, even for me. A

posted 4:57:15pm Sep. 17, 2014 | read full post »

afternoon break
I should be working on the presentation I'm giving in...oh, 3 hours. :) I should be figuring out what to fix for dinner before I go. I should... I should. Instead, tea break. A cup of good ol' house tea -- Panyang Congou from Harney's, And plain vanilla macarons from the Whole Foods bakery. Bl

posted 4:51:14pm Sep. 16, 2014 | read full post »

health, gadgets, and technology
I am NOT good at the boredom of keeping healthy. I blew my knees running. My joint replacement put paid to treadmilling. I hate my recumbent bike (and no, I don't know why, except that it's boring). So cardi

posted 12:14:13pm Sep. 15, 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.