Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart Archives


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 foxes […]


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. An […]


peace, love, and teaching our children

I often think that old hippies — those of us who were in it for the peace & love, not the sex, drugs, rock&roll — became teachers. Because that’s what the teachers I know believe in: peace & love. Peace […]


teaching for change

Warning: the following material may confuse you, or even make your head hurt. Because who knew it was sooo hard to effect change?? Teachers, that’s who. Especially teachers of young adults. Because when you’re little, learning is still FUN. There […]

a day with teachers

   I spent much of yesterday w/ my favourite people: teachers who write. I confess to a relatively indiscriminate adoration of most teachers, but teachers who write are at the top of any list. Yesterday, I was back at Writing […]

beginnings, birthdays, and teachers

Today my amazing, beautiful, beloved and perfect grandson has been here for a year. And I’ve been able to see him several times during that year. Each time, I’ve learned from him. HUGELY important lessons, like attention. Listening. Focus. Laughter. […]

the Buddha was a teacher

One of the many small epiphanies I think of as ‘baby’ enlightenments was when I realised that first & foremost — before anything else — the Buddha was a teacher. As was Jesus. I know Christians think of Jesus first […]

the impact of ‘thoughtlessness’ (and the importance of teachers)

Today, following yesterday’s post about research, I was reading the National Endowment for the Humanities bi-monthly magazine, Humanities. In it is an article about NEH-funded research on political theorist Hannah Arendt. And it underlines the importance of the critical thinking […]

teaching research, or, why some folks hate universities

For several years, I taught research to college students. At a research university, no less. I taught ag majors, English majors, business majors, music majors, phys ed majors, design majors, art majors, history and econ and chemistry and engineering and […]

mourning a mentor and friend

It feels like my world is losing important pieces, lately. A death here, a death there, a third one just behind them. A lot of friends, colleagues, and the family of both have taken wing. Elsewhere. Wherever the dead go. […]

the candle and the mirror

When I was young, and my dreams as new-bright as clean copper, I believed I would set the world on fire. Somehow I would change what was wrong — poverty, ignorance, social injustice. There were, after all, so many of […]

plain ol’ human (loving)kindness

This 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 […]

the 2nd best and most important job ever

Two of my favourite things — actually four, if you include the ‘zen’ and ‘pencils’ as material objects… :). Teachers & poetry. And if you include social activism on behalf of teachers? You have knocked that homer out of the […]

Dear Education Reformers:

I’ve spent much of this month  listening to teachers. Their stories break my heart. Because these are teachers who are voluntarily seeking to improve. And they are exhausted, folks. Bone-deep, brain fugue, blank-eyed exhausted. It’s all they can do to […]

what teachers know: a thank-you

Despite retirement, I still get to work with teachers. And yes, I said ‘get to.’ Because teachers are — unconditionally, uncategorically — the nicest work group I know. FAR nicer than ministers, doctors, lawyers, dentists, salesmen, engineers or even scientists. […]

a relatively restrained rant about education ‘reform’ ~

My grandson is only a week old. I can’t expect him to do much of anything yet. Eat, eliminate, emote. That’s about it. No amount of trying on my part will enable him to do what even a one-month-old can. […]

day 12 of National Poetry Month ~

I’m spending this week w/ the most wonderful professionals in the world: teachers. Yep. Teachers. We get a bad rap these days.  But nowhere will you find men & women more committed to the future of America: our kids. Who […]

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, […]

day 26 of the month of Thanksgiving: the threads that bind ~

Today I’m grateful for the ways lives bump into each other. Because it’s all connected. At least that’s what Buddhists think — you, me, the screen where the letters appear, the chocolate I bought at Target, the  leaves blowing against […]

still learning from the student ~

 And no one exists alone….We must love one another or die.   ~ Auden A dear former student just posted a line of Auden to my FaceBook: We must love one another or die. It’s from the poem “September 1, 1939,” one […]

America hates teachers: the new normal…?

I’m fashed, my Aunt Bonnie would say. From the French ‘fâcher,’ to make angry, or offend. It’s an old Southern term — probably been around since French settlements. It isn’t just ‘to get mad,’ however — at least not the […]

teachers & bodhisattva vows ~

A comment on an earlier post, from Dasha, reminds me why teaching is so much more than test scores. Why the teacher may be, next to immediate family, the most important person in a child’s life. And why teachers are […]

revisiting microagressions and social justice (and what white people get out of both) ~

 I spent most of June this summe, in a graduate Institute with teachers of all grade levels (k-university), in several content areas, and from varied backgrounds. The seminar lasts for three weeks. During week 2 we discuss cultures: what each […]

when paths part: a contemplation on beginner’s heart ~

One of my students just unfriended me on Facebook. First, however, she sent me a lengthy email, hurt & angry that my posts reflect poorly on her political party, and her political hero. I fully accept responsibility there — as […]

a circle of desks, with the Buddha in the middle ~

The Buddha talks quite a bit about teaching, about learning. He did almost almost all his teaching outside, to my knowledge (which isn’t as encyclopædic as I’d like!). Not in a circle of too-small desks, in a room w/out windows, […]

cowgirls, Buddhism, and the ‘t’ in meditation ~

I can’t run anymore. Haven’t been able to for years. My doc told me that if I fell one more time on either knee, I’d lose a kneecap. All that’s left pretty much is bone on bone — cartilage went […]

Frost, ambiguity, & grading ~

I like Robert Frost. He’s not in vogue w/ much of the ‘Academy,’ those members of the ruling university class who decide which books/ writers/ thinkers/ ideas are in or out these days. Right now, Frost isn’t ‘in.’ I think […]

privilege, education, and the emperor’s new clothes ~

So this is what learning looks like in America. If you’re middle class or wealthier, your children do pretty well. More than 80% of them will graduate w/ a 4-year degree(see below). If, however, you’re in the bottom quartile (the […]

the last time, or, separation anxiety ~

I’m taking early retirement this year. And it’s changed the way I view almost everything. For one thing, apparently it’s not retirement if you’re not old enough. It’s ‘separation.’ So perhaps what I’m having is separation anxiety… Our culture defines […]

teachers, memory, and public education ~

I love this cartoon — I’m sorry I have no better attribution, as it has to have been done by someone intimately acquainted w/ teaching and/or teachers. Because this is the secret about teaching: you can’t prepare for most of […]

the important thing about comprehensive exams (from a Buddhist perspective) ~

There are a lot of things you expect to learn if you get a doctorate. Primarily, of course, your subject. But there are also things you don’t expect to learn. Like… well, what I realised yesterday in the shower (is […]

the holy alchemy of teaching ~

I often tackle a new discipline — or learning more about something I know only superficially — by offering to teach it. Don’t cringe: you’re not in any of my classes :). And it makes me, I’d argue, a far […]

the lives of students ~

My students share their lives — with me, with each other. We have a class listserv, which they’re required to post to several times weekly. It builds community — there’s lots of research on classroom community and its benefits — […]

teaching, politics, & Buddhism ~

I couldn’t tell you which came first: my concern for folks on the margins, my belief that we’re all connected (a kind of nascent Buddhism), or my didactic teacher-self. I remember teaching my 2-year-old younger sister to ‘read’ by having […]

living in the present ~

For a number of reasons, this is my last semester teaching the class I’m teaching now. Which entirely changes the dynamic. Teachers know that every class — every class period — is different. But we often attribute this to our […]

teaching the teacher: one teacher’s practice ~

You all who read this blog may well be tired of hearing about my wonderful students. So you may want to get up and go get a cup of tea; come back in a few paragraphs. Because this is another […]

the Buddhas in the front row ~

True confessions: I actually don’t have rows in my classroom. We sit in an old-fashioned circle, and I don’t let the students put the chairs back after class. ‘Everyone,’ I tell them, ‘should sit in circles. You can see each […]

kindergarten teacher bashing ~

Okay, now I’m just mad. And I’m trying — as always! — to do something other than just fume. Here it is, my attempt to address grievances.  It’s far too late in the game to redress them….:( Here’s a link […]

public education & teaching teachers ~

This is how teachers learn best: caffeine & reflection :). Well,  at least the teachers I know ~ This week I helped with a two-day workshop with teachers in a town near here — one of the many small Oklahoma […]

teaching, practice and love ~

The muse Terpsichore is known for many things: dances, the harp, education. But  most amazing is that all these things come together in one Muse: supposedly Terpsichore invents them all. Think about it: all of those coming from one head. […]

just a little human touch ~

I hate college classrooms. Everything we know about the impact of softscape on learning — lighting, seating, groups, etc. — goes out the window when we work w/ adult learners. So each class period, my students (at my request) form […]

Previous Posts

thinking of lost boys
When I hear of the serial murder sprees -- all done w/ guns -- that plague America, I think of my sons. Not always first, but always. Probably too ...

posted 4:48:57pm Oct. 04, 2015 | read full post »

pebbles, lobsters, and priorities
I went to brunch with my beloved yesterday, to celebrate our zillionth (happy!) anniversary. It was beyond heavenly: all kinds of food I ...

posted 3:33:14pm Sep. 28, 2015 | read full post »

the souls of the others
I don't normally do book reviews, much less book raves. And yet... I just finished a book that captured me completely, Sy Montgomery's The Soul of an ...

posted 3:11:31pm Sep. 20, 2015 | read full post »

the gift of friends
I am blessed with friends far better than I deserve. Colleagues; former students; girlfriends & guy friends; family who have long since blurred that ...

posted 4:35:30pm Sep. 18, 2015 | read full post »

a bowl of weeks
Remember how I told you last week that I was trying to be more mindful of time passing? And about reading in Lewis Richmond's Aging as a Spiritual ...

posted 1:41:33pm Sep. 14, 2015 | read full post »


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