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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

teaching Archives

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 foxes […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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. […]

the pressure to conform ~

I’ve always been insatiably, even dangerously curious. As a child (a pink-cheeked blonde, whose mother too often made her wear pastels…), I took apart lamps, rewiring them (and only rarely shocked myself). I slept with a taxidermied squirrel, because it […]

the love of a teacher ~

Just yesterday this post-apocalyptic scene was a school, where children sat at tables, learning. Where teachers sat with them, facilitating that learning. Hours later, a tornado turned that normally noisy scene into hell. Moore, Oklahoma is familiar with tornadoes. Two […]

day 13 of National Poetry Month ~

Having spent many years teaching at the ‘higher ed’ level (re: college), I feel qualified to say that the system is sick. Fattened on the blood of adjuncts, centred far too often on the desires of faculty and a profit-driven […]

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 […]

day 17 of a month of Thanksgiving: libraries ~

I’m exceedingly thankful for libraries. AND for librarians, who rank up there w/ superheroes (& heroines) to me. From my first foray into the bookmobile (travelling books?? what magic!), to the Việtnamese American Association Library around the street from us […]

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 […]

of bullies, and victims, and what the rest of us can do ~

Bullying… It affects all of us — the bullies, their victims, and those of us who see it happen. Culture tends to frame it as an axis: bullies on one side, victims on the other. It’s not that simple. Amanda […]

homophobia & the American Family Association: rewriting the teachings of Jesus

As I learn more about myself — middle age will do that to you, if you pay attention — I realise that standing up for the voiceless is one of the strongest reasons I’m such a loudmouth. (And yes — […]

poetry time, or, when names are poetry ~

“…in Micmac … some trees ‘are named for the sound the wind makes when it blows through them during the autumn, about an hour after sunset when the wind always comes from a certain direction. Moreover, these names are not […]

it’s just school/ work/ a relationship…NOT LIFE ~

I had a note from a former student today. This isn’t unusual — I’m fortunate to have contact w/ many of my wonderful former students. But this was a bit different. It was a thank-you note. Because of you, it […]

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 […]

mother love, schadenfreude, & beginner’s heart ~

It’s no secret that I love my students.  And even now, when not one of them sits in circle in a classroom w/ me, they remain ‘my students.’ A kind of extended family — almost like nieces & nephews, if […]

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 […]

teaching the teacher: a roller coaster ride, reprised ~

More than a year ago, I was offered this amazing (but intimidating!) opportunity: write a blog for a national website. On Buddhism. I felt (still feel) woefully inadequate to the task. But I figured, I can just tell folks: I’m […]

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 […]

Darwin, Jane Austen, & my students ~

I love science. And of course Darwin — like Da Vinci, like Einstein, like Copernicus — dominates it. Yesterday was his birthday (sorry about the tardy Congrats!, Mr. Darwin). So here is a bit of Darwin reflection ~ and bear […]

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 Buddha was a teacher, too ~

Yesterday in the undergraduate class I teach, everyone was quiet. Working. Drawing and colouring.  Thinking. I often use ‘childish’ tools and practices in my classes, even though I teach university students. Or retired adults. I do this because of the […]

the study of letters ~

I’ve always wondered what those of us w/ degrees in the letters — language arts, some folks call them — should call ourselves. History has historians. Science has general scientists, as well as botanists, biologists, micro-biologists, physicists, chemists, etc. We […]

suffer the little children… or, the consequences to bullying ~

I will caution you right now: if you believe it’s okay (for any reason whatsoever) to be mean to children in the name of religion, you should find to do other than reading further. Because this is my bit for […]

what I learned today ~

For my students, writing a personal narrative — even armoured w/ attendant scholarship — is walking on verrrry thin ice. Their toes curl up, I suspect. They go oh-so-slooowly, each word a careful footstep forward. Each sentence almost too much […]

questioning death and impermanence ~

My students are struggling with death. This has been a week where two have lost childhood friends — close friends — within 48 hours. Their grief, disbelief, and questions fill the classroom. Why? they ask me. It isn’t fair. I’m […]

why I write ~

In honour of the National Day on Writing (October 20th — just  FYI), and w/ respect to my day job for National Writing Project, this column is dedicated to why I write. And what that has to do w/ beginner’s […]

what art has to do with it ~

There are so many things right with this saying… I wouldn’t be alive today without ‘art.’ At a time in my life when even my two beautiful sons couldn’t make me want to go on — when the entire world […]

the teacher is the web is everywhere ~

Lately it seems like everywhere I look I learn. I’m learning from the poems on the lists I subscribe to. I’m learning from the birds feeding on the deck (the much-maligned sparrows line up to take turns at their saucer […]

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 […]

fear and procrastination ~

I have a presentation tomorrow. To a possibly large audience. Actually, we have no idea how many will be there. And here’s yet another confession: I haven’t really begun to write… What is it with procrastination? I’m thinking it’s what […]

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 […]

the wind, ventifacts & advice to a young teacher ~

I’ve been trying to spend time outside each day, even if it’s only to sit and watch the birds jostle each other at the various feeders. And I’ve been thinking about wind — always a presence in Oklahoma. If I’d […]

labels ~

Each year, in the summer graduate seminar I help direct, we do a roundtable about the cultures students bring with them into our classes. We try to invite different perspectives, highlighting cultural and social differences that may not be familiar […]

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

hunting for home
Looking for a house is hard. Looking while recognising that this will be your long-term home -- not a rental, not a summer vacation -- is ...

posted 5:40:03pm May. 25, 2015 | read full post »

living through the unexpected (with equanimity?)
 This is how we spent two hours Friday: lined up to cross the French Broad River bridge. TWICE. (I've been calling it the French Bread River Basin since then; ...

posted 10:32:07pm May. 24, 2015 | read full post »

road trips
You see differently when you're on the road. Something about the ribbon of highway before you, the enclosed space of the car, the forced closeness and the ...

posted 9:36:21am May. 22, 2015 | read full post »

the right thing (even though...)
This is the 2nd baby rabbit that Sophie-the-13-year-old-cat has brought in to us. Unfortunately, the 1st one didn't survive the experience :( . (We won't go ...

posted 1:44:17pm May. 18, 2015 | read full post »

rain, petrichor, and pluviophiles
We've had 7 inches of rain this past week. Other parts of Oklahoma have had a foot or more. When I went to the Farmer's Market this week, the radishes looked ...

posted 1:26:21pm May. 17, 2015 | read full post »

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