Thursday, February 15, 2007

Today I again got down on myself as a teacher, blaming myself for doing too much of this and not enough of that, beating myself up for forgetting to do certain things and doing other things the wrong way. At the end of the day, I really felt like a mediocre teacher, at best. In the climb up the steep hill of excellent teaching, I felt like I had slipped quite far behind. On the drive home, though, I noticed something that helped to change my thinking. The sides of the roads were strewn with slush and mud, and I was just about to say it was “ugly” or “depressing”, when something stopped me. An ancient truth, one that I have often loved to meditate on, had come back to me –- that only the present moment exists, and that therefore the present moment must always be accepted for what it is. The sides of the roads were the sides of the roads, the slush was the slush, the mud was the mud. They were neither good nor bad, beautiful nor ugly; they just were. They were precisely what they had to be at the precise moment I passed them. Perhaps next week the slush will be gone and the street will be “cleaner”, but that doesn’t mean it will be better or more beautiful – just different. Because it’s all there is or can be, each present moment can be said to be absolutely perfect – including one with slush and mud. As I drove on, I recalled how I had beaten myself up about my teaching. That, I realized, was like calling the slush “ugly” or a certain passing wind a “bad wind”. I was what I was today – not good or bad, but simply a teacher living in each present moment. Like the wind, I was something new each moment (as were my students) – not a better or worse teacher, just a new and different one. My teaching today was like a single tree in a forest in the Rocky Mountains. Would we say it was a good tree or a bad one, a beautiful tree or an ugly one? Wouldn’t we just try to appreciate it for what it is? And shouldn’t I try, each day, to appreciate the teaching and learning that happens in my classroom without constantly labeling, making judgments, and coming down on myself?

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