Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Tao of Teaching Revisited

(From notes I posted on Facebook about 7 years ago whose ideas I return to time and again.)

Lao Tzu says 
Color Factory
be "careful as someone crossing an iced-over stream.
Alert as a warrior in enemy territory.
Courteous as a guest.
Fluid as melting ice.
Shapable as a block of wood.
Receptive as a valley.
Clear as a glass of water.

Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?"

I want to be careful with my students, 
since they are young and vulnerable. I want to be alert to all that is happening in my classroom at any moment. I want to be courteous, always using the language of respect. I want to be fluid, prepared to change as the day and needs of my students change - deliberately, not wildly. Shapable as a block of wood ... I want to be willing to change, but not without purpose. Receptive as a valley - I want to create a place where young growth can thrive. Clear as a glass of water, that learning travels through me and I don't muddy it up or get in the way. The patience to wait til the mud settles  - The perfect description of waiting for students to come to attention.

Lao Tzu says
"What is rooted is easy to nourish.
What is recent is easy to correct.
What is brittle is easy to break.
What is small is easy to scatter."

Many students are not rooted, or their roots are weak, grown in harsh soil and rough conditions. It is not easy to nourish their spirits. How can they take in lessons of community and trust, let alone lessons about math and reading, when they are not rooted?

But they are young, and therein lies the hope. The older a child gets, the harder it is to correct their learning and help them find the right path in life. What is recent is easy to correct. What has been their whole lives may be harder to correct.

What makes something brittle? If a child hasn't had what they need, their spirit may well be brittle, their feelings may be brittle. They are vulnerable, more vulnerable than I sometimes remember in the heat of the moment. They break easily, and that is not a good thing.

Children are like tiny plants or seeds. So much potential, but to grow, they need tenderness and careful attention. What is small is easy to scatter. But perhaps scattering is not what they need. 

"The Master views the parts with compassion
because he understands the whole."

The wise teacher views all the parts of a child's personality with compassion, all their quirks and challenging behaviors, because she understands the whole child, the big picture.

"The Master allows things to happen.
She shapes events as they come."

The wise teacher is flexible and allows for teachable moments. She takes advantage of unexpected and organic learning opportunities.

"She steps out of the way
and lets the Tao speak for itself."

There's nothing I can add.

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