Teaching, School, and Real Life

I want to write about teaching. I think I want to write a book about teaching as spiritual practice — in some small, small way, I think that’s what I’ve been doing here on my blog…I’ve been thinking more and more about this, and here is where I’ll try out some ideas. You can let me know what you think.

Here’s what I know: that teaching doesn’t need any more testing, and probably not even any more standards to meet either. Teaching is about human interactions. It’s about waking students up to their lives.

I tell my students every fall — I know you think that your “real life” is over here — I point to one side — and then school is over here — I point to the other side. And as long as you think that way, you’re just going through the motions. What you do in school won’t matter because you’re just jumping through hoops. 

I tell them that this is their real life, right now. It’s all we get, I say. One shot. One life. Who knows how much time we each have?

I say, I know you think your “exciting real life” starts sometime later — after you graduate, after you get into college, after you get a job. I remind them again that this is it. Their lives are happening right now.

We are reminded of this when we read Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman. It seems to hit them most powerfully when we read Whitman, “Song of Myself.”

There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

Be present now, I tell them.

Richard Rohr writes in his daily meditation:

The belief that God is “out there” is the basic dualism that is tearing us all apart. Our view of God as separate and distant has harmed our understandings of our sexuality; of our relationship to food, possessions, and money; and of our relationship to animals, nature, and our own incarnate selves. This loss is foundational as to why we live such distraught and divided lives. Jesus came precisely to put it all together for us and in us. He was saying, in effect, “To be human is good! The material and the physical can be trusted and enjoyed. This world is the hiding place of God and the revelation of God!”

He uses more Christian language than I’m sometimes comfortable with, but I think in some way, he and I are saying the same thing. Whitman is saying this same thing. This world is the hiding place of God and the revelation of God. 

Maybe you can use different language to make personal sense of this — the world is the hiding place of wonder or mystery. But what I mean by God when I use the word doesn’t reference a Being but instead lies closer to what Emerson called The Oversoul — that Divine essence that links us all together, that is within each of us.

Helping students realize they each have it? That’s what teaching needs. What it is. What it should be.

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