Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Just a little patience

Last night at meditation class I taught about patience.  I had been thinking about patience as a virtue that had to with time, but when I started contemplating it last night, it took on a new meaning that has only to do with any given present moment.  When I am impatient, I am resisting whatever it is that's happening right now.  When I practice patience, I am looking directly at what's in front of me and making my decisions from there.

All the waiting, all the holding back, that is impatience too.  Patience is receiving, compassion, acceptance, welcome.  Patience is loving, paying attention.

As a meditation teacher, talking about patience is really important because people need to be patient with themselves in order to practice.  If all they time they are aspiring to be in some kind of mental silence, and impatient with themselves when they're not, it's going to be a rough ride.  In my classroom, it's the same way.

Yesterday I got so impatient with my students for not being as fully prepared as I thought they should be.  Maybe they should have been, maybe not.  My impatience just made me unhappy and ineffective.  I just refused to accept that they hadn't done what I'd asked them to do.  Amazing.

Today whatever happens, I'm hoping I can remember this universal patience that receives what there is in the present moment and responds accordingly.  I hope to be patient with my students and myself, and to experience and extend a kind of grand support from that.  We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The 5th year

I did it: yesterday, I gave quizzes in all my classes, and we meditated beforehand and while they worked I walked around with cookies.  They were polite and if it wasn't magic it was fun and it felt good to me.  I felt like I was paying tribute to my dear old teacher VanA, and that I was honoring the youth and hearts of my students.

I've been wondering if our most difficult students are easier than in previous years.  That's what it feels like to me and I'm curious if it's me, if it's them, if it's some combination.

Four years ago I had these two boys, GN and GM in one of my 9th grade classes.  I tried everything I could think of, but if those two were there, we couldn't accomplish anything.  That was my 2nd year teaching.  These were the two that came to mind when I was remembering the terrors of past years.  Behavioral nightmares, disrespectful and unwilling to do any work, distractions to the whole class, reminders of my despair*.

When I remembered them deliberately and imagined them coming into my room this year, I realized that I have just changed beyond recognition.  This job has given me patience beyond what I ever thought necessary.  It has clarified my vision, allowing me to see the tenderness and lovability of adolescents.  I have learned to observe, I have practiced not taking things personally, investing myself in the lengthy creative process of a year or four rather than the daily proof of my failure or success.

My new 9th graders are testing this version of Jesse the teacher.  That's hard, but I think it's a good sign. I can pass this test.

And people, I'm thinking all the time about the mathematics.  I've got all sorts of questions about it and ideas and inspiration about the wonders of this textbook and the mystery of good pedagogy.  But at the moment, if the relationships I am participating in and facilitating with and among my students feel safe and positive then I can work out the rest.  The relief is palpable.

Have a great weekend.  Enjoy fall.

*Just for the record, I ended up having great relationships with both these kids once I didn't teach them. They matured and GM in particular impressed me with his biting insights and sincere intelligence.