Mindful Teaching

Just home from watching the Martian, a fun 3-D movie, suspenseful and relaxing at the same time. It’s been a long day. I started with my 80-minute 10th grade English class — our current topic is Magical Realism — then I subbed the rest of the day in Kindergarten.

image

At the end of the Kindergarten day, the children had choice time. They got out their leggos or coloring supplies. And one boy, high energy, wanted me to read him some Frog and Toad. Always good. Then another girl joined us. We read a few more books and then the boy passed me Mindful Monkey; Happy Panda.

“Oh, I like that one,” the girl said.

I liked it too. The message was keep your mind at the same place as your activity. Monkey is not happy because his mind is always on something beyond his activity. But happiness comes from thinking about what you’re doing. When you walk, think about walking. Eat? Think about eating. Play? You get the idea. It was such a happy reminder to keep your head where your feet are. Tomorrow and yesterday are not here. Do not think about them. Think about now, this moment. It was an excellent way to end a busy and satisfying teaching day and work week.

I have been blogging every day of October. I am trying to see this ritual of writing as a mindfulness practice. I realize I have to write what interests, helps, inspires me. And not find this blog burdensome. My husband Chris is in Florida, I am working teaching, editing and writing. I have turned down a couple of substitute teaching jobs. And I am trying to be present and organized for my daughters.

Even my self-imposed challenges, like this blogging every day of October, can be a chance to practice panda mind, not monkey mind. I can keep my mind on my activity. And be alive to the present.

Last week, when I substitute taught French, I told the kids my last name was similar to the French word for present, cadeau, and today when they saw me again, one boy said, “Hi Ms. Cadeau.” And he told another teacher, “You can just call her Ms. Present.” Not a bad name. Because sometimes Ms. Present is actually in the present. There she might get lucky and find Magical Realism.

Good Advice

The head of school sent forth the 8th graders with this good advice:

1. Embrace change. Learn to love it.
2. Do good. Keep on doing good. When you see something good that needs doing, do it. Don’t wait for others. Especially do good for strangers.
3. Find your own punctuation. That means: Take moments to stop. Think. Be intentional. Eat. Laugh. Share meals.
4. Don’t be tourists. “Walking is a virtue, tourism is a deadly sin,” Bruce Chatwin said. Yes, walk in the hidden places. Dig in.
5. Be a duck-rabbit. This is from Ludwig Wittgenstein. In other words, be paradoxical; be a mystery. When people try to box you in, resist.

While Dominic A.A. Randolph addressed these remarks to soon-to-be high school students, the advice seems pertinent to creative writers, like me. As a writer, I want to    1. love new ways of writing    2. write to make the world better, kinder    3. find new ways to punctuate sentences (or not punctuate — look no period)    4. engage fully, even subjectively    5. be a writer who is paradoxical, counter-intuitive and funny

Randolph also inspired an earlier post which described 3 aspects of community: 1. Hard work 2. Passion 3. Diversity.

https://mbcoudal.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/what-is-community/

I love learning and learning about learning. Having kids and learning alongside of them (and with them) is like being in grad school and grade school at the same time. A mystery wrapped in a conundrum. A duck-rabbit. Both and.