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.

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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.

We Have To Share

This year I learned to share. And it’s been awesome.

  • I shared cars and bikes.
  • I shared office space and jobs. I subbed as a videographer for a friend on maternity leave and as a middle school English teacher at a local private school.
  • I shared my home and family with exchange students from France.
  • We are moving from a culture of rugged individualism to collaboration.

    And if you want to join the movement, here are some ideas:

    Make your expectations clear. I am so grateful to the teachers who left me very specific instructions on what to do with their classes while they were out. Yes, I have a bunch of creative curriculum ideas, but it’s best to go with their plan.

    Leave the place nice for the next person. Like, when driving a Zipcar or Enterprise car, don’t leave your OTB stubs in the front seat. I admit I am the person who did not clean up the pine needles from the Christmas tree in the back seat last week. However, I have cleaned up my own (and earlier renters’) coffee cups, parking stubs, and such.

    Skip the elequent email, pick up the damn phone. I felt slightly chastised after offering an idea for my professional organization and I wrote that in an email. But rather than get in this lengthy email swap, the president of the group picked up the phone and called me. We worked it out in no time flat. Instead of getting in this tortured email chain, we talked directly. Yay.

    It’s nice when we can play nicely. And it’s not that I don’t expect us – any of us – to have problems, we will. A collaborative journey can be way more difficult and unwieldy than a dictatorship. But ultimately, sharing is best for everyone.

    have a plan. when our exchange students came to live with us, I was worried about our ad hoc dinners. So Charlotte and I made a two-week meal plan, adding our favorites to the lineup.

    On the morning of his departure, one student said to Chris, “I like you cook.” So, you see, their English did not improve much, but their appreciation for our food did.

    So, for me, 2013 was a year to share. Now, if I could just get my darlings to share in the kitchen cleanup and the paying of bills, we’d be all right.

    Here’s a CitiBike I shared.

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    And a Thanksgiving dinner (that’s me with my brother!) Holiday dinners are a perfect time to share. Hope you get to share this Christmas with people you love and keep the love and sharing going throughout the new year!