Quiet time: Check
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Mediation? Breath-watching? Reflection?? – I don’t need to search for them. They are tucked well under my skin. As I write this I at once remember Frank Sinatra’s “I’ve got you under my skin” as I also make a note to myself that I need to continue working on meditation.
As earlier, I don’t really count the time to the last second. I am more watchful of my thoughts and words. Not really sure if I have become a better meditator in these 21 days or not, but my conversations have become meditative. As I engage in conversations, I see myself engaging in conversations and what it does to me in terms of thoughts, feelings and actions. I like to call it ‘meditative conversations’.
But my meditative conversations have not exactly been serious as someone might wonder.
I share two examples here.
The first occurred when I was talking to my son. A friend of his had just become a young teacher. Curious about teaching, my son asked me, “Do you have anything like a tool-kit? What all goes in a teacher’s tool kit?” The question literally zoomed me past my two and a half decades of teaching. I saw myself sifting and searching for the tools I found most valuable:
#1 Session plan is mandatory in many institutions, but mandatory or not, goals in terms of learning outcomes should be written down for every session. It is one thing to be well-meaning and sincere. Some modifications might be needed later, but that should not prevent a teacher from making this plan. I have modified my plans a number of times depending on the students’ readiness and needs, but I never start without session-plan.
#2 Wide general awareness [not to be confused with GK]: What has worked for me is, and I would like to continue to build, is wider, richer general awareness. Good teaching requires it, and teaching in a class – whether under- or post- graduates or executives, it enriches and grounds the content and brings perspective. As teaching goes to higher levels, the content becomes more specialized and focus sharper, but if it is not complemented by this tool, much of the content remains sterile.
#3 Sense of humor, anecdotes and stories: In a way they are related to the #1. Anecdotes and stories are good illustrators and prevent class from being drab. In my experience there often is a limit to how much of story-telling can go on. Schedules tend to be tight and sessions packed with teaching objectives. Sense of humor helps like little else. Although the discussion is technical and on-point, there is nothing better than a good sense of humor that keeps the discussion alive, interest intact and spirits light.
#4 Synthesizing after analysing: Most teachers do a great job in breaking the topic down into sub-topics and further down. What must not be missed is to integrate it back again, build the whole picture again, and put it all back together again. However specialized, fragmented learning helps less than integrated learning. Striving to make that big picture, the whole in the mind of the students is one tool I never want to lose.
#5 Unconditional positive regard for student: Students might be naughty and non-responsive. Even if their behavior appears challenging or even negative, rather than interpreting it as the student’s intention to bother me, I take myself out of the picture for a moment and try to see it from the student’s place. Learning is a process they are at the center of, and rather than panicking about perceived attack on me, my regard for student helps me think about the needs, issues and challenges of the students.
Of course, after a long and lively discussion as I inwardly meditated on the universe of my teaching experience, my son informed me that initially he expected something like a list of physical objects that make the tool kit, but in the end we were both happy we had that talk.
The second occurred when I went to my Principal’s office.
I have recently joined a course at undergraduate level to pick up from where I had left a long while ago. The principal is a priest of Christian faith. I went to his office to convey my festival greetings. It was one of my few meetings with hi, and I saw myself feeling awkward because I did not know what would a proper address for him be. Should I call him Principal Father Robert? Or, Father Principal Robert? Or something else like just Father- or Principal- Robert? I decided to end the confusion by asking him. “At your age, just call me Robert.” He replied with a smile. End of all confusion, simplicity restored.
Watching my self think, feel and act is good! I do not know if it will cure me of cancer should I develop it, but it does help me have more authentic dialogue with others.
I see myself wanting to take it to the next level. What lies there? Who knows?