In a department meeting this week, we opened by reading a poem by Lau Tzu. Although the translation was slightly different, here are the lines:
“Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
In discussing this poem in relation to teaching, I thought about the meaning of the teacher having compassion for him or herself.
And then, a comment someone made in a conversation on Facebook about classroom management popped into my head. It was a comment on a post by a teacher about classroom management. (Was it Jose Vilson? He often has interesting conversations about teaching going on there, so it could have been started by him…) Anyway, someone had asked for words of wisdom about classroom management. I don’t know if this was just somebody’s thought or if it’s a known quote, but someone wrote:
“It’s not about if the students like you. It’s about if they think you like them.”
Suddenly, this thought connected to Lao Tzu’s message. If the teacher does not have compassion for him or herself, the teacher will be looking to the students for approval—to see whether he or she is doing a good job. If the teacher—let’s say me, since I’ve been in this position before—if I am looking for the students’ approval of me and my teaching, then I won’t be focusing on giving the gift of compassion to my students.
There’s something confusing about this. The student’s response to learning experiences I set into motion is probably the most important element for me to keenly observe and make meaning of as the teacher… The lesson here, though, is that I should be making meaning of student responses so that I can determine next steps for their learning. Not to tell me whether I’m a good teacher or not. That’s an egocentric response on my part.
We need to have compassion for ourselves as teachers, so we can, in turn, give this to our students as they make their way through learning. Their response to us is often determined by whether they think we like them and believe in them. It’s egocentric of them, but they are the children! They are allowed this!
[image credit: tcfofbrevardnc.org]