Why did I become a teacher?

Our first gathering of Teachers Sitting By A Fire took place on Monday, June 12. We will meet on five evenings throughout the summer of 2017 including 6/29, 7/13, 7/30 and 8/20. To learn more, contact Marc Balcer at marc@yourmindfulcoach.com.

This new group will be dedicated to providing a safe, comfortable atmosphere to join together and connect with the experience of working in the field of education. This group was inspired by a desire among our colleagues to reflect and discuss with our peers as well Parker Palmer’s work including The Courage to Teach, Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teachers Life.


Each meeting will be organized into sections that bring us together for a time of true fellowship and connection. This model is based on the Five Touchstones:

  • CenteringShow Up and Observe, We arrive in the present moment to share.
  • GatheringShow Up and Get Together, We offer our presence to the group.
  • ConnectingShow Up and Share, We listen deeply to each other’s stories.
  • ReleasingShow Up and Let Go, We let go of ways that no longer serve us and redirect our energy to what nourishes our hearts. 
  • ServingShow Up and Act, We take insights with us and share them with others.


We begin with a guided mindfulness meditation to connect with our breath, our body and our senses, closing with a poem.

The Journey by Mary Oliver


One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried,
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations
though their melancholy
was terrible.

It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.




We begin by asking each other the question, What brings you here? Participants suggested the opportunity to come out of the “tiny world” in which we teach when the door is closed and reflect on the big questions that get lost in the shuffle of responsibilities and busyness during the school year. Participants also looked forward to bringing mindfulness to their experience through practice.

We closed our eyes to engage in mindful practice together using a meditation inspired by Deepak Chopra. This practice, offered below as a guided meditation, includes three questions,

Who am I?
What do I want?
How can I serve?


apple1Our guiding question for the evening was “Why did you become a teacher?” Participants spent five minutes writing their story and placing it in a basket. The basket was passed and then each story was read aloud by another participant. Some common themes:

  • A lifelong interest in teaching supported by trusted friends and family.
  • A call to teach that was unexpected and life altering.
  • A passion to connect with learners.
  • School as a place of comfort, support and caring.


As we moved toward closure, we encircled the fire and released our stories, both literally and figuratively. The fire is a symbol of our connection, our energy and  universal experience of being a man and being a human being. Through this releasing, we let go of the stories that may not serve us and make room for on our path of discovery and mindfulness.

The following poem, composed in memory of Archbishop Oscar A. Romero, reflects on the impermanence and uncertainty of our experience as well as the faith and trust that a teacher brings to the development of children.

A Future Not Our Own by Ken Untener

It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of
saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession
brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives include everything.

This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one
day will grow. We water the seeds already planted
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s
grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not
messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.


d2e6555dcf412db7bcb4928d14ea64c5How do we bring this experience to the world? I look forward to hearing your reflections as we build a fellowship and extend our friendship.

Some questions for reflection in our upcoming meetings include,

  • What stands out from the year of teaching?
  • What are the teachable moments that you carry with you?


Teachers Sitting By A Fire is an offering of Your Mindful Coach and led by Caroline Feldman and Marc Balcer.


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