Who was your most beloved teacher? How have your brought their spirit to your work?

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My middle school Spanish teacher, Mr. B.

I recently attended a speech by David Brooks, author of The Road to Character.
David shared a reader’s response to an article he wrote about teaching morality in the classroom. The reader, Dave Jolly, wrote “The heart cannot be taught in a classroom, or by a luncheon speaker. What a wise person says is the least of what they give . . . Never forget. The message is the person.” Each of us has had teachers, mentors and benefactors who have shown the path not only through their guidance but through their presence and their passion. This served as our evening’s exploration.


Our third gathering of Teachers Sitting By A Fire took place on Thursday, July 13. We will meet on five evenings throughout the summer of 2017 including 7/30 and 8/20. To learn more, contact Marc Balcer at marc@yourmindfulcoach.com. This group is dedicated to providing a safe, comfortable atmosphere to join together and connect with the experience of working in the field of education.

Introduction

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

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  • Centering – We arrive in the present moment to share.
  • Gathering – We offer our presence to the group.
  • Connecting – We listen deeply to each other’s stories.
  • Releasing – We let go of ways that no longer serve us and redirect our energy to what nourishes our hearts. 
  • Serving – We take insights with us and share them with others.

Centering

SAM_1218Our opening mindfulness practice was a simple focused breathing practice. In this particular practice, we noticed the formations of our mind: thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations as well as any focus on the future or past. We took these and placed them on a “virtual shelf,” returning our attention to the sensation of breath, knowing we can always come back to them later. I’ve included a similar “noting” meditation below for practice:

Gathering

We began by asking each other the question, What’s on your shelf? as a way to open the conversation and a practice of Loving-Kindness as a way to open our hearts. In this practice, we combine words, images and feelings to produce an inclination towards kindness and care for ourselves and others. Through regular practice, our hearts open and we begin to recognize the interconnection we have with all beings. We offered the phrases, “May you be seen. May you be comforted. May you be loved” to our teachers and our mentors.

 

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Making Contact
by Virginia Satir

I believe
the greatest gift
I can conceive of having
from anyone
is to be seen by them,
heard by them,
to be understood
and touched by them.
The greatest gift
I can give
is to see, hear, understand
and to touch
another person.
When this is done,
I feel
contact has been made.

One participant shared how this poem recalled the Prayer of St. Francis, “let me not seek as much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.

Connecting

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Me, my son Ben and my high school cross country cross, Mr. Haury after a 5k race this summer.

Our guiding question for the evening was “Who was your most beloved teacher?” We spent 10 minutes writing and then each story was read aloud by another participant. Some qualities we noted in our teachers:

  • How they lived their passion
  • How they responded to their students
  • How they treated others
  • How they noticed my work
  • How they helped me find my voice

Releasing

sgbp750.jpgIn pairs, we reflected on another question, “What did these teachers model for you that you bring to your classroom?” How can we bring their spirit to our work?

Given the inclement weather, our fire was just a candle. So no releasing our stories into that fire. Instead each participant rung a bell and passed it along as a way for their voice to be heard one last time.

Serving

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

At our next gathering, I hope to explore the moments of transformation and inspiration we saw in our students last year.


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

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What ignites your passion?

Our second gathering of Teachers Sitting By A Fire took place on Thursday, June 29. We will meet on five evenings throughout the summer of 2017 including 7/13, 7/30 and 8/20. To learn more, contact Marc Balcer at marc@yourmindfulcoach.com. This group is dedicated to providing a safe, comfortable atmosphere to join together and connect with the experience of working in the field of education.

Introduction

Connections-Index.jpg

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

  • Centering – We arrive in the present moment to share.
  • Gathering – We offer our presence to the group.
  • Connecting – We listen deeply to each other’s stories.
  • Releasing – We let go of ways that no longer serve us and redirect our energy to what nourishes our hearts. 
  • Serving – We take insights with us and share them with others.

Centering

“Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees.” – Robert Irwin

We practiced a guided awareness meditation, opening senses and allowing the sounds, smells, and sights of our environment to become part of the experience. We closed with the following words:

Keeping Quiet
by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve

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Pablo Neruda

and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Gathering

We began by asking each other the question, What do you bring with you tonight? Along with the joy of transition to summer, memories of meaningful work this year, there was concern about the pressure, anxiety, and sometimes depression, held by our students.


Below is an excerpt from La Poesia, a poem written Pablo Neruda with an English translation from David Whyte. Neruda describes the passion and energy generated as he sat down to compose his first poem.

And something ignited in my soul,
fever or unremembered wings,
and I went my own way,
deciphering
that burning fire,
and I wrote the first bare line,
bare, without substance, pure
foolishness,
pure wisdom
of one who knows nothing,
and suddenly
I saw the heavens
unfastened
and open.
y algo golpeaba en mi alma
fiebre o alas perdidas, 
y me fui haciendo solo, 
descifrando 
aquella quemadura
y escribí la primera línea vaga, 
vaga, sin cuerpo, pura 
tontería, 
pura sabiduría 
del que no sabe nada
y vi de pronto
el cielo 
desgranado 
y abierto.

Connecting
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After reflecting on passion through poetry, each participant chose a partner for a mindful practice, “Tell Me What You Love“. We identified the common humanity of our experience as we related to the passions of another.


Our guiding question for the evening was “What ignites your passion?” In particular, stories of encounters with students were shared. Each story was read aloud by another participant. Some offerings:

  • The memory of students begging to do a favorite activity over and over.
  • A weaker student who built confidence and ultimately helped support a stronger one.
  • The excitement of a student learning something new.
  • The subtle discoveries that became the most important.

Releasing

In pairs, we reflected on another question, “What dampened your passion?” and contrasted that with the factors that ignited our passion. How can we incline and support ourselves to come in to contact with the sustaining quality of passion? One model comes from the story of the Two Wolves,

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 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.

 

 

Serving

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

At our next gathering, I hope to explore the influences that shaped us as teachers and educators.

  • Who was your most beloved teacher?
  • What did they model that you bring to your own teaching?

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

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