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 email@example.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.
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.
Our 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:
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.
by Virginia Satir
the greatest gift
I can conceive of having
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
When this is done,
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.”
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
In 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.
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.