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Lightness of Being

Posted by on in Social Emotional Learning
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woman flying

“Look upon the world as you would upon a bubble” said the Buddha in the Way of Truth, “look upon it as a mirage.”  

In a good dream, I am flying. Soaring high and free. In a not-so-good dream, my flight is wrought with struggle. I go up and down, my arms flailing. It's the inevitable pull of gravity. In a nightmare, I am paralyzed and stuck entirely.

In education we are so serious, so grounded all the time. We don’t tolerate lightheartedness either. Perhaps it’s because we think effectiveness is serious business.

DISCIPLINE. ACHIEVEMENT. ADVANCEMENT.

Sometimes I worry that if I laugh or try to make light of our situation, I'll be accused of being less-than-intelligent. There’s also guilt. The important work of schooling especially if we care about children requires shouldering responsibility, hard work, demanding hours, self-sacrifice, no-nonsense. There is no time for fun, or for frivolousness when we are SAVING LIVES.

Nasrin Jafari describes the hallways at one school like this: 

The students walk in silent, single-file lines, carefully monitored by adults. They walk to the end of the hall, flank at the corner and walk back up the hall to enter their next classroom. In class, teachers read off scripted lesson plans and students snap their heads every few seconds to track the person who is speaking. Anyone who talks out of turn is docked points.

Honestly, if I were in that space — it would be a nightmare.

I visited a mentor in a school one day. We observed a first grade teacher together. In the debrief I asked, “Did you notice she didn’t smile once throughout the lesson?” She blinked then replied, “I didn’t notice."

Just yesterday I was entangled in a meeting. There was tension over the precise definition of academic vocabulary, language and how to assess a teacher’s practice according to standards. The whole time I kept thinking, just stop it. Our narrow focus was hurting my sensibilities.

A spiritual master once told me that the purpose of all knowledge is to move from the visible to the invisible. What does that mean? Does it have something to do with the joyful flight of space— in other words, the importance of lightness of being?

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Dr. Raquel Ríos is an educator, consultant and author of the book Teacher Agency for Equity: A Framework for Conscientious Engagement (Routledge, 2017). She has worked nationally across the US and internationally in Spain, the United Arab Emirates and Puerto Rico. Currently, she is an Instructional Designer at New Teacher Center, a national resource on mentoring and coaching for teacher effectiveness located in Santa Cruz, California. She lives and works out of New York City. 

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Guest Saturday, 18 November 2017