Teaching as a Spiritual Path
in 9 Steps (so far)…
1. not based on or conforming to what is generally done or believed by tradition, but through the ever new search for sincerity and truth
It is a blessing to teach at an unconventional school. I have been free to set an intention of creating an environment that nurtures the individual with deep acceptance, while inviting growth through working with others. The fruit of this intention has come in stages.
I believe the direction that you will set for yourself as a teacher will come from your own experiences and heart whisperings — not by conforming to others’ ideals or only by study. However, in case it is useful to anyone, I have outlined the development that I have observed in myself and in my students over the past 6 years.
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These words from Abraham Lincoln accurately describe the initial shock of my first year or three as a teacher:
“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” – Abraham Lincoln
Pushed forward by necessity and through the grace of God, I sought help and guidance from prayers of desperation, my guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, mentors, and meditation. At night, for a whole year, I slept with the book Education for Life by Donald Walters under my pillow, praying that I might receive some kernel of wisdom that would not just get me through the day, but make me a better teacher, parent, and a better human. I received inspiration to continue teaching. This is what I have observed in myself and my classroom since:
You begin to desire deeply to be able to accept children where they are. You make a heartfelt promise within yourself to nurture and respect the children’s highest potential as expressions of their souls, even if you are not sure how to. You may not yet be able to feel successful at this during the school day, so you energize the desire into action by connecting with their souls in quiet meditation times.An energetic connection will be created between teacher and child when the teacher commits to practicing greater awareness through mindfulness, and appropriate verbal and nonverbal communication. This connection will result in deep trust on a soul level, the basis of any relationship.
- Magnetizing the Light
Some individuals in your class will become magnetized in this environment. These students will automatically be drawn to each other. Over time, you will learn to create opportunities that help these light energies connect with each other. As you commit yourself to this light, not allowing your attention to be pulled away by the heavier, often louder, more emotional, or stagnant energies, you will nurture moments of strong, positive, creative magnetism in the classroom that will result in moments of upliftment for all the energies represented in your classroom to varying degrees.(See Tools of Maturity and Specific Gravity)
- Investing Energy in Each Other
Simultaneously, you will guide the expansion of trust between students through cooperative activities, group discussions, role playing, etc. An awakened group consciousness forms from individuals who resonate with the energy of acceptance and expansion. You will know that you have achieved this when students feel free to share their feelings, experiences, and work without fear of rejection. (See Flow Learning)
- The Power of Observation
One day, your desire to be able to accept others where they are will progress because you notice that you have ceased wishing things or individuals to be different than they are. You recognize that you have the ability to deeply observe the students’ behavior and realize these are important clues for working with their energy.
- Self Discovery & Reflection
The positive, creative energy of the group that you have been working on magnetizing, will now regularly pull all its members up to their highest potential and take on direction of it’s own. It will feel like you are all on a trip together. The energy to hold the class together will not be on your shoulders. You will be in the flow with your students guided by higher consciousness. Children who were highly negative will find themselves participating on higher and higher levels. A teacher can use moments like these to guide children to reflect on their growth.
- Accepting Your SELF
You now notice a desire to discover complete self-acceptance of your Self and you communicate this heartfelt desire in silent meditation or prayer often. You practice being grateful for your mistakes and modelling vulnerability. Through this practice, you begin to see experiences in the classroom as an outside observer, not as things that are happening to you personally. What may have seemed to be YOUR mistakes before, were just experiences imprisoned by your ego. Now that you are letting go of this thinking, these experiences are are free to evolve into healing and special moments for others.
- Mistakes are Opportunities
You now begin to model mistake making to your class and you openly acknowledge when you do make a mistake. Children join you by applauding mistakes. In a classroom where positive and creative group energy is allowed and nurtured, where mistakes are viewed as opportunities, inner qualities, life skills and personal development, physical, emotional, and mental growth all have equal importance and are reflected in your daily curriculum. For example, being kind or helping a friend is just as important as learning to read. Or, the benefits of experiencing silence, or the wonders of nature, or delighting in the beauty of patterns, are just as important as learning multiplication facts. Experiencing the independence to move the body when needed and trust oneself is as important as learning to catch a ball. And…experiencing what the memory feels like, or how to make friends, observing those skills develop, and sharing them are as important as writing and spelling. That playing is as important as everything else you do.
- Empowerment and Integrity
The individual members of the classroom group are now fully on board and committed to creating quality energy in the classroom the majority or even all the time. You see that the students become empowered learners and take their experience and education into their own hands. You and the students feel you are on a journey together. Inner qualities, personal development, and life skills become a welcomed part of daily learning.
- Achieving Educational Equilibrium
You courageously dedicate yourself to teaching the “whole” child. When you discover this educational equilibrium where learning encompasses the body, feelings, will, and intellect equally in your classroom, you observe that the spirits of the children and of yourself are being nurtured. You are flowing in the longer rhythms and enjoying life more. The children are open and they absorb learning with enthusiasm, easily and deeply. Fear, fatigue, and insecurity are fading away.
Love, joy, kindness, and wisdom are taking hold
within and without you.