Saturday, April 25, 2015

Tripping Over Stones

I wasn't entirely surprised when my fourth graders nutted up on me.  It was that time of year. Spring Break was a memory and summer vacation was a dream. My students forgot how to do everything, line up, put their name on their papers, what a verb was, and don't even get me started on fractions. My dearest, sweetest students became surly and defiant. And talking back was apparently a new indoor sport.

I didn't help. I did everything wrong. I was a perfect example of what not to do. I chastised, reprimanded, called parents and passed out stickers and candy like a demented Mr. Candy Man.  Then I nutted up with them. Room 17 was not a fun place to be. I broke my hard and fast rule about what to do when things go south. Don't do the same thing harder, do something new.

In the middle of a what-the-hell-am-I-going-to-do moment I remembered a story about the king and queen of heaven. It teased the edges of my consciousness and although I didn't think it had anything to do with the price of tea in China, I told the story. The queen of heaven watches the same beggar struggle everyday. She can't bear to see his suffering and asks her husband to do something. "I could drop a bag of gold at his feet. It wouldn't do any good though."  When she can't bear it anymore and she begs the king of heaven to do something. The king of heaven drops a bag of gold on the path in front of the beggar. Sure enough the beggar glanced at it, stepped around it and said, "Man, sure glad I saw that rock before it tore up my raggedy shoes."

Stories have power. This one didn't entirely fix things, but dang if it didn't help. We talked about the story and all the many ways they don't see the gold being handed to them. More than a few of them made the connection to themselves and the gifts they were not seeing that I am doing my level best to give.  Through out the week I would retold the story to them or told it for another teacher. Every time I told it I had the distinct feeling that I was missing something, something I needed to hear.

I was fretting and fuming about my class one afternoon when my teammate asked me what good I thought it did. OK, none, but what was the point. Then I remembered another part of the story.  The queen is determined that something should be done. The king, however, recognizes that not everyone is ready to see the blessings that are dropped in their path and accepts that.

Two things happened when my ears finally heard what my mouth said.  I took a deep breath and calmed my hot self down and I stopped pushing.  I did the best I could with my young scholars then let go. The key was non attachment. When I am attached to an outcome, that a certain thing must happen a certain way it becomes about me and my ego. It becomes about fear, fear that I'm not enough, I need to do better, I'll lose my job. That's a big one these days.  The more attached I am the more insecure I become. Fear breeds fear. It robs me of joy and blinds me to my own bag of gold.  Instead of celebrating the wealth that is in front of me I'm tripping over stones that aren't really there.

It's not easy, the whole non attachment thing. I work at it because fear is constrictive. It shuts off the flow of inspiration, the magic of creation. I teach because I care passionately about my students and about education.  I am more effective if I can maintain that passion with non attachment.  It's not about me. Fear would have me believe the lie. Non attachment would have me believe the truth. There is more than meets the eye, more then we can see. Non attachment keeps me open to possibilities and new imaginings. It allows me to enjoy the wilderness experience of being human without needing to control it.  It's either fear or love baby. I'm working on love. I hope you are too.


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