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“Students Have Ears”

Published on 08/11/10
by randy

Students have ears.

Students have ears.

My daughter-in-law and I were having a conversation about education when her three year old son piped in, “Students have ears”.  I took this to mean that teachers must respect the minds of their students.  We were taken to a new place that more deeply examines the nature of the “teacher” and the nature of “student”.  It looks more into what moves us to learn.  There seems to be a recent backward trend to have the teacher impart knowledge upon the student.  The student then demonstrates comprehension and retention in some form of test and consequently receives the approval of the culture.  Yet, this seems more of an indoctrination than an awakening to deeper knowledge.

I heard my grandson say that he, too, has a mind.  A powerful teacher knows how to open the mind to new discovery.  The children come with open minds, curious to learn and dig deeper into the mystery.  A didactic approach that aims to ‘fill’ the student with knowledge (teacher as Subject, student as Object) eventually robs the student of enthusiasm.  The ‘dance’ of learning has been stifled through the illusion of a ‘right’ answer.  A true teacher is more of a ‘guide’, deeply listening to the student, identifying the obstacles the student has placed in front of discovery.  Attempting to present knowledge when the barriers to learning are strong would seem to be a wasted effort.

So how does the ‘guide’ hold the student’s interest, stimulating them to new discovery in creative response?  It would seem the first requirement is to get the student to ‘show up’.  This comes from our culture’s respect for the educational process and the evolution of our humanity through cultivation of the creative response.  Our civilization advances to the degree we desire to wake to our interconnection and the reality of imminent change.  When we realize we’re all connected, affecting our universe, we stimulate the desire to learn and ultimately contribute.  We more carefully examine how we nurture and how we harm.  Our motivation to ‘matter’ is awakened and it’s what drives us to dig deeper into our heart’s calling.  We ‘show up’.

The next step is to ‘pay attention’.  With technology’s multiple screen devices and an increasingly greedy political environment, the quality of education suffers tremendously.  Children without healthcare, without adequate diet, and those suffering from tremendous home emotional pressure are most challenged to pay attention.  Those students who’ve fallen asleep to technology’s distractive pull can barely give ten per cent attention to the teacher.  Countless books are now being released describing the dangers of the inattentive mind.  Our years of posterity, living in the economic bubble, have yielded a group of students put to sleep through TV, video games, social network distraction, cell phones and ever increasing ways to carry the mind below awareness of the ‘present moment’.  Simply put, a true teacher needs the student’s awareness.  An educational system that’s going to work well needs full attention.  Obviously, ever increasing class size greatly diminishes the capacity to hold a student’s full attention.

By definition, our ‘best’ is when we’ve ‘shown up in full attention’ to the present moment.  When we’re asleep, even partially, to the moment, we’re not at our best.  So how do we slow to open the hand of thought, to settle to the moment and awake fully to deepening our education?

The above question forces us to examine the intention of education.  Why are you a student, a teacher, and school institution?  What are we aiming for and what motivates us to participate?  As a culture, what is education about?  For some it’s about the utility of getting our youth prepared for a paycheck.  For others it’s about training our youth to think like we think.  For others it’s a competition with others, driven from pride to ‘be better than others’.  Yet, I maintain our work is to deepen our awareness to the ‘illusion of other’ as we become more and more aware of the ‘experience’ of interconnection through a cultivated educational experience that respects my grandchild’s remark that ‘student have ears (minds)’.  Our lifelong task is to stay from closing those ears, challenging the creative mind to open.

No doubt, we’re living in an increased polarized environment.  Our commercial media bombards us with ‘us vs. them’ message.  The very notion of advancing to handle ever increasing change is repeatedly beat down by those who proclaim an ability to ‘stop change’.  The very notion of creativity, collaboration and stewardship is beat down by those who beat the drum of ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’.  The stress from these repeating thoughts forever hinders our learning.  Obstacles to growth appear and we crash or crack.

Perhaps the most effective thing a guide can do is to begin a dedicated program to ‘waking up’.  Dedicate portions of the day to simply still the mind, letting go repeating thoughts, deepening awareness to ‘this moment’.  When the student really, really, really wants to ‘be here, now’, real learning happens.  When the guide has brought the student to ‘joy for the moment’, enthusiasm is the result.  It doesn’t come from the approval of others but from a deeper knowing that ‘the best’ has been touched.

If you’re a teacher, what makes a strong teacher?  How do you know you’ve done your best?  What motivates you to do what you do?  What do you think needs to happen to get the student to show up, pay attention, and to do their best?

“Zazen, which is letting go and opening the hand of thought, is the only true teacher.  This is an important point.  I have never said to my disciples that I am a true teacher.  From the beginning I have said that the zazen each of us practices is the only true teacher…… I’ve never said that I am a true teacher or that I am always right.  Whether you think I am a true teacher or not is only your opinion.  A true teacher is just not that sort of thing.  Please do not forget that the zazen of opening the hand of thought is what constitutes our true teacher and is most worthy of respect.”

from Opening the Hand of Thought by Kosho Uchiyama

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