A Moment of Zen

One of my favorite quotespirational phrases is this: “The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” This is two parts “D-uh!!” and one part “Oh, yeah. Great idea.” So much of a day is busy, noisy, rushed, frantic. There’s no particular reason for days to pace themselves that way except for the fact that they do. I leap from my cozy bed at 5:35 (well, trudge) and rush to the shower to perform my ablutions before wolfing down my breakfast, wishing my husband a good day and arriving at work by 7:00, maybe 7:10 to greet the students who come in early for homework help. It’s a busy and rewarding existence.

And then there was today. The students have been moody, too much drama interfering with too many deadlines and too little sleep. I can sympathize. We’ve been studying Black History Month with my own personal flair tossed in: kindness matters, and inspiration takes many forms. Today we were scheduled to have a debate over which figure most inspired them, but due to some pretty hefty distractions, I revamped the lesson plan.  Instead of a debate, we had an inspiration discussion.

The students wrote passages about their person and took the framework of understanding. For example, one normally truculent 8th grader wrote, “I understand why someone would find Neil deGrasse Tyson inspirational because of his contribution to science and learning, but I prefer Maya Angelou because her imagery and voice make me want to be a better person.”  Instead of the usual middle-school banter that greets a typical day of learning, we were all a little quieter, more reflective, and definitely kinder.

In one of the classes, a student who would usually rather clean his shoes than write, wrote a passage so tremendous the class gave him a standing ovation. “Are you a writer?” I asked him. After a lopsided grin, he quietly answered, “I guess I can’t say no anymore, so I’ll say yes.”

The most amazing thing about this day wasn’t necessarily that this student wrote for the first time, or that classmates supported each other, it was that all the lessons building up to today let them take charge of their learning. I didn’t talk much today, I just listened to them compliment each other, offer productive input, and give each other standing ovations. In other words, because I wasn’t flapping my jaws incessantly, I was able to hear their pride, feel their risk-taking, and join the spirit of the moment.

They taught me more today than I have learned in my 12 previous years of teaching. Their lesson: listen more, talk less.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: A Moment of Zen – SuZen

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