While the rest of the working world may find the turn of the calendar year in January to be the “new year,” for those of us who teach, renewal comes in August and September, maybe after a summer vacation or holiday. While the practice of tying our school year to the rhythms and routines of our agrarian past may be on the wane, we still, for the moment, have a collective sense of starting over at this time of year.
In my early teaching career one of my colleagues pointed out to me that the thing they loved most about teaching was the many ways that we get to start over. School years end, semesters end, school lessons, days, units, weeks and months all conclude and you get to try again. We get to start fresh: sometimes with new students, new colleagues, a new building or curriculum. There is a constant opportunity to reinvent yourself, to get better, to try again, to learn from experience, get more information and try something new.
What better affinity could we find with our meditation practice? After all, the great grace of mindfulness is that we have the opportunity in any given moment to start over. In trying again, we can loosen the habitual ties of thinking that bind us to outdated views of our students, our colleagues and community and even (maybe especially) our selves). We are all beings in motion. Not the same two days in a row. Beginning fresh with each encounter can be the basis for a whole school year’s worth of practice.
So, as you settle into your new routines for 2010-2011, set your intention for mindfulness. Commit or recommit yourself to your personal practice and to the renewal that mindfulness can bring to each day. Find ways to bring your practice to your classroom and your students, if that feels like a logical next step. Support your intention by reading something new in the field of mindfulness in education. Take a class. Attend a talk or weekend retreat. Connect with a group of like-minded people to help you process what you are learning and support your efforts.
And let’s not forget our students. Students too, need a fresh start. They change so fast. It is our job to be recruited to their effort, to support their growth, find what is new, encourage the emergent next developmental stage that they are becoming. So often a student’s return to school represents a literal return that puts them back into a box where they are already labeled, judged and found lacking. Unlucky little ones cannot escape their reputations from years past and are stuck in a kind of perpetual war to get adults and peers to see that they are actually not the same year to year. Can we find a way to see them anew, too and to encourage the growth that we see without making them feel bad about their past? We are called to do this for each and every one of them. Let’s make this part of our practice this year, to see the child in front of us as they are, uncluttered by our judgments and feelings, changing every moment, hoping for renewal, just like we are.