He [or she] never speaks carelessly.
[s]he works without self- interest and leaves no trace
When all is finished, the people say,
“We did it ourselves.”
I have been reflecting on this quote from the 17th verse of the Tao Te Ching and how it might apply to classroom teachers as leaders of their learning environment.The attributes above seem fitting of a guide – which we agree is what a teacher truly is.
Dr Wayne Dyer (my favourite teacher!) suggests we become an astute observer of what is taking place, then ask ourselves how, without interfering ‘…we can create an environment that will help everyone act responsibly’.
We can only view our class perceptively and intuitively know what is truly taking place by being calm and centred and allowing our inner voice to guide us. We can choose our words carefully and respond rather than react to any situation.
Often the most important lessons that we teach seemingly “leave no trace”. Their effects are not quantitative, their basis not knowledge and skills but rather feelings and self- worth. And the consequences can be life-changing. It is those students that we know we have impacted incalculably that we must hold to when we feel like giving up…when we are tired and overcome. It is for these types of lessons that most of us became teachers in the first place.
We must convey to our students that we trust their ability to figure things out. We must create a space in which students can build trust and confidence in themselves to live a life of purpose and truth and to achieve the greatness that is within them. This greatness can’t always be calculated.
By giving trust we are in turn trusted by our students.
Here are some ideas for creating such an environment (most of which you are probably already doing but that are sometimes forgotten in the busy-ness of everyday):
- Praise your students often.
- Foster co-operation rather than competition.
- Give choices and refer to behaviours that are supporting or hindering learning in order to inspire personal responsibility.
- Love and serve your students without needing anything back.
- Encourage personal improvement and reflection.
- Allow students to make as many decisions as possible.
- Speak less and suspend self-interest.
We can look to nature (also a great place to centre ourselves) to see the perfect example of giving without needing anything in return (and I need all the help I can get with this – it’s really hard):
Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth,
“You owe me.”
Look what happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.
Our service and love can light up our classrooms and our schools as well as the lives of those within them.