This issue originally published as A Course for Teachers
A few years ago, during a workshop on improving instruction at Burr and Burton Seminary (a private high school) in Manchester, VT, the speaker stated try as we may, we fail in our efforts to significantly improve education. We try open classrooms, closed classrooms, homogeneous and heterogeneous grouping. We study and apply Thomas Dewey, Erickson, Freud, Maslow, Madeline Hunter, all the experts. We experiment with cooperative learning. We see the student as a clean slate or possibly an Aristotelian entity awaiting our direction to recognize their inherent wisdom. We develop a common language using jargon such as "white sauce recipe" for effective instruction, closure, set theory, and so on. We address the fundamental premises under which learning takes place. "Teach to the learner in the language of the learning," becomes a buzz phrase. There are successes here and there. While some students succeed with one approach, others fail. Not much improves.
He went on to say that nothing changes until we address the issue of relationships. Until we examine how we relate as teachers and individuals to ourselves and others, little will change.
A Course for Teachers is an attempt to bring together teachers, parents, students, administrators and board members who wish to alter their relationships with each other in order to increase the probability that learning will take place. Using A Course in Miracles as a foundation, with help from the wisdom literature of the World, A Course for Teachers explores implementing these teachings in the often stressful academic environment. We invite you to share in this exploration, to learn, to teach, to contribute and to use the ideas expressed in this newsletter in the classroom and throughout your life. A Course in Miracles is but one way, one path to foster learning, improve education and contribute toward a better world. It is one approach to creating miracles in the classroom.
[The ideas represented herein are the personal interpretation and understanding of the author and are not endorsed by the copyright holder of A Course in Miracles.]First Impressions
How often have we heard the advice... "You have to let them know right away who's in charge. If you don't, they'll walk all over you."
As educators, we enter into relationships daily. What are relationships for? A Course in Miracles teaches that relationships are for bringing together. We can hardly join with our students in a positive, successful teacher-student relationship by greeting them with The Riot Act. Rarely does learning take place when antagonisms flare up. Students internalize rebellion in response to a hard line approach.
Fear can be seen as a calling out for love. Imagine if our students recognized our fear as a calling out for love responding to our request with love. There are enlightened students who sense and react with love. They are however, the exception. A Course in Miracles operates from the premise that there are but two human emotions: love and fear. It further emphasizes that the two cannot coexist. The presence of fear negates love. Likewise, when operating from a place of love, fear is not possible. Fear is the voice of the ego, of separation; love, that of the anti-ego, or joining.
Gerald G. Jampolsky in Good Bye to Guilt defines the ego as the lower part of our self, disconnected from our spiritual mind. The ego here is not defined in Freudian terms. It is an "invention of the mind...Everyone makes an ego or a self for himself, which is subject to enormous variation because of its instability. He also makes an ego for everyone else he perceives."
The "get tough "policy assumes fear and separation. It is hardly an expression of the internal Voice of Calm. "I'm not afraid", we might say, but a close examination may reveal that we are. We harbor many fears during the teaching day: students disrupting our classroom, our reputation, job security, whether we will get to the copier in time for a class. We fear certain classes and students. We may even fear coming to work. Often, we carry fear from our personal and home life into the classroom.
It might be useful to quickly jot down all the fears that pass through our mind. We can distinguish between a concern and a fear through the moment to moment awareness of our spiritual state of affairs. Most people are unaware of the present condition of their mind. The mind is a useful tool but a poor master. Spiritual is defined as our ever present mental well being or lack thereof. We often say, "He is in good (or poor) spirits." What are our spirits as we greet our students for the first time?
In contrast, concerns are valid flags prompting possible action. Fear, often accompanied by adrenaline rushes, physical tension or rigidity, is the ego's attempt to place itself into a superior safe place. The ego always protects itself, acting in self-defense. Many of us are addicted to fear, constantly on our guard. We get something out of being afraid, being on edge, being in charge, in constant control, engulfed with self-importance. We feel alive. Seldom are we taught to simply love, for that is what you are. It is doubtful, that anyone has taught our students to do so either.Making the Choice
A Course in Miracles states that nothing real can be threatened and that nothing unreal exists. We are always perfectly safe. It says that our projections make our perceptions. If we project that the world is unsafe, we get an unsafe world. When we project dignity and safety onto our students, we receive respect. We have a never-ending opportunity to choose our projections. This in turn creates our perceptions and we experience them as reality. We can always choose. A good beginning is the first day of class.
With practice, we can extend ourselves from a place of love. Even the unskilled youngster on some level responds to projections of love (or fear) in kind. Since we have a choice, why not choose that which we wish to have. We can create a love-based environment in the world of the classroom. Teaching Algebra as a loving activity increases the chances for student success. Projecting fear of the teacher or of failure does not.Chatter
Our minds are in a constant state of noise (as are the minds of our students). The voices seem to always be there. We make nonverbal judgments, scope out the competition, the hair styles, the clothes, the language. We compare, compartmentalize, accept and reject. Most times, it is the voice of the ego speaking. We have, in effect, given up power to the ego voice. Seldom does the Inner Voice of love have an opportunity to surface through the chatter.
With practice, we can monitor the voices, rejecting the callings of the ego. Listening for and to the Inner Voice as a guide, it gradually becomes louder. We can approach our students, our lesson plans, our lessons, our colleagues, ourselves, our disappointments and successes, meetings, evaluations, our drive to and from school with peace, calm, acceptance and compassion. This is the miracle.
Recently, the National Education Association advertised "More Books on Teachers & Social Change" through a mass mailing. The list of available books were:
There is not a single title addressing the issue of relationships. Are the connections between personal growth, spirituality, relationships and education taboo subjects? These topics invoke distress. Some suggest they border on religion. Yet, our teaching style, our inflection, and our disposition are external testimony to our internal belief system. Change the internal nature of what we choose to believe and the external world follows along.
A Course in Miracles lists teacher characteristics as trust, honesty, tolerance, gentleness, joy, defenselessness, generosity, patience, faithfulness and open-mindedness. "Letting them have it", on opening day is none of these. It is an attack.
A Course in Miracles states, "others do react to attack if they perceive it and if you are trying to attack them you will be unable to avoid interpreting this as a reinforcement. The only place that you can cancel out reinforcement is in yourself. For you are always the first point of your attack." Let us welcome our students to our classrooms in the spirit of love, for love is what we are.Right Teaching
A Course in Miracles reads, "A good teacher clarifies his own ideas and strengthens them by teaching them. Teacher and pupil are alike in the learning process. They are in the same order of learning, and unless they share their lessons conviction will be lacking. A good teacher must believe the ideas he teaches, but he must meet another condition; he must believe in the students to whom he offers the ideas."
We cannot believe in our students if we see everything that happens in our classroom as taking place outside of us. The classroom is not a separation of teacher and student. It is a unit. Its dynamics are based upon working together. When we accept that minds are for joining, we create the situation where everyone in the classroom becomes both the teacher and the student. Everyone we meet and every situation is an opportunity for teaching and learning.
We teach that which we need most to learn. This refers to all lessons both academic and social. When a student argues about a point in our teaching or simply gives us "grief", we usually see the student as attacking. These attack thoughts come from our own internal unresolved conflicts. We might choose to lecture about respect, dignity, proper classroom behavior or whatever. The fervor of our approach either conveys the ego's belief in separation or the Inner Voice's call for joining.
Since attack is never justified, we can let go our annoyance. With a calm disposition, we can teach our lesson. With a loving voice we can teach caring and respect by example. We can teach what we need to learn the most. This approach goes a long way to establishing the students' belief that we believe in them. Inherently, they will sense right teaching.
Altering relationships increases the probability that learning will take place. Relationships are for bringing teacher and student together. Students respond to projections of love and fear in kind. Teaching as a loving activity increases the chances for success. Our external disposition is testimony to our internal state of affairs. Teacher and student are alike in the learning process. Right teaching requires belief in the student.Resources A Course in Miracles, © 1975, the Foundation for Inner Peace, Inc., ISBN 0-9606388-2-2
Goodbye to Guilt, Gerald Jampolsky MD,
© 1985, Bantam Books, ISBN 0-0553-34574-5Welcome
Welcome to A Course for Teachers. This copy of the September 1993 issue is an updated copy. Originally, the September and the October 1993 issues were printed on a crude dot matrix printer. The entire Volume 1 has been reproduced on a high quality laser printer to make a more uniform appearance.
A Course for Teachers is published under the premise that there is a lot to learn from each other. The idea for the newsletter came about when the editor and publisher donated a kidney to his then five-year old son. While searching for calm and quiet, after completing the first reading of A Course in Miracles the night before the surgery, the Inner Voice suggested that it would a good idea to teach that which he needed to learn the most.
A Course in Miracles is one of many books, one of many paths to a peaceful, joyous and more enlightened life. It had a profound effect on the author at a difficult time in his life. It is hoped that in publishing the newsletter, he can spread a small amount of what he learned. Possibly, that will help make the planet a better place in which to live.
Please pass along A Course for Teachers to colleagues and friends. Please feel free to let us know what you think about its content. Letters are very welcome. Please share you experiences with A Course in Miracles or any other wisdom literature.
Let us remember that we are all on the same journey. On that journey, we have many choices. One of those choices involves the way in which we choose to see the world. We could choose to be joyous and grateful. We can teach that to our students and to everyone through our actions and right mindedness.