This issue originally published as A Course for Teachers
Recently, I had a class with many conflicting personalities. Geared to meet the individual educational needs of each student, the goal of the class was to raise every student's skill in mathematics. Designed to accommodate a maximum of ten students, the class enrollment was approaching twenty. Many of the egos were bursting at the seams. Class management was difficult. Many of the students continuously projected upon others those characteristics that made it difficult for them to learn. It was always, "He's making noises." "I hate Susie." "He's rude." "She talks too much." "What are you looking at?" "I can't stand her." Or, the classic, "It's his fault." My intention was to use the class as an opportunity to practice techniques of conflict resolution by choosing miracles instead of following the ego.
Why do some students verbally abuse others when they are looked upon askance? Why do students blurt out in defense of one side or another? Why is there name calling? Why the constant tension and friction? A Course in Miracles states, "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, which is equally variable." The conflicts in the classroom come about from individual egos who perceive the other's ego as threatening. There may be many fearful people in a class. It is almost as if individual egos immediately size up and judge others on the slightest evidence. The mass media in the United States does not help. The American "put-down" is standard comedic fare. Judgment is based upon comparisons. A Course in Miracles further states that the world of illusions is based upon a perceived lack in ourselves. As a defense mechanism, we project these feelings of inadequacy onto others. The ego believes that it is always right. It is impossible for it to see itself as being at fault or inadequate. It plays the role of god, a supreme being without error, omission, or contradiction.
The students in my class (and I dare to suggest most classes and people) are unaware of their internal operating mechanisms. The resolution of their conflicts is directly related to coming to terms with their ego-self and its illusions. The task of the teacher is not only to improve the relationship between him or herself and the student but, to do so in a manner where the student can accept information and guidance relative to their own ego operation. In other words, in order for students in this class to learn, the conditions for learning must improve. The probability that this can happen increases with a shift in the teacher-student relationship from a special to a holy place.The Holy Place
A holy place is one without limitations. There are no barriers, no preconceived notions. A Course in Miracles states, "When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him you will see yourself. As you think of him you will think of yourself. Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose yourself." The holy relationship creates the conditions conducive for the students to raise their relationship with themselves in similar fashion.
Self-esteem is the reputation one has with oneself. Like the relationships that we form with others, dealing with ourself takes time, effort and constant vigilance. The ego is always aware of the current state of the mind. We can and should be aware of the current state of both the ego and the mind. Then we can choose the calling of the Inner Voice of calm over the clamoring of the ego.
Young people have few guides when it comes to the workings of the ego. The vast majority are unaware that the mind is split. In an effort to protect itself, the ego is always willing to blame someone else. To the ego, projection is protection. One morning in homeroom, a few minutes before the bell announced the beginning of the day, three students slipped out into the hallway. I called one by name. His response was not, "Sorry" as he walked in or, "I shouldn't be out here." It was, "I'm not the only one out here." As if catching all three of them, but calling only one by name exonerates the incorrect behavior.
This kind of projection does very little for developing self-esteem. Of course, the ego couldn't care less about self-esteem. A holy relationship with a teacher, again one without preconceived notions or barriers, affords the opportunity to get the point across that, "There is no limit on your learning because there is no limit on your mind." A Course in Miracles further states, "The ego cannot teach you anything as long as your will is free, because you will not listen to it. It is not your will to be imprisoned because your will is free. That is why the ego is the denial of free will."
With my difficult class, I could easily see the automatic pilot, the ego at work. Free will suggests that students need not respond in knee jerk fashion to other's comments, actions or looks.The Holy Encounter
The mathematics department considered splitting the class in two. I devoted two class sessions to stating the problem and asking for suggestions for resolution. I tried my best to maintain a holy relationship with each and every student. One of the more disruptive people in the class suggested that dividing the class would be akin to running away from the problem. His remarks are consistent with the results of my survey published in the December, 1993 issue of A Course for Teachers. He knows the problem is an internal one. When he dropped the guard of his ego the rest of the class dropped their ego coaching as well. They recognized what he was doing. They chose a better way.
I believe the class had what A Course in Miracles might call a Holy Encounter. At that moment, a miracle took place. Yet, this miracle could happen any time. Any of the students can create the miracle any time they want. We are, all of us, miracle workers. I could sense the feeling of freedom that many students felt. They recognized that one student offered the class a gift. "Healing reflects our joint will. Healing is the way in which the separation is overcome.".
There are scores of opportunities that a school day presents where we are given choices: to follow the clamoring of the ego or the Inner Voice of healing. We may always choose the path of healing. If we closely examine our motivation for not choosing healing, we would discover that:
It was out of stubbornness or spite that we did
Occasionally, we experience a second sense, a gut feeling that clues us in to the small Inner Voice trying to make its way out of the ego noise. Recently, I took notice of such a small calling from the Inner Voice. I passed a colleague in the hallway whom my ego kept telling me was cold. "She never says hello" I initiated a greeting, then asked a few questions about how things were going. I asked about the family. She seemed genuinely grateful for my interest. The ego would say, "This person has something against me." The Inner Voice might say, "I can do something about it." Thus, I resolved a small conflict.
Changing the Mind
As teachers, we often try to modify behavior. Yet, changing behavior is not the same as changing the mind. While it is true that changed behavior makes our teaching easier and more pleasant, it is usually short lived in the absence of a changed mind (and little learning takes place by the now "behaving" student). Changing a mind that then leads to changed behavior is not only much more effective, but becomes a tool that the student can use to be joyous. A changed mind, one whose change for joy is deliberate, is liberated and in control.
Imagine the student who normally reacts to other's insults or name calling in kind. Imagine that student recognizing that, "This need not be." The student can drop the emotion from within, choosing instead, "This need not be." The student responds with thoughts of atonement.
We need to expose students to the idea that they are in control of the way they feel. They are in charge of the thoughts that they have. We need to say. "Watch your mind for the temptations of the ego, and do not be deceived by it. It offers you nothing. When you have given up this voluntary dis-spiriting, you will see how your mind can focus and rise above fatigue and heal."The Curriculum
Life has an uncanny way of presenting us with situations and difficulties at the right moment to move us to the next level of growth. Nothing happens without a reason. While writing the first draft of this issue of A Course for Teachers, I received a mailing about a one-day seminar entitled, "Dealing with Conflict and Confrontation."
The brochure stated that conflicts are inevitable, but anger, grudges, hurt and blame are not. It further stated that conflict produces change, leads to unity and promotes compromise. Wishing for relationships without conflict is requesting a fantasy where there is no room for personal and spiritual enlightenment. It is the ego at work.
There are many paths to enlightenment. A Course in Miracles is one such path. It states that only the time we put into the curriculum is voluntary. It takes effort to stay on our chosen path. Interestingly, most paths stress the importance of being conscious of our actions and motivations. Necessary exercises of free will occur when we choose a course that maintains this awareness. It leads to the understanding that, "Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists."The Laws of Chaos
A Course in Miracles describes the ego as following the laws of chaos. Briefly, there are five laws. Paraphrased, they are:Since the ego is the voice of separation, the truth is different for everyone.
The ego sees us as unworthy and lacking, always wanting and cherishing what it gets, always on guard. Therefore, we see ourselves as deserving attack. We cannot escape chaos. Our unworthiness is eternal. We only gain by someone else's loss. Chaos and the voice of the ego will protect and save us. Following the laws of chaos makes us safe.
When the laws of chaos are closely examined along with our own attacks and ego defenses, we see that we do indeed follow these laws every time we are in conflict and exhibit anger, fear and hatred. Surely, my students do so when they "go at each other." Recognizing that they (and we) follow the laws of chaos is the first step to undoing them. The ego would have us believe that undoing the laws is letting down our guard, opening ourselves up for further loss. The ego is wrong.Undoing Chaos
Chaos is madness. When in a rage, we are for the moment insane. We have lost control. We continue to lapse into temporary insanity believing attack is justified because we are convinced that the laws of chaos protect us. The ego deviously strives to reinstitute the laws of chaos. It waits for every opportunity to place belief in chaos into our mind when our guard is down. Whenever a conflict erupts, one of the parties can easily defuse it by recognizing that following the laws of chaos is an illusion. It never gains us anything. Choosing to perform a miracle is the undoing of chaos. Everyone is a teacher of miracles whenever they practice performing a miracle.
Where is there time in the busy day for teaching the performance of miracles? Consider the priorities we place on academics, sports, social interaction, and spiritual growth? We teach by example. We can practice performing miracles on a daily basis. We can incorporate the ideas of forgiveness, not judging in all our daily relationships.Another Example
A student in my study hall wrote the following. He wanted to know what I thought of it. I use it with permission and with acknowledgment.
How Do You Do It?
© 1993 Matthew T. Pierce
Isn't school a journey in learning, as is all of life's adventures? I'm kept in wonder how others view our path through high school learning. I ask all of my fellow students how they perceive their school life, and what they use to best deal with so many aspects of their own social learning!
We know that no two snowflakes are the same, right? I'm also fairly sure no two students deal with their problems the exactly same way. I, of course, have created systems and values or philosophies that I base my perception of my experiences from school life and abroad.
What I've learned from many teachers throughout the last few years in coordination with high school learning has assisted me with many of the problems and situations which occur during the school years. There are many ways that all of us may use to deal with our situations, and they vary from the extremely exotic to the far conservative.
Many, if not all, of my teachers have taught me such things as patience, compromise, and many flavors of discretion. They say patience brings peace of mind when dealing with any given situation. They say compromise creates less friction when dealing with conflict. They say using discretion enables one to know when to act on all situations.
They say these values are tools for life, and you know, I believe they're right!
These three practices are not the only values that you or I may use. There are sure to be an endless amount of different things we individually do, to ensure a more positive, welcoming path to friendship and success, within our high school, and all of our life's experiences.
We all do our best in the one life we know of, so I give my respects and best wishes with love, Have a nice day!
COME PROSPER WITH ME IN THE OPEN SEA,
This is the fifth issue of Volume 1 of A Course for Teachers. As writers and publishers of the newsletter, we find that you teach best that which you most need to learn. Producing the newsletter allows us to keep in focus the ideas and techniques we aspire to and practice.
We are grateful for our subscribers in eight states and two countries. We look forward to hearing from you. We wish you a new year of love, learning and miracles.