A Letter to Teachers about Gentleness
But whate’er you are That in this desert inaccessible, Under the shade of melancholy boughs, Lose and neglect the creeping hours of time; If you have ever looked on better days, If ever been where bells knoll’d to church, If ever sat at any good man’s feast, If ever from your eyelids wiped a tear, And know what ’tis to pity and be pitied, Let gentleness my strong enforcement be.
1.The quality of being kind, tender, or mild-mannered.
How do we become more gentle, recognize the connection between each other, and acknowledge the universality in our experience? Being a teacher, or just working in a school, we all are forced to recognize the duality of our positions. In a school everyone does more than one job; you are both teacher-student, counselor-counseled, disciplinarian-compassion giver. Maneuvering effortlessly, or it seems, between roles while maintaining mental health can be near schizophrenic; something like a performer forced to put on a performance–even though your grandfather just passed away, your father is on his deathbed, you are sure a pink slip will be on your door when you get home, or the fluctuations of the pandemic keep you in a constant state of anxiety; the show, or class, must go on. We must practice a radical gentleness and recognize the severity of the situation we are in; many of us were not taught to respect our pain, or distress, or the signals coming from our spirits that tell us we need help. We were taught to push through the pain and ignore the wounds until we go numb to them, but this paradigm must crumble beneath our new relationship to ourselves. It’s no secret many of us live w/ festering wounds that are covered by smiles to protect the feelings of other people, but eventually expresses itself through our anxiety and constant tiredness. We live in revolutionary times; an age where we are required to shift definitions and expectations. Rest is revolutionary, self care and breathing are revolutionary, taking time off, going on vacation, and saying No are all revolutionary acts that are devotions to your spirit.
Civilizing the child was not on anyone’s job description, but you discover maneuvering through the school it’s your high duty, your obligation, to give the child everything you did not receive. Because we are staging an internal revolution, we are required to perpetuate new aims in our society. These aims involve listening to our anxiety, expressing our grievances, and developing a gentleness so refined we respond with stress healthy and divinely. We must create, within ourselves, an ability to examine our internal world, to decide with confidence our next action, and stand on the decision to protect our spirits. Because we have developed internal equanimity, our kids can have the strength to trust themselves, and develop their own identity. I have discovered that most teachers are very human; there are many myths perpetuating the notion that these people are of, natural, superhuman, heroic quality. But these seem to be excuses for high work loads, never making time for ourselves, or the chronic exhaustion; the amount of energy exerted doing various tasks is exceptionally draining. However, teachers’ ability to dance between dualism 8hrs a day, 5 days a week without giving up, or going into complete despair, is superhuman. However, even Superman can’t do everything.
“For every person Superman saves, several others go without help. For every crime he stops, several others continue. For every fire he douses, several others continue to burn. Superman often does not respond when he hears emergency services on their way, relying on those first responders to handle the situation.”- Unknown
So, how does this revolution begin, every task must be given mindful attention, and performed with patient observance. Life is merely a moment; all sufferings, annoyances, grievances, joys, loves are confined within the temporality of our existence. Our lives are merely over, so we must find a way to involve ourselves deeply in the moment we have, for this moment will never come again. Without being able to check on our spiritual, mental, or emotional health, attuning to our students will be impossible. Gentleness is the beginning of learning compassion, and everyone working in a school– teachers, substitutes, operations, administration– must create time for the development of our gentleness. We live no other life than the one we are living and all our lives come to the same end.
Becoming gentle is our mission, so we can discover the compassion necessary to address our sufferings and then appreciate the beauty in our lives. Our lives are a mere instant, but our impact lives on through the people we touch, so discovering our peace is helping the world live more compassionately.
“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum has so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”-Carl Jung