Sure, I typed one more letter. I answered one more phone call. I made one more widget. But the best I could say every day is that, each and every day, I was making my bosses richer.
Teaching is hard. The classes are huge, the salary makes it difficult to make ends meet, the support from above is negligible, money is always tight, supplies are often hard to come by, and my audience, though captive, is often resistant to what I have to give.
But from the first day I left my cubicle in Corporate America and went back into a classroom, I knew I was making a difference. Helping. Creating a ripple effect that would last into successive generations. As the cliché goes, I knew I was “touching the future.”
So even though I headed to bed much later and was more exhausted, the answer to the question, "What have I accomplished today?" made me much happier. By then, I knew that teaching was not just a job, but my calling; it was a spiritual pursuit. Knowing this allowed me to sleep easier. I was helping kids, contributing to society, preparing students for their lives.
And what's more important than that?
Teachers are overwhelmed these days by huge classes, lacks of funds, misguided administrators, top-down management, and all kinds of circuses that have come to town (think: PLCs, Common Core, and the like) that distract us from our sacred mission. But we have no control over that. Those are the things we must let go.
What we do have control over, though, is how we think, how we react, and what we choose to do in the classroom. It is imperative that we refocus on a more simple approach to our teaching methods and work toward a more minimalist approach to learning. As the state, district, and politicians pile on to what a teacher is expected to do, The Zen Teacher doesn't continue to add on, but reduces, simplifies, streamlines, focuses, subtracts. Using a laser-focused minimalism, The Zen Teacher reduces teaching and learning to its essence. In short, The Zen Teacher is mindful of what happens in the classroom.
Watching the light go on in the head of a student who has been struggling with a concept and finally “gets” it is not only my favorite part of the job, it’s one of my favorite moments in life. The Zen Teacher not only focuses on that illumination as the desired (even expected) outcome, but eliminates anything that distracts from that result.
Teaching is one of the most important pursuits on the face of the planet. I'm grateful and lucky to have been doing it for over two decades. I'm also lucky to have discovered this approach, lucky to consider myself a Zen Teacher.
I can’t imagine doing anything else. TZT