We have a counselor at our school who, if he ever needs a favor, I say yes before he finishes his sentence. And once, when I asked him for something, his response was, “There are people on this campus who so rarely ask anything that if they ask, I do it immediately.  And you’re one of those people.”  I told this counselor that he’s one of my favorite people at our school.  I told him I admire his direct approach, his passion, and his personal integrity. He not only loves the students, but I’ve personally watched him make some of them better people.  He has, at times and in different ways, said the same of me.  He was someone I definitely wanted in my daily professional life.

I’ll stop before this mutual smooch-fest nauseates you further, but ask yourself:  Do I work with anyone I feel that way about?  Do I spend my work life with anyone whose approach I admire, whose rhythms match, align, and gel with mine, whose presence inspires me and raises my game, making me a better teacher (and possibly better person) in the process? 

The truth is: You probably do. 

But that’s only the first step.

I challenge you to recognize those people at your school and then guard those relationships obsessively.  And I challenge you to find even more of them and make them a part of your PLN.  Not in a selfish, manipulative way, because you know you can get stuff from them, but genuinely, in a way that increases the mutual benefit, admiration, elevation of standards and achievement, and performance. 

That’s a win-win.  With a third win for students.

These are your role models. Your inspiration. Your Zen Peers. 

Part of being a Zen Teacher is cultivating the Zen relationships that improve and beautify you, your performance, and your life.  Find those people who are doing excellent work from a place of both passion and COMpassion. Discover the people at your school who make the process feel fun and the work feel enjoyable and the mission feel important. 

And become part of their dance. 

But merely finding them and incorporating them into your life is also not enough.

You must also work diligently to avoid the soul-sucking, gossip-mongering, negative-spewing, only-in-it-for-the-paycheck teachers who surround us all.  Be nice. Be polite. But whenever possible, be somewhere else. 

And of course these are the ends of the spectrum.  You will also find peers whose performance you admire, but whose personal approach is unavoidably negative.  Or staff members who will do any favor, but share every secret you told them behind your back.  In those cases, you have to use your best judgment to modulate the give-and-take.

That’s why I called it a dance.

And don’t forget to approach it with Beginner’s Mind: You might connect and learn and be inspired by anyone.  Male or female. Veteran teacher or first year teacher.  Faculty or staff.  Credentialed teacher, secretary, or groundskeeper.   You never know where great ideas, deep commitment, and excellent attitude and performance will come from.

So with your new-found commitment to a Zen-inspired simplicity, why not learn to streamline your life and work by increasing the number of Zen Peers while deflecting, avoiding, or completely eliminating the ones who drag you down? 

Finding Zen Peers is not only possible; it’s liberating. You can do it by identifying the people who share your vision, your rhythm, and your perspective on life and teaching.  And then, by incorporating them into your daily dynamic, you can move to that next level of peace and performance. 

But who would want that? 😉 TZT