Thursday, June 24, 2010

summer school

So the unexpected thing that happened was this: I got nervous. After we unpacked here in Chicago, after the first good night's sleep post-Austria, after all the agenda items were checked off the list and vacation had begun, I got nervous. I watched the US soccer team win their group and those two tennis guys play all damn day and felt the whole time like a hamster was sitting directly on my adrenal glands. Yeah, I know, solar plexus, seat of personal power, indicator of uncertainty, und so weiter. GOT it - except that perhaps I don't exactly, as I notice my breath not quite making it down into my belly.

The other feature of yesterday was a lot of blog discussion on the nature of teaching and learning, all inspired by news of the evil super-capitalist movement in Texas that is turning student evaluations into employee evaluations. I've spent a lot of time thinking about the greatest teachers in my life and about how important it was for me to learn to turn myself over to them, even when they demanded ways of learning or behaviors that were not easy for me. Even when I disagreed. I was not naturally good at this, and now when I have a student that kicks or talks too much or contradicts me or does whatever he or she does to avoid walking a particular path, I have to smile - payback time! My way of handling this is gentler than some (I'm thinking of you, SDG. RIP and thank you for kicking me out of your studio, ya bastid - it was rough but right), but so often it's necessary to lead someone down an unexpected, undesired road. Very often. OK, always.

In trying to explain this, I've run into more than one skeptical reaction, even full dismissal. To some, such talk smells of guru worship, an abdication of personal power or responsibility. And fair enough - it's demonstrably possible to cross the line from saying yes all the time into, shall we say, over-agreement (bedding the teacher, ignoring the instincts that might keep you from physical harm). I was shocked the first time I saw a martial arts class of my husband's, where the only allowable response to the master was "yes, sir!" It violated everything in my little American heart. What if I don't want to? What if I'm too tired? What if I have a good reason?

It's just that none of us need to be taught what we already know. Fact accumulation is simpler than ever. Why do we go to teachers?

O wad some power the giftie gie us
to see oursels as other see us

Isn't that it? The shift in perspective, the chance to look from a different angle, the chance to find out what we are avoiding by announcing what we will not do? It's not that you, the student, have no idea of what you need...but you might not know it up in the front of your brain, you might not know how to find it, and hell, you might really not have the first clue.

Typing, I think of a thousand acceptances and a thousand refusals of exactly this gift, the journey out of my own head, my own comfort zone, my own well-disguised laziness, and I'm filled with gratitude for all my teachers, past and present. Today I'll go to the keyboard, get on the mat, all those things I burn to do and look to avoid. Because that's what we do. We know and we don't know, we see and we are blind, we want with all our hearts to reach to the new place and we lie back in comfort.

Watch your back, hamster.


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