Holidays are a time of giving and family. For students who are resource-challenged, this time of year can be challenging. In this Conscious Classroom episode, Amy Edelstein shares mindfulness tools and perspectives to bring the spirit of the holidays into your classroom. You will learn how to emphasize human connection, care, and appreciation and transform worry and concern into positivity and joy.Support the show
Hello! Welcome to this month’s Conscious Classroom Webinar. My name is Amy Edelstein. It’s our last webinar of 2019 and as always, December brings us a time to reflect on how we’ve carried ourselves, how we’ve trained our students what has happened in the classroom, and whether or not we’ve been able to call attention to the positives and amplify the positives that happened in the classroom.
This month, we are going to be speaking about ways to amplify generosity consciously paying attention to the movement towards generosity of spirit, generosity of heart, practical generosity. We are going to talk about how to put attention on those positive actions that occur, how to get your students to pay attention to them, how to model them as a teacher, and how to have your classroom become a real micro culture of the more ideal culture that you would like to see in the world.
The primary way to do this is simple. It’s to expect the highest and reach for the highest and anticipate positives. So we start from the foundation that our classroom is created by the better natures of our students. We assume those better natures and then we see in those kids who stop paying attention, who act out because they want more affirmation, who get distracted and fall off track.
The issue with those students is that they are no longer adhering to that standard. They have allowed themselves to slip back. They have allowed themselves to cover over their better nature, their kinder nature, their more generous nature.
And what we want to do as teachers is keep reinforcing those higher potentials, those higher capacities. Keep speaking to that part of the student. Keep affirming that. Keep responding to our colleagues.
It’s important to reset our context because usually what happens is we see the limitations of our students and we teach towards that trying to shift the needle just a little bit, trying to pull them up just a little bit. And while it’s important to be able to be a good judge and assessor of where your students are at emotionally in terms of their maturation, in terms of some of the trauma they may be carrying, you still want to look at them with a lens that sees their highest potentials and capacities. When we keep holding to that, it will pull them towards that. It will train them to see that in themselves.
Sometimes it’s important to have students write self-reflective essays because how they manifest and how they behave can be different than what’s really going on with them. Again, depending on their level of maturation, their age, and level of development, sometimes you really see them better through their own self-reflective writing and you can respond in that way and pull out the positives, pull out the important questions they are grappling with, pull out their talents that they may not be seeing.
To amplify generosity in the classroom, we draw attention to it. We put our own attention on it rather than competition, rather than disciplinary infractions. Ask the students to write about the qualities of generosity. Have them write about how they cultivate those qualities of generosity. Have them write about how their mindfulness exercises help them develop generosity. Have them write about how learning helps cultivate generosity.
When they are better readers, they can learn to see things from points of view they had never considered. They can start appreciating subtlety and nuance and depth, and that can help them be more generous and kind towards others around them.
Their ability to learn complex Math can help them actually become generous to learn how to appreciate complex systems, social systems, interaction systems, the way we affect each other and how to affect each other positively.
Once you start seeing things this way, you can always relate whatever the students are learning back to the development of these human values and human positive qualities, which are so very important because oftentimes students just learn subjects in isolation and they are left to their own devices to put them together and to figure out what all the pieces mean.
If you ask the students to work on self-reflective essays, when you are grading their work, focus on the positive qualities they see in themselves. Encourage them to practice them. Encourage their insights into motivation. Encourage them to develop and pay attention to positive motivation. Point them in the right direction. Create that culture of generosity between you and the students so they look to you for affirmation and aspiration rather than just as a vehicle of information or worse, a vehicle of discipline.
When students start to relate to you that way, they will bring to you their better aspects of their nature. They will share things with you. They will want to befriend in an appropriate way. They will accept your mentorship.
We amplify generosity by affirming student’s positive insights especially those heart-centered ones that are little seen in the way that most school systems are structured. Point out acts of generosity in the classroom, not focusing on the student who is generous as much as focusing on the action because any student can have – can do – can be involved in a generous act. Any student can express kindness.
So we get away from the labeling of students. You are generous. You are miserly. You are kind. You are mean. Versus this action is a generous action. Can we imitate in our own way those acts of generosity? Can we repeat acts of kindness? What would generosity or compliments or extension of yourself in caring for others look like in your own way?
Get the students to recognize those acts of generosity and learn how to express them as themselves. Some students are louder. Some students are quieter. Some students are funny. Some students are studious. Their expression of generosity will be different. But when they can recognize what it’s like to give up one’s self and support another and then find multiple ways to enact that same quality, you will start to fill your classroom with more awareness, awakeness, conscious action, and kindness.
For your own reflection on this, you want to keep the currency of your reflection at a high level. Teachers can be very hard on themselves. We can be very self-critical. We can worry a lot about having said the wrong thing or done the wrong thing.
If you feel that you were not effective or kind when you were trying to get students on track, think about how you could have done things in a kinder way. Focus your attention on what a positive would look like. Spend your time cultivating better ways to develop more creative responses. Practice your language. If you did something wrong, you certainly probably know that you were less skillful. It would not fuel your own development to obsess or ruminate about that misstep. It will fuel your own develop to consciously write down practice, search for better language, and create some ways to respond when that situation or a similar one arises again. Practice. Look for those new, kinder, and more effective, more directive ways to bring students back on track.
You may need to be firm. You may need to discipline. You may need to set firm boundaries. Practice how you can do that in the most positive way. Practice how you can do that in a way that’s going to create structure, create safety, create boundaries, create definition in the classroom while pointing the students to the positive that should be expressed rather than the negatives that you want to avoid.
Students need examples of firm and clear expressions of care and love that guide and direct without being punitive. Keep remembering that you do hold power as the teacher in the classroom, as the adult in the room, as someone older and with more experience. And the way to hold that is with a much more open heart so that there’s always kindness expressed with the discipline. There is always the goal in mind as you set the students on track. There is a firm expression and explanation of the boundaries and the consequences.
But the generosity of spirit is recognizing that humans can change at any point. Yes, we are influenced by so many things, by our history, by challenges that we have experienced, by traumas, by culture, but we are also filled with enormous potential and enormous capacity to change and transform.
If you are always generous towards your students recognizing that they could open up at any moment and walk out of the old skin of themselves and into a new expression of their higher potentials and capacities and nature. If you are always holding that then the students will respond with their own transformation, with their own aspirations and goals and desires and dreams. You can almost see them pulling out of themselves, walking into the self that they want to become.
You want to coax that out. You want to speak to that. You want to insist on that, insist on the possibility of change and growth and maturity, kindness, wisdom.
That’s the expression of generosity of spirit as an educator, as a teacher. We always hold out that miraculous potential for depth, awareness, mindfulness, insight, care, curiosity, compassion, love. Keep the rope top. Pull your students towards higher forms and expressions of love. Understand their challenges but affirm their wholeness.
As the French paleontologist and philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, spoke about, there is always in the future higher and more complex forms of harmony and love which he called the Omega Point, that higher potential for humanity that exerts a trap to bemoan us and pull us towards it.
At the same time as there are always these more perfect and higher, more complex forms of love pulling us upwards and towards them, there is also in this moment the perfection of love in the present. Holding that for students is an act of generosity. It’s a way to infuse the climate of your classroom with a sense of the always perfect, always possible.
And when you can hold that authentically in yourself, you will find that the behavior issues tend to settle down and then there are instead of a whole group of disruptors, maybe you have one, maybe you have two, and those are the students that may need more to help them recognize the effects of their actions and want to have positive effects on the classroom around them.
When you are applying the correctives, you want to see them as inseparable with encouragement, inseparable with generosity. All of your acts of teaching are sharing of yourself. All of your acts of teaching are giving to your students. All of your acts of teaching are that generosity of spirit.
When you start to value your own contribution in that way, you can also start to value your students learning as a giving of themselves. Sometimes students see, “I’m forced to learn this or that. I have to do my homework.”
But there’s another way of really relating to the whole learning process, which has to do with this sense that when we give ourselves to something, when we open up, when we learn, when we consider another point of view, when we discover history or math or science and how the world fits together, we are opening, we are giving of ourselves to this new discovery. Students are giving of themselves to learn. And that giving of themselves is a creative act. It’s an act of trust and act of love.
We can relate to learning as a profound expression of giving, of giving of ourselves to teach, of giving of ourselves to learn. And if you see students’ willingness to learn as an act of open-heartedness, as an act of generosity, as an act of taking themselves – taking into themselves something that you’ve offered, you start to see that the teachers teaching, teacher-pupil relationship is one of constantly giving and receiving. And both giving and receiving require an open and generous heart.
Before we do a practice, I also want to reiterate that we don’t really grow from brokenness to wholeness. Where we grow from is from that irrepressible movement and energy of wholeness of the human spirit and we grow towards higher and greater expressions of that wholeness.
The approach of the Conscious Classroom is to reinforce, coax, assume, appeal, and speak to that innate and essential wholeness. So it’s like a small plant, a small shoot that grows out of a seed and pushes through the cracked and messy earth. That shoot pushes through the brokenness in the soil to reach the sun. That shoot comes from the wholeness, that kernel of a seed which carries in it the coding for a great tree.
For our practice today, we will talk about and visualize amplifying generosity. And this is another practice that you can do with your students. Modify it and do it with yourself. Allow yourself to sit in a meditative posture with your feet flat on the floor and your spine tall. Turning off your computer screen so you are not distracted, the ringers of your phone so you can allow yourself a few minutes just to be and allow yourself to settle into yourself and rest in that innate quality of open-heartedness and generosity.
And let’s use the bell to focus.
Begin by picturing a very small seed in the center of your heart. It has a shiny heart exterior, a little teardrop shape. Within it is encoded the instructions for how to grow. But right now, it’s just a very small teardrop shape in the center of your heart.
Imagine the warmth and the protection around that seed, keeping it steady, keeping it whole, keeping it ready until it’s time. And all through the winter, that seed stays dark and protected in the center of your heart.
And now picture, outside that darkness, the seasons begin to shift, the air begins to warm, the light rains begin to fall, and the spring begins to arrive.
The little seed, the little teardrop shaped seed with a shiny heart exterior begins to vibrate and stir ever so softly, ever so gently. It begins to reach towards the spring, reach towards the warming air, reach towards the sweet rains.
And imagine that as the seed starts to vibrate and reach miraculously out of that center of that smallest teardrop shaped seed in the center of your heart, a little shoot starts to form and it pushes its way against the hard shell, pushing and pushing, reaching towards the spring and eventually unfurls itself and pops through the exterior.
As spring turns to summer, that shoot lengthens and grows, sprouting leaves, dividing into branches, making a home for the squirrels and the birds and the chipmunks and the insects. That seed grows into a tall tree, blossoming into flowers, growing into fruits, feeding the birds and the ants, the chipmunks and the squirrels with its bounty.
Constantly giving as it receives sun and rain and nutrients from the soil, it gives back shade and sustenance and a home for creatures.
As summer begins to fade and the air begins to cool, the leaves on the trees begin to curl, changing color from green to yellow to red to brown. And eventually, they fall. And as they fall, so did the seeds that formed. And those seeds, imagine that one of those seeds falls back into the center of your heart finding its perfect place in the very center of your heart resting and nestling there, holding in it all of the encoding to grow into an enormous and generous tree of generosity giving gratitude, care, and love.
And so with generosity, you see that there’s a cycle for giving. It takes different forms, different expressions. Generosity is like that tree that grows from a seed and then plants a seed in its wake to grow again.
The generosity is a habit and practice and outlook and perspective that continually renews and refreshes and gives to us. It’s continually self-generating and regenerating. It continually allows us to replenish and nurture ourselves again and again. We always want to see generosity is that which plants seeds which will grow rather than that which depletes us when we give away.
The way to cultivate a more conscious classroom is to always relate to that wholeness, that positive momentum that gets created when we recognize and acknowledge and amplify what we are giving.
Recognize, acknowledge, and amplify the generosity of our students to receive and their generosity to share with each other and recognize how this cycle of amplifying generosity is generative and regenerative, allowing us to feel constantly nourished and refreshed, opened, and supported.
The main thing as conscious educators that we need to do is hold the awareness, recognize, pay attention, be connected, and the rest will start emerging in response to our own quality of attention.
I wish you all very happy holidays, a peaceful new year, sometime where you can be in a reflective and joyous and loving environment. And I look forward to talking with you next month for our January’s Conscious Classroom. Until then, take care.
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