There’s no need for heroes in teaching. They just lead to disagreements.
You don’t need to go round cherry picking the best bits.
When you don’t know what you’re missing, you’ll probably be quite happy with what you’ve got.
So, if you want to be a good teacher, stop telling students what they’ll be able to do
And help them do the things that they are doing right now.
When students are just doing rather than just thinking,
theories can be thrown out of the window.
If plans are never made, then everything will turn out just right.
You can only recognise when you teach well because you have taught some absolute stinkers.
You can only know how far you’ve come when you can see clearly where you started off.
Doing a good job and doing a bad job are part of your working life.
There’s no such thing as the consistently perfect teacher.
Your shortcomings become clear when you know what your strengths are.
Your direst mistakes are usually followed by your most necessary improvement.
So embrace a life full of inconsistencies. Don’t meddle or try to put it all right.
You can’t. It’s bigger than you.
Let things happen and make the most of them;
recognise the fact that your lessons depend on other people.
And when it goes well, don’t ponder it too deeply.
By doing this, you can make sure it goes well more often.
When someone tells you that this is how you teach,
it is not how you should teach.
When you find a method that is guaranteed to succeed,
bet on it failing.
When you label things, they’re ready to be put on the shelf.
Don’t try and find the answer to it all; instead, try to find more questions.
If you stop asking questions, answers aren’t much use.
It’s tough not knowing the answers, but ignorance
is necessary if you’re ever going to know it all.
Now that the Chimp interlude has concluded, I want to go back to where this blog started – looking at how the Tao Te Ching could apply to the work of teaching.
Let’s be clear about this – I am not putting forward the TTC as a gospel that speaks The Truth. I am using it as a means of reflecting upon what teaching and learning is. The Taoists believe that underpinning everything that is, ever was and ever will be is a force that they call the Tao. Tao can be translated as The Way. Taoists also believe that the secret to a good life is living in accordance with this Way.
It follows, therefore, that if a teacher teaches in accordance with the Way, they will be doing the best possible job that they can. So, how do you do this? It’s not easy because, as the Tao Te Ching infamously warns us right from the outset, any attempts to explain the Way are futile. It’s a great way to begin a book that sets out to explain the Way!
Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that the Tao Te Ching sets out to try and describe the Way rather than to explain it. So what I am going to try to do over the next eighty-one posts is to rewrite the Tao Te Ching as if Lao Tzu, the supposed author of the text, was writing exclusively for teachers.
Make of it what you will. There is no hidden meaning to anything that is written. They are just words that you might want to turn over again and again in your mind. Because they are words, they must mean something – but only you are going to be able to work out what that something might be. Don’t give up if the meaning seems to be impenetrable. It is there – but you may need to look more carefully than is normal in something like a blogpost. For that reason, I will leave a week between posting each contribution. Remember though, that the meaning is usually pretty straightforward – the Tao Te Ching wasn’t written to be discussed on the sort of TV programmes that nobody watches in the early hours of the morning. The story goes that Lao was asked to write down his teachings by a squaddy who was guarding the gates of the city. Rather than hide the meaning in syncopated rhythms and obscure metaphors, Lao presumably wrote in order to be understood by one and all. So, ponder at leisure, but don’t dive too deep.
You don’t have to be a taoist to play this game – I don’t think I am one. But you do have to be prepared to suspend your disbelief and allow yourself to imagine that there is a way of doing things that can lead to things being done as well as they could be. That’s right – there is a way of doing things that quite simply cannot be bettered. I’m not a taoist, but this seems pretty self evident to me.
If you can be bothered to stick around, I hope that it will be worth your time and effort. Let me know!
Fifthly, we all get things wrong, we all do things badly, we all say stupid things. We are not gods.
Mind you, for many cultures, gods also got it wrong too. Who knows when it all went the other way and people decided that gods never made mistakes and that we were, in effect, gods on this planet)? Who knows too when we began holding each other (and, often ourselves) to the rather untenable standards of divinity? Anyway, this fifth and final truth is there to remind me that even when I am on top of the world, I’m bound to bugger everything up – and that’s not a cause for despair or surrender…it’s just part and parcel of the human condition. Read more…
Fourthly, pain is real; reactions are natural; mistakes are inevitable. But suffering is a choice; responses are a choice; putting things right is a choice.
It’s apt that when I come back to write about this truth, I have just spent the sickest month in my existence…where sickest does not have the positive connotations with which my son would imbue it (you’re the sickest dad). Over the last week and a half, I have been engaged in a battle with viral invaders. Against my wishes (I would have just sat down and talked them to death), my body opted to boil them to death. Slowly. Over a week. It is almost inevitable that some of my friendly bacteria (as I believe the advertising industry calls them) fell in the battle. It is to the memory of these little guys that this blogpost is dedicated. May their rebirth be glorious.
Thirdly, the self that we think we know is an illusion. Its memories, its opinions, its needs and wants are nothing more than products of the mind. They are not real; they are not reliable; they are not me.
The bedrock of suffering and frustration is the idea that there is a me to which all of this suffering and pain happens. It follows that if we actually remove the me from the equation, the bedrock disappears and the whole edifice of struggle falls apart. So, that’s easy… Read more…