Teaching the Teacher: November Selections

I don’t teach because I know everything; I teach because I want to know everything.

~ Teacher Lesley

I’ve figured out that the moment you cease to be curious about what you teach, you cease to be of use to your students. 

In my commitment to becoming a master teacher, I am also committing to becoming a master learner.  I am intentionally looking at the world and identifying those people, places, texts, and experiences that I need to lean toward in order to grow. As I connect with those resources, I will share them. Here are my favorites from November.

Moving Writers

This is my first year teaching middle school English – I have primarily taught “language arts” as a partner to social studies and through the lens of interdisciplinary humanities.  As I become more discipline focused, Moving Writers has been a wonderful blog to follow.  A high school classmate introduced me to it when she began writing about her very cool work incorporating environmental activism into AP Literature courses.  The posts come frequently and document implementable strategies from Kindergarten through 12th grade.  Whether you work with English language learners, emerging writers, middle school analysts, or adolescent poets, there is something with which to connect and be inspired by. Also, you can apply to write for them, which is a cool professional development opportunity. 

Soulforce Non-Violence Workshops

Growing up I attended Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, CA.  We were there many days a week for service, youth group, and choir.  Our pastor was the Reverend James Lawson.  He was a powerful leader and speaker. I had no idea he was a civil rights hero, even though I recall him mentioning knowing Dr. King several times. It was only while reading March: Book One with my students that I realized Reverend Lawson knew him, knew him.  

Like sat with him –  marched with him – taught him about non-violence – called him to Memphis where he was killed – knew him.  Yeah.  

Anyways, Reverend Lawson is still alive and still teaching non-violence as a justice practice. He holds monthly workshops which are now online. You, too, can be a student of an icon and join the ongoing movement for civil rights and non-violence in the world. I highly recommend. You can visit Holman’s website for more information and registration, as well as recordings of past workshops. 

Radical Dharma as Compassion Practice with Lama Rod Owens

This teaching by Lama Rod Owens from Nalanda Institute’s Offerings for Uncertain Times was truly lovely.  The talk was titled “Radical Dharma as Compassion Practice” and includes a practice and lecture. Lama Rod Owens completed a traditional 3-year silent retreat program and was officially recognized by the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. He also completed his Master of Divinity degree at Harvard Divinity School.  Additionally he released a book with Rev. angel Kyodo williams (left) and Jasmine Syedullah  entitled, Radical Dharma, Talking Race, Love and Liberation. I especially enjoyed his practice “The Seven Homecomings”.  It was an excellent reminder that in this time of hard things and darkness, we have so many resources we can tap into for strength.  Learn more about Lama Rod and his newest book, Love and Rage: The Path of Liberation through Anger on his website, lamarod.com.  I am now wondering if his name is Rodney.  I would know SIX Rodney’s, including the one I am married to. 

Liberation and Compassion with Reverend angel Kyodo williams

As my colleague and I prepare to teach To Kill A Mockingbird to our 7th graders, I am finding this article, “Your Liberation Is On the Line”  by Rev. angel Kyodo williams very helpful. It was published in February 2020 and was adapted from a talk given at the NYC Shambhala center in May 2018.  I began studying Buddhism at that center in my 20s and spent a lot of time there, so I enjoy picturing Rev. angel in that spaceThe main reason Mockingbird is still in our curriculum this year is so that there is an intentional effort to teach whiteness.  I am wrapping my head around that and will share more about that effort and my journey to do it later.  Meanwhile, I am grappling with my own feelings about whiteness and this quote is centering:

Many people in positions of dominance don’t know their own story. They don’t know their story in the way that when you’re marginalized, you are forced to know your story, to understand that you have a story, that you’re affected by a larger story, and that you’re working with all of it…people need to hear testimony that reveals how patriarchy has limited them in their white male bodies, how it has limited their ability to feel and express love. Something got stolen from them. Something got stolen from all of us. So you have to have compassion for the voice of the heart that has been lost or obscured, whether in others or in yourself…

This call to meet the oppressive experience of whiteness with compassion is a hard one, but I think it actually aligns with the encounters I have had and the ways in which I want to approach justice work.  I recently did Rev. angel’s “Really Big Sit” a divine event where I ended up practicing for four and a half hours. 

I originally thought I might last maybe two.  There was a BIPOC breakout session where people of color from around the country sat together and many expressed this was their first opportunity to do so.  It was a powerful event and then gifts of daily emails began to arrive. I am diving into many of Rev. angel’s past teachings and so many resonate that they will probably continue to be featured in this space. I’ve bought both of her books, Radical Dharma and being black. There is a half day sit coming up on December 19th. 

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