Quantum Change #1

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One day, after 4 or 5 years of teaching, I walked into class, looked around the room, and asked myself why those students were there, beyond the obvious reason that they must attend. I saw that each of them wanted to understand, each of them would decide what they wanted to know, and each would learn of their own free will.

At that point I realized that my role was not to teach at all in any traditional sense, but to facilitate (from the French ‘facil’ — easy). I was there to create an environment that would make it as easy as possible for them to learn. In effect, promote a culture of learning.

Two things happened to me on that day. The first was that I went from merely being engaged with the class as a whole, to recognizing and relating to every individual within it. Because I changed the nature of our relationship, the environment changed and participation immediately went from somewhere around 25% to nearly 100%, and repeated itself in every other class.

I or we experienced a quantum leap. It was humbling and profound. In farming they say the sire is 50% of the herd. I guess you could say the farmer is 50% of the farm or a teacher is 50% of the class.

From then on, when I heard a teacher complaining about the misbehaviour of the students, I couldn’t help but think that it was themselves they should blame.

The second result was that my job suddenly became exponentially more difficult. I could no longer rely on pat questions and answers, since this was not programming. Their questions and their answers needed to be mine as well, otherwise how could a collaborative space exist?

When someone asks me about the big bang or about God, about science or religion, about love or truth, about ideas or reality, what do I say, without interfering with their development or compromising mine? I can neither enforce theory nor dogma (nor should they), because that would be abuse. I must collaborate with them in finding answers, discovering our capacities and realizing our potential. It isn’t a one-way street.

Reasoning and scientific investigation are part of all of us, but so are art and creativity. All of us weigh our beliefs against evidence, while the evidence informs our beliefs (if we don’t, we’re just being wilfully ignorant). And we must know and respect that everyone possesses those faculties.

Every single day since then (though teaching is not my profession now), it seems I still ask myself all those same questions. But every day is unique, so yesterdays answers never fit. And no two relationships are the same.

To answer questions and question answers, I sometimes write poetry (that might become commentaries) and I sometimes write commentaries (that might become poetry). Sometimes, both.

I secretly wish I could just write stories… or even one… one really good one.

Alas, whatever we do and whatever we dream always comes back to us alone, no matter how hard we might try to throw it away.