Saturday, 22 May 2010

The Joy of Obedience

Teaching can be such a joy; there is no greater pleasure in life than to see realisation dawn on the face of a student. But there is always the student for whatever reason, just wants to be awkward. I remember on such student who made a fellow teachers life miserable at every class. Frequently I had to remove him from her class and make him sit in my room and work on his own.

Having spoken with him a few times I began to understand that he carried with him a great amount of resentment. He had a difficult home life. The only time I saw him soften was the day I spoke to him of his mother. It became clear to me that this one the one good thing in his life, from his perspective.

I asked him one day to imagine, what it would be like if his mother went to work and all day people bullied her, or made her life torture. He instantly reacted. “I would kill them,” he said. A strong reaction, much exaggerated. I then pointed out to him that the teachers he daily made life miserable for, was mothers out doing a job. They were fathers who had sons and daughters. It seemed so simple, let him see people as real people not just teachers.

I got an email from him yesterday. What a joy. He has just been promoted in his teaching job.

A teacher gave regular lessons to students on a weekend. Many students from a neighbouring retreat joined his lessons making the master from there very angry. One morning he joined the students feeling even angrier when he saw how many attended.

“Hey, Zen teacher!” he called out. “Who ever respects you will do as you ask, but a man like me does not respect you. Can you make me do as you ask?”

“Come up beside me and I will show you,” said the master.

Proudly the teacher pushed his way to the front.

“Come to my left side,” said the master,

The teacher did as was asked.

“No,” said the master, “we will talk better if you are here on the right side. Step over here.”

Proudly the teacher did just that, he stepped to the right.

“You see,” said the master, “you do as I ask of you and I think you are a very gentle person. Now sit down and listen.”

The gentle way of the Tao.
This blog is linked to my other where I discuss the artwork used:- The Floral Dance


  1. Hi Ralph!... A very interesting and thought-provoking post!

    Your focus on teaching and its many challenges rekindles memories of my own thirty year teaching career.

    The world is amok in chaos... anger... confusion and competition more than ever these days... and the need for "gentle"... encouraging... and enabling mentors and teachers is far greater than ever as well.

    The practice of the Tao way of life... based upon gentleness... inward reflection and acts of "unconditional" kindness would light the paths of so many needy children (and adults) eading lives where these character-building essentials are entirely absent.

    "Let your light so shine before your fellow man... so that they may see your good works and glorify God"... another type of "Zen" approach!

    Shine on!... and Good Painting !
    Warmest regards,

  2. Ralph, you have touched so many lives in such meaningful ways. I know there is a special spot in heaven for you.

  3. Wow, Ralph, I think we must have taught together in different schools! I taught the "rowdy" kids, officially had 15 of them in one class, but on any given day there would be up to 25 of them there! They would skip other teacher's classes and come to mine! I actually liked the energy and as I didn't have to create it but only channel it, I found it all interesting and mostly easy. Those might have been "the good old days", our Texas School board is rewriting history and the education process!

  4. I'm finding it very comforting to hear comments from teachers who have been in the trenches for a long time. I think you all would be surprised at how much has changed in the past 28 years since I started teaching. Kids have changed, parenting has changed, and teacher's are judged solely on their students' test scores... I have the book Tao of Pooh, and I read it every once in awhile because I feel like it has an important message for me... but I'm always frustrated that I'm not quite grasping the message... Maybe I'll try again this summer!

  5. the flowers dancing in the wind...such an apt metaphor...the spirit moving where it will, and moving us on graceful ways!