Can Teaching and Learning Be Joyful?

At heart, I love teaching more than anything else I’ve ever done. And, at heart, I know the joy of teaching, and the pain of it, too. Teachers today face student attitudes and system restrictions that inhibit their sense of freedom and ease in the classroom. Teachers today, at every level from pre-school to university, are leaving the profession, just to escape the pressures they feel that have nothing to do with what drew them into teaching and learning.

Resiliency in Teaching

Four online courses with new answers to stress, burnout, teacher anxieties, and more. Click the image above to learn more!

Across a long career that included a lot of other work, I have taught middle school, high school, junior college, undergraduate, graduate and adult education — the whole gamut of teaching experience. At every level, I totally loved watching students flourish and learn, and at every level, I experienced frustration, disappointment, restriction in the system. I know the pain and the joy first-hand.

And I know, too, the most important lesson I have ever learned: The pain and the joy are not coming AT me; they are coming THROUGH me, depending on my understanding of how I hold and use my own power to think. There is a distinct dividing line in my life: Before 1989, and after 1989. What happened in 1988-89? I realized how the human mind truly works to create our experience of life. Before then, I honestly (like most people) believed that I had nothing to do with what I thought or how I felt about things; I honestly believed that circumstances created my experience of life. I honestly believed that if I was in a negative, difficult situation, of course I would feel terrible, and would have to extricate myself from those circumstances to feel better.

After 1989, I knew, without a doubt, that I was the thinker creating my own thoughts and becoming conscious of what I had created as reality — and that I and I alone was responsible for how I responded to life situations. This gave me a sense of freedom and empowerment that has allowed me, for the rest of my life, to make the best of any and every circumstance I have encountered. What happened in that year? I stumbled into a group of people sharing the logic of a discovery that there are Universal Principles that determine the way we create and experience our own thinking, and that simply recognizing them behind life provides immunity from suffering from our own worst thoughts.

You can believe this or not. Everyone has complete freedom to think whatever they do, and take it more or less seriously. But in my experience, over all these years, once people look to see what feels true to them, the recognition that they are creating their own experience via the power of thought resonates deep within them, and they, too, find freedom and release.

In all the years I have looked to see this more deeply for myself, and share it more effectively with others, I have always had in the back of my mind that the ideal starting point for this to help the most people possible would be schools. In situations I know from all my wonderful colleagues who teach all over the world from this perspective, where young people have recognized that they are creating their own lives from the inside-out with their own power to think, they have bypassed the insecurity and emotional instability that plagues so many in our schools now. They know how to find their own peace of mind, regardless of what others are saying or doing. They self-correct. And, free from insecurity and self-doubt, they truly enjoy learning, and being a part of the school community.

As a teacher myself, I know that from the perspective of understanding how thinking works, I no longer experienced frustration or upset at the system; I found I could access my own insights as to how to work with or around issues and obstacles that had previously seemed insurmountable. I lost my judgments about people and institutions, and saw that everyone was doing the best they could, given how they were holding and using their thinking. I stopped taking things personally, and just felt gratitude and love for my students, my subject, my colleagues, and my opportunities to contribute. I truly enjoyed teaching, without the burden of distractions. Once I started seeing and speaking to the resilience and well-being in my students, my “problem” students disappeared. I found that almost all my students enjoyed learning as much as I enjoyed teaching, and only occasionally, when someone dipped into a state of insecurity, did I have to stop what I was doing to help a struggling student come back into the present moment and calm down.

It may sound pollyanna to some who read this, given the state of many schools today. There are places in the world in which it may sound ho-hum — something that seems routine. The state of education, globally, is highly variable. That variability, however, has more to do with the way people are, their level of peace of mind and respect, than with the resources allocated. There are classrooms in remote parts of the world where even pencil and paper are scarce resources, and books are old and tattered, and schoolrooms are sparse and uncomfortable — and yet the joy is palpable. The gratitude the students feel for learning is profound. The love the teachers feel is deep and non-contingent.

Once we understand our own role in the creation of our experiences of everything we’re doing; once we understand how everyone’s thinking works, and how much control each one of us always has over what we do with our own power to think, everything looks different.

We are excited and happy to share these courses globally, in hopes that teachers, students and schools everywhere will become the petri dish in which world peace is nurtured and grown through peace of mind in the generations to come.

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