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My Teachers

Some of the people (and animals) who have educated me and influenced the creation of my book, It’s Not About the Grades: Landscapes for Learning Beyond Schooling, as well as this blog and Landscapes for Learning mission / project, in no particular order:

My students over the past 14 years

My four kids

My dog, Finn

My cat, Milo

Alan Watts,  lectures, The Way of Zen, The Wisdom of Insecurity, In my Own way: an autobiography

B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, inner peace and ultimate freedom

Duncan Trussell Family podcast

Sam Harris, Waking Up with Sam Harris Podcast

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way: 25th Anniversary Edition

Stephen Pressfield, The War of Art

Jon Kabat-Zinn: Full Catastrophe Living, Coming to Our Senses:Healing Ourselves and Our World through Mindfulness

Anne Lamott, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovery Mercy

Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff “The Coddling of the American Mind” (Atlantic Monthly) and book of same title.

Dr. Peter Gray & Self-Directed Education

Naval Ravikant (podcasts, videos)

Thomas Berry (interviews)

Ken Robinson, Ph.D. The Element: How Finding your passion changes everything, videos about education system

Pema Chodron, Meditation: How to Meditate: A practical Guide, The Places that Scare you, 

Jack Kornfield, interview with Tim Ferriss; audio meditations and talks, The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings

Carl Jung: Modern Man in Search of Soul and other writings

Mary Oliver: Upstream, and other poems

Ally Hamilton,  Yoga’s Healing Power: Looking Inward for Change, Growth, and Peace

Bill Plotkin Nature and The Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World

Steven Pinker, videos and interviews with Sam Harris, Joe Rogan; A Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st century, The Blank Slate, and Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

David Hawkins, Letting Go The Path to Surrender

Rumi: The Book of Love (Coleman Barks); the essential Rumi

Rilks’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God (Anita Barrows)

Various writings in ecopsychology

Ruchard Louv, Nature Deficit Disorder

Writings of the Transcendentalists (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance, Henry David Thoreau, Walden, other writings)

On the Ragged Edge of Silence John Francis

John Muir, writings

Daniel Goleman, A force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World

Shakti Gawain, Living in the Light

Thich Naht Hahn, Silence. The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise, list other books

Joss Sheldon, The Little Voice: A rebellious novel

John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

Wayne Dyer, Change your thoughts, change you life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao

Zachary Slayback: The End of School: Reclaiming Education

Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, blog articles and posts

Various guests on Don’t Keep Your Day Job poscast with Cathy Heller

Seth Godin, video interviews

Mary Karr, The Liars’ Club:A Memoir, Lit, The Art of Memoir

Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Parker Palmer: The Courage to Teach, online videos

Kevin Griffin, Recovering Joy: A mindful life after addiction, One Breath at a time: Buddhism and the 12 steps

Tommy Rosen (online Recovery 2.0 Conferences)

The Mindfulness Summit Online Conference (the mindfulnesssummit.com)

Gabor Mate (videos, and podcast with Tim Ferriss)

Chade-Meng Tan and Dan Goleman, Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to

Tim Ferriss, Tribe of Mentors, blog, The Tim Ferriss Show (podcast)

Behave, Robert Sapolsky and other online appearances and speeches; lectures on Youtube

Tony Robbins, I am Not Your Guru netflix special

Dr. Susan Davis, her Ted Talk, appearance on Rich Roll Podcast, Emotional Agility

George Carlin (standup acts online, youtube)

The Rich Roll podcast

Rich Roll, Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, becoming one of the world’s most fittest men and discovering myself

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Lectures, Interviews, Maps of Meaning, podcasts

The Joe Rogan Experience (podcast); personal conversation with Joe Rogan; Netflix comedy special

Bret Weinstein & Heather Heying (interviews with Dave Rubin and Joe Rogan)

Bikram and Rajashree Choudhury,  Emmy Cleaves (Bikram Yoga)

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, War and Peace

Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Leo Babauta (Zenhabits.org)

Yuval Harari, Homo Sapiens, Homo Deus, and many interviews (see my youtube channel)

Wayne Dyer, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Mind

Bryan Caplan, The Case Against Education

Paramahansa Yogananda, Journey to Self-Realization

James Pennebaker & Joshua Smyth, Opening Up by Writing it Down: How Expressive Writing Improves Health and Eases Emotional Pain

and many, many more…

 

 

 

 

 

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Human Resources for Teachers?

“What do you think about adding more

personal wellness for professional development

specifically designed for teachers

by teachers at your school?”

 

School has begun and I am no longer a part of it, although I feel like I am still involved to a large degree because I spend almost all my time thinking and writing about education. (It’s nice to do it outdoors in the sunshine or riding my bike and according to my own schedule) Other teachers can relate. It’s like reading a book or seeing some great content online or even personal conversations and constantly wondering how you can use this with your students. Not being in school has freed me up to think more deeply about school using a wider lense, so here’s something I’ve been thinking about today.

Who provides wellness and wellbeing support for teachers? Where can teachers truly find individual, specific support for their unique needs (as a person and a teacher) in a confidential, unbiased form and location? Who can teachers “go to” that they can TRULY trust if they need to vent, cry, celebrate, experiment, or play with new ideas that may be contrary to the school’s culture or values? They need someone who “understands” what it’s like to be a teacher (today, not 10 or 20 years ago and also to chat about what it may be like soon). What if they want to talk about quitting and changing careers? What if they are new and think they may have made a grave mistake and chose the wrong career path? What if they are uncomfortable talking to colleagues who may provide only confirmation bias? Teachers have VERY little time to bond with colleagues because of the school day schedule. Close trusting friendships are rare. And maybe friends don’t have the abilities or resources to help? Obviously, you cannot share everything with a supervisor or an administrator. Do teachers trust their union reps? Who can they talk with and find appropriate and informed support for their personal struggles as these affect and influence their mental and physical wellbeing and (secondarily) their professional roles?

 

Teaching is a human endeavor. It requires a ton of relationship management, understanding individual personalities- your own and hundreds more including your co-workers and parents, and all sorts of knowledge about schooling processes, learning, and teaching which is super complicated (teaching the people, Dummy, not the content knowledge– that’s the easy part). All of this is taxing mentally, physically, and emotionally. I used to take a nap everyday after school; and I posted pro-nap articles in my shared House Office above the couch we smuggled in (it was removed by the administration as a fire hazard….seriously). No joke, teachers often hide to rest or attend to personal issues. There’s very little time to process something that may have occurred during class or to reflect on it or celebrate with other adults. I recall being told in the lunch room that one of my students had died by another department chairperson besides my own. What the hell? I had about 4 minutes to process that before I had to return to my classroom for my next class.

As an ex-teacher and now full-time yoga teacher, I wonder how do individual teachers manage such stress? I mean, I am sure many do just fine using their own powers and personal resources available to them outside of school. That’s what I did, but shouldn’t there be someone, at school, to whom we can trust and rely on for support and resources as teachers?  There are specific issues unique to the teaching life, the “who” of teaching for which generic help might not apply. How can we better help teachers not just manage or survive, but thrive? Where are the testimonials from teachers about their wellness and wellbeing?

Who is looking out for teachers? Who is loving them and supporting them not just for their ability to do their jobs, but for struggling and succeeding in being present for people? Do you know how difficult it is to show up and be truly present, open, vulnerable to all of the stress and energy that students carry with them into the shared space of the classroom each day for 180 days? I never recall my union “caring” for me on an interpersonal, periodic, individual basis or even being educated about “self-care” for teachers. I would not have trusted talking to a rep if that was my option. Was I supposed to talk to the nurse? Call my own therapist and pay my co-pays for that? Would a therapist understand the unique complexity and human dynamics and intimacy of teaching young people?

And now schools are floundering about with all sorts of technological and cultural change, and about to radically change their structures even more rapidly– who will teachers rely on for support for any and all of this transformation? How will they manage their ever-changing roles? Who can they talk with, personally, face to face about how they are feeling about all of this and how well they are managing or not?

We have all sorts of resources for students; what about the teachers? Why is there no Human Resources Department for teachers where objectivity and confidentiality can be accessed and trusted?

Perhaps our attrition rates wouldn’t be so high if we provided some trustworthy, quality wellness support for our educators– not just more professional development; not just an appreciation basket or holiday lunch. Not just a free massage booth on the first day of school or a motivational speaker who isn’t a teacher and doesn’t really know what it’s like to be me or you? Most of the dialogue about supporting teachers is about increased pay and benefits and I am not dismissing that. Unions surely have their place in terms of that sort of financial wellness, but it’s not the only resource teachers need.

What do you think about adding more “personal wellness for professional development specifically designed for teachers” by teachers at your school?

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Podcast: A Parent-Teacher Conference

Solo Podcast: A Parent-Teacher Conference

“A Parent-Teacher Conference about Values” is a solo episode about my book-in-progress It’s Not About The Grades: Love for Learning Beyond Schooling which I hope to revise and publish in the coming months.

I provide a brief, yet incomplete, overview of the book in progress and read an excerpt from a chapter that is about the parent-teacher conference I wanted to have while a high school teacher but never really could. Now that I have resigned from my position, I am able to discuss what I see as the critical piece missing from a complete education for high school students and how it is severely overshadowed and almost drowned out completely by the over-valuing of grades.

I invite parents (and schools) into a conversation about a serious reflection on their values and our culture’s values and the mental health of teens, not merely to help kids to be successful students and achievers but rather to be whole, healthy, individual human beings who are able to self-actualize and blossom throughout their lives. This is the process of yoga, an exploration of the inner landscape!

I welcome your comments on the podcast in iTunes or feel free to share your thoughts by emailing me at landscapesforlearning27@gmail.com or leave a comment on this post.

Thanks!

Image credit: https://www.geeksaresexy.net/2011/02/12/bad-grades-1960-vs-2010-cartoon/

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Podcast: Meet World Traveling Yoga Teacher, Changu Changezi

003: Podcast with Changu Changezi

Changu Changezi is an ordinary guy with an inspiring story about learning and landscapes. He is a traveling Bikram yoga teacher who lives his life with integrity, authenticity, and an unshakeable sense of self.

He has been traveling the world teaching Bikram yoga for the past four years, approaching learning with an open heart and an open mind all along his journey.

Whether meditating, practicing or teaching yoga, biking across Canada for charity, being bullied as a young boy in Pakistan, coming unglued from his chair in the corporate world, or dancing,  Changu sees the beauty in everything– every experience, every person he meets, good and bad. Trusting the process of life as ever-unfolding allows him to live deeply connected to himself, others, and the world around him. Ever grateful for all of his life-long learning, Changu consistently lives and speaks his truth.

Our conversation about landscapes for learning includes Changu’s immigration to Canada, transformation, compassion, integrity, Bikram Yoga Teacher Training, world travel, “trusting the process,” teaching, yoga, faith, and more.

Changu and I will chat again in the future, delving more deeply into his traveling and teaching adventures, so enjoy his first podcast and come back for another!

Please check out Changu’s Facebook pages, Tulandandasana Everywhere and Humans of Bikram Yoga for stunning photos from Changu’s yoga postures on gorgeous landscapes around the world and inspirational stories about individual transformation resulting from the practice of Bikram Yoga. 

Watch this incredibly beautiful slow-motion video of Changu below….and his balancing stick poses from around the world!

 

External Links:

https://www.facebook.com/tuladandasanaeverywhere/

https://www.facebook.com/bikramyogaeverywhere/

 

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Turn the Teacher Off!

“I used to confuse and misuse the two kinds of listening, and I bet many other teachers can relate. As a consequence, the people I cared about, who only needed me to be there and not do anything for them, told me to ‘turn the teacher off!'”

Almost every school day for the past thirteen years, I have been successfully and unsuccessfully teaching students how to express themselves through the use of the English language. Among other responsibilities, I am employed to inform teenagers about the concepts and conventions of language use, provide them with strategies to improve their skills, and encourage them to practice. It’s no surprise, after thirteen years of repeatedly listening to people ask for help with their problems, that offering help, solutions, and strategies has become my modus operandi. I love working with people; I am invested in each student; I take my job seriously. And at this point in my career my habits are deeply ingrained. The problem is, I can’t always “turn the teacher off,” outside of the classroom which is something I have been accused of several times by the people I love most. My teacher mode of listening, which is useful in diagnosing and prescribing solutions in order to achieve specific results doesn’t always smoothly transfer to my personal relationships.

In the context of life beyond the classroom (and within the classroom, too!) people often need a different form of listening– a more compassionate form. Most times, people who appear to be asking for solutions to their problems just want to be heard, and perhaps they don’t even realize that is what they are asking for– to be heard.  As the listener and friend, I certainly don’t need to treat them like a student who is struggling with a challenging concept.

teacher help

Conferring with a student about writing, in other words, isn’t the same thing as sitting with someone who’s grieving. The struggle to write (and to learn anything in general) is a painful process, but it isn’t the same kind of suffering as, say, the loss of a loved one or a break-up, or dealing with the pain of infidelity or the discovery of a serious illness. It’s certainly not the same kind of suffering as being wronged or a victim of abuse of injustice. All of this might seem rather obvious if you are reading this and you aren’t a teacher, but I used to confuse and misuse the two kinds of listening, and I bet many other teachers can relate. As a consequence, the people I cared about, who only needed me to be there and not do anything for them, told me to “turn the teacher off!”  I didn’t need to be responsible for diagnosing and prescribing a recipe to address my son’s fight with his best friend. I didn’t need to offer a to do list to help a friend deal with her poor eating habits. I only needed to be present to listen, compassionately, to these most personal struggles and complaints without offering any sort of solution at all. Many times, less is more, which has always been a challenge for me, as I bet it is for others.

After all, teachers don’t act as teachers, we are teachers through in through; it’s the predominant part of our identity. So it becomes very difficult to shut that part of ourselves off, but we can certainly become far more conscious of our tendencies toward constantly feeling responsible for people and their problems, offering practical solutions, or taking charge. We can learn to bite our tongue, “hold our seat,” and offer compassion with merely our presence and attention. We can surely do this with our students as well, when appropriate. The knack is knowing when which sort of listening is called for (or both) and moderating our sometimes knee-jerk reaction of controlling a conversation and actively offering solutions. Just because we exercise our authority and expertise repeatedly with our students day after day doesn’t mean we ought to be the authority in our personal relationships. The modus operandi of teaching in school doesn’t always work “in the real world.”

listen when teacher speaks

More often than not, many people just need to sort through their own problems out loud with someone present, whether it be how to deal with putting their dog down or how to write a conclusion to their essay. Again, less is usually more. When we teachers jump in too soon to “help” the people we care about most, whether it be our students or our spouses, this active form of assistance can take away that person’s independence, self-confidence, and the golden opportunity for them to learn and appreciate the value of compassionate listening. And, really, the best way to learn how to listen at all is simply to be heard. To be on the receiving end of true listening is a gift you can then bestow on others, and as all effective teachers know, modeling is one of the most effective tools in the teacher’s toolbox.

I thought I was a fairly capable listener when I first began teaching, but I have improved the quality of this skill after lots of trial and error with both students and my loved ones who taught me what it means to turn the teacher off; through my own frustration of not feeling heard; through quiet reflection and writing; and through my yoga practice, which is essentially showing up and being present for yourself as well as compassionately listening to what is happening in your body and mind while suffering through postures in an overwhelmingly hot and challenging conditions. In yoga, I learn to get quiet, simply stay with the difficult sensations and thoughts as they happen within, and hold the postures using stillness and conscious breathing. This discipline trains me to better “hold my seat” (and my tongue) with people when they need it most. 

youcandoit

I also learned how to get better at compassionate listening from the example of one very close friend. At first, I judged him as slightly disinterested and incapable of finding good answers and solutions to my problems when he failed to say much. I only realized later that he was not unsure of what to do at all, but was being mindful, empathetic, nonjudgmental, and was providing space for me which allowed me to sort through my own dilemmas safely within the security his presence provided.  That’s love. He knew that’s what I needed, despite my pleading with him for answers— for him to do something! He was there for me.  His conscious and intentional decision not to act, to do less rather than more, was the exact brand of helping I needed in order to feel capable, independent, and strong. Count yourself lucky if you have this sort of teacher in your life!thanks teacher

I think that in this age of accountability in education, a lot of times, we teachers believe that we must always be taking action with our students, that we always must be doing something concrete and practical, for we are observed and evaluated on our performance, as are our students. Many of the yogis I teach also believe the same– that a more visible demonstration of posing is what shows the most progress in their practice, but the art of self-control and presence for oneself is invisible yet far more valuable than any external show of mastery in the asanas. Why do we feel that we are supposed to consistently demonstrate our skills and strategies and that they must all be outwardly visible? Is it because otherwise it appears as if we are doing nothing or we are unproductive which runs counter to our deeply ingrained values?  As many teachers already know, some of the best teaching and learning, like compassionate listening, is entirely invisible; it’s relatively unquantifiable; and it’s found in a consciously chosen “not-doing.” I wish more people knew this.

By failing to turn the teacher off, I have learned that, at times, my mere presence is all that is required, and to show up for people I care about and do less rather than more is sometimes the best kind of teaching.