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It’s Not About the Grades: Landscapes for Learning Beyond Schooling

The heart of my story, “It’s Not About the Grades: Landscapes for Learning Beyond Schooling” is about living with integrity, authentically, as the true me who I was born to be. It’s about how my essential nature was co-opted by society’s values of competition and comparison. It’s about my long journey of loss and recovery. It’s about living from my soul, from love, from the inside-out, not from the outside-in in order to please the world and its egocentric values (Plotkin). It’s about my story being common, maybe a little too familiar.

“Doing You” is the best and most efficient and effective way to truly serve others. When you know who you are, you can understand how to take care of yourself. It’s an ongoing process of awakening and awareness. You are your own best teacher for life across the landscapes that are here for your trials and errors, transformation, and transcendence– your learning.

If we look at our life experiences as opportunities for learning, we are empowered rather than victims.  Ironically, by exposing ourselves and being vulnerable and afraid we become courageous, strong, and flexible. We learn and change and grow. And that is who we are– constant change, growth, becoming, like a flower-petal blooming (Choudhury). Beneath that gorgeous blossom is all of the hard work of waking up–the mud: the practice of brutal honesty required, the struggle, the doubt, the resistance, and the failure that is intrinsic to the beautiful reality of being human and being truly alive,flourishing. What is flourishing? It’s meaning, purpose, passion, and vitality. No mud, no lotus (Hahn).

My story is unique, but not unusual. I see lots of others traveling the same path I was on– unaware, disconnected from their core self, and not knowing how or where they might find the tools to awaken and live truthfully, despite appearing “normal” and “successful.”  The details differ but the journey is the same. I see that we are educating and raising kids the same way I was raised–to the detriment of the true self and the unnecessary suffering that results from such disconnection.

Teachers (including parents), by explicitly promoting approaching life as a learner, not just an academic achieverwill provide kids with a more complete education–one of character not just career, wisdom not just knowledge and information, in order to live, love, and appreciate (gratefully) each moment– the present moment, instead of focusing so much on what kids are going to be “when they grow up”. Kids need to be here, now (Ram Dass). We all do.

I wish I had such an education earlier in my life, awoken to this truth about building the courage to stay connected to my essential self and gaining the tools to practice living my truth.

I wish someone told me there was this thing–” truth,” that existed within my inner landscape waiting as potential to be actualized and that it was my responsibility to “do the real me” instead of merely copying models or crafting myself into something valid and legitimate in the estimation and judgement of others.

I wish I had a warning that I would suffer because I am human, and then also be taught that to lean into, explore, and learn from that suffering would be the exact antidote to the type of worse suffering that would persist if I ran away– which I did and so many of us do without even realizing it.

Is learning by direct experience about one’s own human nature and character too spiritual? Is becoming authentic, truthful, and true the humanities education for the 21st century we need to quell the postmodern relativism that prevails?

We should encourage students to trust teachers less and trust themselves more.

We should guide them to go inward to travel their inner landscape, beyond the eyes and judgment of schooling, to see clearly their pure essence which is love, allow it to unfold as their witness, and then stay out of the way of such unfolding. Instead, we interfere with narrow expectations and an obsession with grades, measurement, comparison, and competition. We co-opt authentic learning with too much schooling.

We should not steal their suffering, but rather show them how suffering is done better so they can suffer less or at least not unnecessarily.

We should educate them such that unconditional love of oneself is the norm rather than the exception.

We should teach them more yoga.

References

Dass, Ram. Be Here Now. (1971).

Choudhury, Bikram. Bikram Yoga Teacher Dialogue. (2002).

Hahn, Thich Naht. No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering. (2014).

Plotkin, Bill. Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World. (2007).

Definitions

Self-realization (Wikipedia, Merriam Webster’s Dictionary)

Self-realization is an expression used in Western psychologyphilosophy, and spirituality; and in Indian religions. In the Western, psychological understanding it may be defined as the “fulfillment by oneself of the possibilities of one’s character or personality.” In the Indian understanding, Self-realization is liberating knowledge of the true Self, either as the permanent undying Atman, or as the absence (sunyata) of such a permanent Self.

Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines self-realization as: Fulfillment by oneself of the possibilities of one’s character or personality.In the Western world “self-realization” has gained great popularity. Influential in this popularity were psycho-analysis, humanistic psychology, the growing acquaintance with Eastern religions, and the growing popularity of Western esotericism.

In Hinduism, self-realization (atma-jnana or atmabodha) is knowledge of the true self beyond both delusion and identification with material phenomena. It refers to self-identification and not mere ego identification

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Podcast w/ Myozen Joan Amaral on Zen, Zazen, Practice and Social Life

“The best way is to understand yourself, and then you will understand everything.

So when you try hard to make your own way, you will help others, and you will be helped by others.

Before you make your own way you cannot help anyone, and no one can help you.”

Shunryu Suzuki

 

 

Myozen Joan Amaral moved to the Boston area in 2012 from the San Francisco Zen Center to serve as guiding teacher for the Zen Center North Shore. She is delightful, funny, a ray of light, and a calming force to be around. There’s a positive and loving attractiveness about her that, as she says at the end of the podcast, impacts others more than anything she could say using words. As a Zen priest living back out in the world, her primary focus is on the dynamic relationship between formal meditation practice and everyday, messy human life.

JoanAmaral

I met Joan years ago when I went on a World Religions class field trip to the Zen Center and again when she was invited to implement a meditation program for students and teachers at the school where I worked as a high school humanities teacher.

In this podcast, Joan talks with me about the interplay of the inner landscape and life on the outer landscape in terms of zazen and the precepts of Zen Buddhism. She talks about the Zen Center and her role as Priest within the local community and individual mindful meditation practice as well as its relationship to community, activism, and social justice.  We also talk about the definition of mindfulness and how it is popularly perceived as a tool for stress reduction, how it’s been limited in some ways because of such perceptions and definition, and the possible barriers to its acceptance as a valued practice in a school setting.

Influencing the world and serving others is intimately tied to individual practice, and honing one’s practice is a form of social activism benefitting not only the practitioner but all else.

Interested in inviting Joan to your school or local organization? Feel free to contact her at the Zen Center!

For more about the North Shore Zen Center:
https://zencenternorthshore.org/

For more information about Zen Buddhism:
http://www.zen-buddhism.net/

*A Meta-reflection on this post:
I am continuing to hone my podcast interviewing skills, which based on this conversation still need lots of work. This podcasting experience is showing where I have gaps in my understanding (which means I am still learning, so I am happy about that!) and that I have to continue to listen more. My god, I can talk! I am also still very uncomfortable with hearing my own voice and remaining positive about this endeavour. Frankly, it all still makes me cringe. Oh, and also, I am still learning to edit and publish effectively using Audacity which is a frustrating sound editor indeed, as I have been unable to save some projects after several hours of work. I wanted to be tested, and that is surely happening.

I learn a lot about the way I communicate from podcasting– how I listen or fail to, and I also learn about my own understanding and misunderstanding when I am able to re-listen to the conversations and edit them before publishing. This is an excellent way to learn about your own thinking and communication of ideas. I am a work in progress!

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About LFL Podcast

In this first podcast, I introduce myself and my purpose for the Landscapes for Learning podcast.

I was motivated to create the Landscapes for Learning project to counter students’ and parents’ and schools’ over-valuation of grades and competition for college acceptance as the key to “the good life.” As a long-time educator, I saw this value and its related goals derail kids from exploring their inner lives and cause major anxiety and negative attitudes and mindsets about real learning. Students who failed to achieve hated learning because they defined learning and schooling as the same thing, which they are not. We have to teach our children by living out values each and every day that are more informed and healthy based on the true purpose of a whole and complete education for a human being in the 21st century.

I would like to create a new narrative about schooling– that it ought to be in service to the more important and broader umbrella of authentic learning, which includes real risk-taking, and the important trial and error process that fosters self-awareness, self-love, confidence, grit, patience, entrepreneurial spirit, and the conscious and deliberate self-actualization of each individual.

Every kid has potential that deserves to be actualized so they can become the truest and best version of the person they were born to be!

A wisdom curriculum and promotion of a love of learning beyond schooling must be an essential part of the curriculum in secondary education (grades 8-12) especially if the system continues in its current (nearly outdated) form.

I hope the stories of ordinary people traveling the landscapes both inner and outer inspire and support a love of authentic learning among all listeners.

 

 

 

 

 

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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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No Mud, No Lotus: A True Story about Limits

I was nine years old the first time I ran away from school.

The nuns at St.Mary of the Annunciation had a strict rule: “the boys play with the boys and the girls play with the girls.” I ignored that rule, mostly because I thought of myself as more of a boy than a girl, thusly assuming that that particular rule surely did not apply to me, and partly because I liked the rush of risk-taking. So I broke this maxim daily by engaging in physically demanding games with the boys like Chase, 4-square, and Rumble which was my absolute favorite, its simplicity found in the one directive: tackle the person with the ball. The group of the aggressive hungry lived to destroy the one brave and masochistic individual holding onto the ball, the player willing to get ripped to shreds before ever giving it up. A trip to the nurse’s office for bandaids and ice packs was routine. Ah, the glory days of a rough and tumble, bruised, and banged up childhood! Revelling in the sweat and physical exhaustion of the outdoors at recess every day, we were then lined up at the door (by sex, of course) to re-enter the classrooms lined with desks and chairs in rows to receive our academic instruction, which I enjoyed immensely. My body got what it needed, so my mind was ready to re-engage with intellectual pursuit. 

Apparently, a mass of sweaty boys jumping on top of a nine-year old blonde with spindly legs, wearing a skirt no less (I wore gym shorts underneath), didn’t quite sit well with the nuns who were understandably horrified by my unusual proclivity for expressing full-fledged aggression and hard core competition. “Mrs. Bakis, the boys are jumping all over Maureen in the schoolyard” poor St. Helen Julia pleaded with my mother, in order to make it stop. I was causing mayhem. I represented disorder, crossing boundaries, breaking the school’s limits. This would not stand, so one fine day in the spring circa 1978, the recess monitor shooed me away from playing with the boys and insisted I go play with the girls. Devastated to be separated from my best friends and also furious, I was the captain of our team after all, I dutifully walked away from the boys toward the furthest boundary of the playground, the edge, nearer to where the girls were drawing with chalk, and kept on walking– past the girls, up the steep hilled driveway of the school, and around the corner toward freedom– or so I thought. My heart was pounding with fear and excitement, my “I’ll show them” mindset gaining momentum as I walked down the sidewalk homeward. “Keep me from doing what I love? I don’t think so.” I was in a fight against “the man,” even though I had no vocabulary or clue about what that meant. If you are thinking, “You go, girl in your fight against unjust rules based on gender norms” you’re about to be very disappointed.

When the school discovered I did not return from recess, the secretary in the main office, Mrs. Ann Cyr, drove Sr. Helen Julia to my house. They didn’t even knock! When they came into my house, I fled upstairs to my brother’s bedroom– the only room in a house full of females that had a lock on the door, barricaded myself inside the eves and refused to open it.  I don’t remember what happened after that, only that I didn’t get into trouble with my parents because if I had, I would have recalled the punishment. My father was not one to spare the rod to spoil the child.

To credit my mother, a devout Catholic yet living in the exciting reality of the women’s liberation movement, her response to the nun’s fury with my rebellion and inability to follow the rules to play with the girls, and indeed, act like a girl, was not to demand equality on my behalf or to change the rules of recess for me so I could play Rumble with the boys. She and I did not raise awareness or command social justice. We didn’t rally or protest. Nope, my mother apologized to the school, told them what they wanted to hear, and promptly disciplined me– that is, she told me to follow the rules whether I (or she) liked them or not. This was called tough-love, something in short supply these days not only among parents but in many other milieus. People don’t want to do what is difficult. It’s hard to do the right thing. But without mud, there can be no lotus, an adage recently made popular by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist spiritual leader. 

I didn’t like being disciplined one bit– does anyone enjoy doing what’s difficult but that is good for them? Our default wiring is fight, flight, or freeze, after all.

My mother’s insistence that I play with the girls at recess was not intended to change me intrinsically, to deny my personal identity; it was not an attempt to alter my essential nature or to make me act like a lady or behave like a typical girl; it was to teach me that life has limits, that I was limited, and I had to follow rules. I could play with boys after school and whenever else I wanted, and so I did. I climbed trees, built forts and bikes, played whiffle ball for hours on end, spit like a cowboy, got into shouting matches and fist fights with other boys (and naturally made up quickly after) and played Little League baseball, one of the first to do so in my small town. I learned to live with the compromise, not at first, but well enough soon after. Yes, I had to repress a small part of myself, and yes I was angry at the school and deeply disappointed to be forced to play with the girls, but I made more friends and learned an important lesson: how to make lemonade out of lemons, make the best of a bad situation, to pivot. All of this as the result of one “problem” and a swift and deliberate parenting decision for which I am eternally grateful.

Despite my mother’s understanding that gender norms were changing, I had to respect limits set by the institution where she chose to send me for an education, a necessary trade-off to receive the plethora of other benefits the school provided for me. I was not a boy despite thinking I was in my own mind, and my mother was not about to go along with a fantasy a nine-year old held about her identity.  I was exceptional in terms of being outside the “typical” or the “normal,” but that did not mean I would be excepted from rules.  I was not special in that respect. I did not deserve accommodation.

My seemingly huge “conflict” was really no big deal for my mother, as I was the youngest of five and she was experienced with raising children. She had been seeing the positive results of enforcing the values she implemented in our family for years, duly reinforced by my father. Her disciplining me did not mean I was wrong, my feelings were wrong, or that there was something wrong with me intrinsically, but only that I was to learn about compromising a piece of myself for the sake of the group— for the sake of order– same as I was expected to do at home in a family of seven. I had to learn that I did not always get what I wanted and that I could not always express my authentic nature when, where, and how I wanted at any and all times of my choosing. And most certainly not at the age of nine. She wasn’t going to a raise the type of child people wouldn’t like or want to be around and therefore treat poorly; to say she did me a favor is an understatement.

My mother did not try to change my environment to better suit my authenticity; she did not make demands of the school on my behalf—rather, she taught me to cope with the environment within which I found myself, my external circumstances, and that it was my individual responsibility and only mine, within my inner landscape, to figure out how to both be true to myself, retain my integrity as me and respect limits, even if I was uncomfortable with that, even if it caused me pain. She did not teach me how to be a victim of an outdated and patriarchal institution, nor did she criticize the institution itself and call for its destruction. She recognized the school’s and society’s norms had to be updated, to grow, but she also knew that, in the meantime, empowering me, the individual, to take responsibility to live authentically, to compromise when necessary, and to deal with blows whether to my ego or my feelings that really hurt was the proper way to raise a child and create change, over time. Indeed, both the institution and and I have transformed rather steadily over the past forty years, not to say that either process has been easy. But, an easy life is a virtual life, so not really life at all. 

Often, the change we want in our social world is slow and requires great patience and ongoing persistence, something most people living in our current world of instant gratification and speed cannot compute. I mean, it just seems so inefficient to have to wait! As well, a severe lack of appreciation for everything that is good about the more traditional institutions we’ve built is pervasive among those who choose to focus solely on its inequities. What person or institution doesn’t have its corruptions? 

My mother, in concert with the school, taught me the nature and value of external limits imposed on people by others: by parents, peer groups, small social groups like in a classroom or on a sports team, and by larger institutions, but more important, she gave me opportunities to create internal limits I would be required to set for myself and be accountable to myself for, forever, which would inevitably include when she wasn’t around anymore. It appears that, in life, someone else or something else has to keep you honest as you learn the process of doing it for yourself. And when you learn to effectively answer to yourself–to your truth, that’s called personal integrity– total accountability to an honest self which enables you to respect yourself and, in turn, respect others.  

Instead of keeping me locked up in a safe space away from pain, away from the uncomfortable consequences of discipline, my mother used my absconding from school as an opportunity, a “teachable moment,” for me to authentically learn– to practice coping with my own discomfort and take responsibility for my own pain, my own suffering, that resulted from not only not getting what I wanted, which was to play with the boys at recess, but also the struggle of not being able to express myself, as me, completely. And this is the way of one’s identity– a continual balancing act between the individual and the group, a give and take, a yin and yang.  

Parents and schools must allow children to suffer limits, for “without grit, there is no pearl” says Thich Naht Hahn and that “when we know how to suffer, we suffer less.” This is what I compare to yoga which is practicing doing something hard, something I don’t want to do because it’s uncomfortable, something my ego rebels against but that simultaneously creates amazing growth.  In the process of yoga, or self-actualization, limits are indispensable; they are the crucial component, the double-edged sword that at once helps to carve and carefully design you into the truest you you can possibly be while also inviting you to work hard, with patience and persistence, to transcend them. 

 

 

 

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Love for Learning Beyond Schooling

A love for learning is much different than a love for school.

My greatest concern during my tenure as a high school English teacher was kids’ lack of understanding of and appreciation for learning. I don’t mean that they did not appreciate or love my lessons (some did, some did not). I mean, they thought they didn’t love learning because they didn’t love school. And I heard too many kids say, I am never going to school again once I am outta here! Most kids, likely subconsciously or unconsciously, associate learning with schooling and think they are the same thing. If that is true, then,  “I am never going to learn again” is a scary prospect. Yikes!

Students have been conditioned with an overly-utilitarian attitude toward “learning” (that takes place in school) which by nature of its very definition does not encourage them to learn for the sake of learning, for its sheer joy and love, nor see how learning would automatically water their seeds for personal growth even without their conscious effort.

My students’ perception of learning was that it was the same exact thing as schooling: a set of requirements done in a particular manner toward a particular end. For some, the end was college entrance and preparedness for more academic forms of learning. This narrative of competition for college acceptance (as if it was the guaranteed key to a happy life) was implanted in their minds from a young age by their parents and reinforced by school. “Learning” thereby became a job, a duty, an obligation, something weighing upon kids and causing tremendous amounts of stress for many. For many others, “getting good grades” shaped their identity– their job defined them! (I will not describe the nature or degree of the stress here or the conflict and suffering involved with developing identity among teens, though these problems are the result of over-valuing of schooling rather than learning.)For others, “learning” was about gaining the diploma to enable them to qualify for the world of employment. Again, a hoop to jump through to get to “the next thing,” and a requirement imposed by an external force, the state (that basically needs daycare until kids can become productive workers and contribute to the economy. A holding place.)

Notice that for both types of students described above, neither were living in the present moment in terms of their learning, but rather living for their future selves– people they could not possibly know but only make guesses about. There’s nothing wrong with setting goals for the future, for additional academic training or work in the world, or duty, or managing responsibility, or being asked to meet expectations for performance or preparedness to live in a reality that is economic. I only argue that a definition of learning that is limited only to school and utilitarian ends is counter to fostering a genuine love for learning, all forms of learning, beyond school, and that it neglects the developmental needs of a fully-actualizing individual human being. It also makes it extraordinarily difficult for the learner to live in the present, to appreciate life, learning, as it unfolds in each moment. Perhaps this is also why some students don’t seem as alive as they might be.

I worry that young people will leave high school believing that schooling is the same thing as learning and that that narrow understanding will prohibit them from realizing their own possibilities on the many landscapes for learning. I worry that they will miss out on knowing what a love for learning as a lifestyle would do for their growth and their potential as human beings, not just human achievers, accomplishers, competitors, or doers.

Learning isn’t the same thing as schooling; it’s much more than acquiring useful information and skills laid out in a curriculum that couldn’t possibly cover everything that is “essential” to know for life. School is bounded learning whereas the landscapes for learning are limitless, and that is exciting– just like love is exciting. Similarly, as they say about finding love, “There’s someone for everyone,” there’s also  learning for everyone, beyond school, across the landscapes, no matter what level of academic or formal schooling anyone has attempted or completed. And whereas you can fail at school, you can never fail at learning. I want kids to know this.

Schooling is definitely a very important part of the equation of self-realization, but it isn’t the whole story, and I know most people know this. But the confines of school prohibits us in many ways from enacting what we know to be true and right. I do hope to invite people, especially parents, educators, and students to join me in putting school in its proper perspective, not just intellectually, but by taking action— focusing attention, resources, and effort on learning beyond schooling.  Literally, schooling needs to be minimized and frankly, valued less or at least properly understood for what it provides for overall learning. Schooling ought to be nested under the umbrella of authentic learning which is much more broad and wide, full of possibility, love, and potential for individual people.  Ironic–yes, but less would definitely be more in terms of a complete education.

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Restoring Balance: Too Much Schooling & Not Enough Learning”

Part of the this Landscapes for Learning mission is to draw attention to teaching and learning in a broader sense than schooling and to begin a new conversation about the kinds of learning we currently value in our American public schools.

What I think is based on my own personal experience as a student, as a former teacher in a parochial and public high school, as a coach, as a teacher of teachers, as a graduate student, as a parent of four grown children, as a yoga teacher.  Feel free to dismiss me as any sort of authority, as this is merely my opinion.

I think we, as Americans, value human “doing” more than human “being.” I think this value is apparent in the American psyche of parents and in the process of schooling. I think it’s a big problem.

I quit my job because my high school is overly-focused on values I do not share. I gave up my income, my benefits, a pension, because of a difference in values— Simply put, my definition of learning isn’t the same as theirs and this was a deal-breaker for me. I was unable to teach authentically or honestly without conflict which makes for an unhealthy and difficult relationship.

If humanity, health, and wellness comes second to achievement, even a close-second, I am not okay with that. I am as competitive as the next person, I was a high-achiever myself, but not when it comes to the learning process. Learning is a whole different game. I saw too many kids suffer because of the community’s priorities that do not match what I know to be true about authentic learning and teaching, humanity, health and wellness.

I was asked in various ways (both systemically and personally) to compromise my integrity as a teacher; my methods and approaches to learning clashed too often with a system (and its people) that values achievement above all else, even at the expense of individual students’ health and wellness. I got tired of unschooling junior and seniors, acting as therapist, mom, and English teacher. The energy it took rescuing students from the edge of hatred of anything and everything even remotely related to learning in school was enormous. I was really good at reviving a love of learning among damaged, difficult, challenging, and discipline-problem-kids.  I was even better at helping the high-achieving, way-too-stressed, parent-pleasers-who-never-got-to-be-kids, hellbent on Harvard entrance understand the difference between schooling and learning. I talked more than one kid off a ledge. I lost several others. My teaching experience is probably not unusual.

I never told people I taught English– that’s a subject area– I told them I taught kids– human beings. I tried to teach them how to be good, healthy human beings through reading, writing, talking, and listening. I showed them through my own example as a human being and the examples within history, literature, and contemporary life.  Real teaching is about the who of teaching, not the what or the how or the scores or awards, and this is especially true if you are teaching in the humanities.

Now that I am officially unemployed, I can actually do my job–I haven’t lost my identity or my integrity as a teacher— which is to teach young people about human nature and authentic learning.  Schooling in the traditional sense damages at least as many kids as it benefits. I don’t know the exact ratio or numbers– only that it was enough to give up a pension and health insurance for the rest of my life. I loved teaching (not my “job”) and my colleagues.  We did good work! And schooling itself isn’t all bad– it’s just far too limited, too narrow, and too over-valued in our culture. It needs to be put in its proper place among the far more expansive and broad umbrella of authentic teaching and learning that happens across the landscapes of life.

I can’t fix the school system from the inside; nor am I silly enough to think I can change it through writing a blog or by publishing a book; but what I can do is start a conversation that might get people to think; to reconsider their values; to think about to what end their attention and effort in education is directed; to perhaps look more closely at why a mental health crisis exists among young people; to offer an alternate definition of learning that is more expansive so parents, schools, teachers, and students can feel empowered to authentically learn and teach in whatever ways and capacities possible for each of them; to not cause more suffering, to prevent additional suffering in the future, and to help anyone involved with schooling cope and perhaps even thrive…if they can put schooling in its proper perspective and understand the important differences between learning and schooling.

I also hope to encourage people to value an exploration of inner landscapes as much as, if not more than, “schooling,” studying abroad, or focusing too much attention on the external landscapes– other people, other groups, other-than-ourselves. Yes, I suppose I am asking people to become more self-centered, not in terms of being selfish or self-obsessed, but rather more self-aware, self-loving, self-compassionate, self-knowledgeable; I am, indeed, encouraging everyone to do more yoga.

I hope to encourage teenagers and teachers to discover that they have all the answers to their own lives right within them, if they only spent time getting to know themselves and all that they contain– to tap into inner wisdom, and  spend time within, befriending and becoming more familiar with their inner life maybe more than they focus on their external circumstances or “what’s out there”– whether focusing on social media or paying so much attention to what everyone else is doing. We ought to have more FOMI (Fear of Missing In) instead of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). So many people have lost their connection to themselves, despite being so electronically connected to everyone else and everything else in the world.

Kids need mentors to guide them within and to help them travel their inner landscape. It’s up to teachers and parents and anyone else interested in preserving the humanity of humanity.