Should teaching be a habit, a routine or neither?

Bird Droppings April 4, 2019
Should teaching be a habit, a routine or neither?


“Habit is an effect of repeated acts and an aptitude to reproduce them, and may be defined as – a quality difficult to change, whereby an agent whose nature it is to work one way or another indeterminately, is disposed easily and readily at will to follow this or that particular line of action” New Advent Catholic encyclopedia


I need to determine if my dog wanting to go out at 3:23 AM is a habit or routine. My wife argues I taught him to do this rising early for so many years. The sharp barking just is not pleasant to wake up too but I cannot figure why I am the only one who hears him. We do enjoy our walks in the morning darkness listening to the sounds of nature and early morning and it seems always something catches my attention. Habits occur and we establish various actions and or ideas and then we repeat them, these practiced actions and or ideas become difficult to change. Habits so often follow us through our lives as I observe both teachers and students, young and older. We often are not sure when and where they started and assume they will be there forever. Conscious effort is needed to overcome habits that we need to or want to change. As I look there good and or bad habits and for the most part and these can vary for the individual.


“A habit is the usual condition or state of a person or thing, either natural or acquired, regarded as something had, possessed, and firmly retained.” Wikipedia


Looking deeper into what is a habit as I said it can be either good or bad. It could simply be a way a person walks or just as I immediately thought of, smoking is a habit for so many people. But is routine the same thing or it an aspect of habit.


“A routine can be any activity that recurs.” Wikipedia


“The less routine the more life.” Amos Bronson Alcott


I wonder is Alcott stating that routine interferes with or perhaps makes life less meaningful. As I ponder does making a day a strict schedule take away from the flow of our journey and take away the spontaneity. This is a serious thought in a world of where every minute is often planned and logged on some form of electronic device.


“It is not labor that kills, but the small attritions of daily routine that wear us down.” Roy Bedicheck


“My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation.” Arthur Conan Doyle


Sitting here this morning reading these words from great thinkers and writers it is interesting how they see routine as debilitating and as a handicap. Yet we all fall creature to habit and routine even the greatest of thinkers. We all can be found rising from sleep at a specific time, putting on shoes in a certain order, and even eating certain foods for breakfast at a specific time. Arthur Bedicheck, stated it is “the small attritions of daily routine that wear us down”, is it those simple pieces each day that take their toll. We so quickly get locked into those patterns.


“As long as habit and routine dictate the pattern of living, new dimensions of the soul will not emerge.” Henry Van Dyke


“So much of our time is spent in preparation, so much in routine, and so much in retrospect, that the amount of each person’s genius is confined to a very few hours.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


I wonder if Emerson spoke to Thoreau in this way. It was Thoreau who broke away from the routine of daily life to live among nature on Walden Pond. Even his good friend Emerson considered him an eccentric however which I find interesting. It seems we all become victim to routine to habit but it may be to what extent and as Emerson mentioned hopefully our genius is not confined to only a few hours. Thoreau found his way in leaving the routine of life and walking about each day anew.


“Without the element of uncertainty, the bringing off of even, the greatest business triumph would be dull, routine, and eminently unsatisfying.” J. Paul Getty


“A child must feel the flush of victory and the heart-sinking of disappointment before he takes with a will to the tasks distasteful to him and resolves to dance his way through a dull routine of textbooks.” Helen Keller


It is the special time the time we break away from routine that makes the day yet as Helen Keller points out perhaps some of the daily routine is needed. As I think how much more effective if that needed aspect is not just routine but becomes more spontaneous. Perhaps with some students there never is a flush of victory and they never learn to dance through the dull routine of textbooks. I think as a teacher this is occurring daily in most high schools.


“Hire people, who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it. Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine.” David Ogilvy


“The disease which inflicts bureaucracy and what they usually die from is routine”. John Stuart Mill


Studying this morning it seems we have two sides to a coin, routine has its place in society yet must be tuned and not allowed to become habit. Yet on the other side as I thought and read routine can become the basis for thought and thinking looking from a stricter more controlled eastern view. When routine becomes tradition and tradition then becomes common place we have what Mills is relating to and why we have so many issues with politics.
“Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.” Shunryu Suzuki


I wonder as I begin to start this week which direction should we go, try and be more spontaneous or try and focus on that daily routine. I recall another Zen saying however and I have never found an author for this one. “You can never step in a stream the same way twice”. Perhaps I will make my day a bit like stepping in the stream and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.


My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)


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