Teachers need to consult their hearts

Bird Droppings November 28, 2021

Teachers need to consult their hearts

I don’t know what happens when people die
Can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It’s like a song I can hear playing right in my ear
But I can’t sing, I can’t help listening…..
Crying as they ease you down
Jackson Brown, For a Dancer

I was amazed walking out this morning to the car and 35 degrees. I am the only one home, and I was lazier than I had planned. I did get up in time to photograph the sunrise and catch a barred owl roosting along with a red-tailed hawk. I was driving to Kroger, and my phone’s music selection finished, and then it went to random similar genre songs. I clicked through several and landed on For a Dancer by Jackson Browne. I Have been home alone because my wife Pat has been at her mother’s house dealing with the death of Pat’s brother. This song hit me as I thought of Tim and his family. Today I am thinking with my heart.

I was going through some research material and pulled out a little book. It has been several years since I found this small book on my many excursions to Barnes and Nobles that I would like to share some passages from. I found many of the thoughts and passages to be of interest and significance and for me sharing words of wisdom with others is part of who I am. Over the years, I have had many students in classes and advisement interested in nursing, and many thoughts in this little book relate to health and spiritual care as being the same. Quite a few of my former students are in nursing and health care. The little book, Listening with Your Heart, is written by Dr. Wayne Peale MD, a medical doctor and an Iroquois on his mother’s side.

“As a medical student, I was being trained to hear hearts with my stethoscope but found I was missing a great deal by not listening with my heart,” Dr. Wayne Peale

Several years ago, I was proctoring an End of Course Test. One of the questions was from a poem or passage about a colt that was not winter-broke. I liked that term winter-broke. For those in the south, perhaps it has little meaning and maybe a culturally tricky passage. The term winter-broke is about being used to the winter, snowflakes, cold, steam from your breath, and other idiosyncrasies of the cold. Today in Georgia, many of those shy of snow in our area are visible. A fresh snowfall would spook a baby horse new to the world. Maybe chasing snowflakes or running from them, as in the case of the story.

Other answers used words such as was the colt afraid and words similar. One of my students asked me quietly what is empathetic. Being a language arts test, I could not impart or tell the definition of an answer. However, as the question was answered for one of the answers, the author empathized with the colt’s plight. I saw my little book on the table when I returned to my room and pondered as to why it was so hard not to say the answer because I, too, lived by empathy.

“The white man talks about the mind and body and spirit as if they are separate. For us, they are one. Our whole life is spiritual, from the time we get up until we go to bed.”            Yakima healer

It was nearly seventeen years ago that I agonized about a situation and a student who is on the verge of being expelled, and much of it from my fault. The student was refusing to do a required program. In refusing to do the assignment, he was getting angry and argumentative, often to the point of school disruption. When you carefully look at the student’s disability, each aspect of it is in given responses, lack of control, obsessive behavior, emotional issues, anger management issues, and authority issues. A slight change and the problem could be solved. Why not do the same work differently? Of course, it is not in the confines of “program” which would upset the administration. Should empathy for the student stand up to, trying to stay in the box? As Dr. Peale learned and points out, sometimes you need to teach from the heart as well. One day perhaps, I will study linguistics and language. As I looked through Dr. Peale’s book, a Navajo word caught my attention.

“Hozho (HO-zo) – A complex Navajo philosophical, religious, and aesthetic concept roughly translated as “beauty.” Hozho also means seeking and incorporating aesthetic qualities into life; it means inner peace and harmony and making the most of all that surrounds us. It refers to a positive, beautiful, harmonious, happy environment that must be constantly created by thought and deed. Hozho encourages us to go in beauty and to enjoy the gifts of life and nature and health.” Listening with your heart

In a recent writing seminar, the lead teacher offered that reading a passage can aid in eliciting descriptive phrases and sentences and encourage students to be illiterate and expound on ideas more so. I end each of my daily writings with a Hindustani word and have several times offered the translation when people ask. Here is a term that has so many meanings. A simple expression is namaste, yet so much importance. Within its language, there are different meanings for different people. For some, it is a salutation, a simple hello or goodbye. If you go a bit further south in India, you would only use namaste with reverence and bow your head, pressing your hands together, honoring the person you speak with, and your simple salutation.

It has been a few months back since I wrote about making a rope strand by strand. A dear friend from up north wrote back thanking me and later in the day responded with this note.

“Thank you for sharing them with me.  I sent this one on to my husband, sister, sister-in-law, and my best friend.  Thru this most difficult year, losing my beloved son, they have been constants in my life united we stand thru this valley of darkness. Without their love and support, my grief would be unbearable.  Peace, my       friend.”

Empathy is assisted healing from the heart.

“…healing is a partnership with others – family members, community. A Native American healer once paraphrased Abraham Lincoln to me: ‘you can heal some things all of the time,’ the healer said, ‘and you can heal all things some of the time, but you can’t heal everything all the time alone.’ Everyone needs a coach, a family, a community.” Dr. Wayne Peale MD

Sometimes when I receive a note from the heart, it is difficult to answer immediately. I have to sit sometimes even sleep on it. My dear friend lost a son. Since hearing of her plight, I have wondered what it would be like to lose a son, a daughter, or anyone close to me. Empathy is a difficult word at times like these. It is a much bigger word than most would imagine.

Our house is such that two of our bedrooms rooms are upstairs and two are downstairs they go from one end of the house to the other. My writing and reading time does not always correspond with normal sleep patterns; the family will be asleep when I am about to write or read. Hearing the sounds of my family asleep often is a peaceful and wonderful feeling. Knowing they are safe and here at home. Then the so many what-ifs have crossed my mind as I walk through the house early in the morning, thinking about what if the rooms were empty.

Lost in a moment of melancholy, I come back to teaching in my thinking. Teaching is about healing, it is about community, and it is about family, and most of all, it is about empathy. It is about seeking and engaging constants in our lives to move forward and or change directions if need be. Teaching is always about learning. Sometimes as I realized yesterday and have so many times before, our nice boxes we are supposed to teach from are not always the right ones. Sadly far too many teachers do not use the heart as a teaching tool. Far too many parents do not or cannot use the heart as a parenting tool. As I look at the title of Dr. Peale’s book, listening with your heart, what a powerful message.

I am doing an exercise using a black and white picture of a bridge. Most will see an image, while others have created fantasy worlds of trolls and fairies. Some explain their perception and how we each are different in what we see and hear. Often I will play the devil’s advocate and argue both sides. It is just a bridge to elicit responses, or if it was a work of art created by an immigrant ironworker as a tribute to their new freedom. Thinking back to, Hozho, my new word, I should take pause.

“Every action should be taken with thoughts of its effects on children seven generations from now.” Cherokee saying

If only we would deal with kids with life that way. What if people, in general, looked at life that way? Would you please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts? It is about being in your heart. It is about speaking from your heart. But most of all, it is listening with your heart and always giving thanks namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


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