Teaching is a giving profession. Thus, for many teachers the perspective of Ascendance in which one considers the “greatest good for all” is a common way of seeing the world. A sense of altruism and a desire to contribute to the betterment of others are primary motivators for many teachers. All of this is beautiful.
But, as teachers, it is important to remember that we, too, are part of the “greatest good for all”. When we make choices and decisions, and we want to consider the “greatest good for all”, we must remember to include ourselves within this context.
In your teaching experience, how often do you consider yourself when making decisions for the “greatest good for all”?
How may your students learn from you how to consider themselves within the “greatest good for all”?
A perspective of Ascendance can help us navigate one of the more challenging aspects of being a teacher – the need to be “right”. Of course, teaching is a profession by which we must be “right” in the sense of knowing the correct information and material we are instructing. We cannot instruct our student incorrectly, but we also must understand, other than concrete information, the perspective of being “right” is a bit more nebulous than we like to believe. In the classroom, “right” answers are to be expected. Within the rest of our professional lives, we may be better served with a broader and accepting sense of “rightness”. With the perspective of Ascendance, we are asked to see beyond our sense of “rightness” to the best solutions for all involved.
Can you use the perspective of Ascendance to reflect on how being “right” may impact your experience of teaching?
How can you help your students use Ascendance to understand the appropriate understanding of the need to be “right”?
A gift of Awareness is that it takes the focus off of others, whom we cannot control, and places the focus back upon ourselves and our actions. We convolute issues by pretending we have authority and responsibility where we do not, while ignoring our true sphere of influence. Often, in our personal and professional lives as teachers, we see a blurring of our understanding of where our actions end and the actions of others begin. The blurring of these edges into confusion speaks to a lack of Awareness.
Are we influenced by the behaviors and actions of others? Of course, but our power is lost when our Awareness is solely given to the actions and behaviors of others, while neglecting our own.
How do you spend your time relative to your teaching experiences- contemplating how you should change or how others should change?
How are your students helped when you maintain Awareness about your behaviors and actions?
The first steps on the Arc of Transcendence, Choice and Presence, do not necessarily move us from our typical, rote reactions. Unless, we bring Awareness into the picture, we can continue to choose mindlessly, and we can show up with a presence, which by default, is not helpful. Awareness forces us to assess the manifestations we have created and the possibilities that remain. Too much of the drama surrounding teaching manifests from our reactive responses rather than our aware reflections.
In our teaching experiences, we must develop the capability to evaluate and terminate default behaviors that no longer serve our best interests. Otherwise, we can too easily fall into embracing the comfort of past behaviors, whether they have been effective or not.
Based on your Awareness of the outcomes you desire for your teaching experience, are your actions relative to these desired outcomes reactive or reflective in nature?
Would your students asses you as being more reactive or reflective relative to your teaching actions? How can you help your students become more reflective rather than reactive in regards to their learning?
Choice and Presence are, respectively, the first and second steps on the Arc of Transcendence. Choice and Presence, though, can only take us so far. We may be unwilling to note or take responsibility for these steps, and instead act as if we are simply suffering the circumstances of our lives. Awareness forces us to move beyond this complacency, as Awareness asks us to actively and consciously assess our actions and their subsequent outcomes.
Awareness moves us along the Arc of Transcendence as we evaluate how effectively our actions contribute to our desired teaching experience.
What motivates your actions relative to your teaching experience? Your feelings? Your goals? Pleasing others? Pleasing yourself? How does your answer make you feel?
What would your students say motivates your actions in the classroom? How does your answer make you feel?
Of course, the state of Presence you bring to your teaching experience is not only affected by others. Our state of Presence is also susceptible to the interplay between what happens inside and outside the classroom. We all experience situations outside the classroom that make having a successful Presence in the classroom more difficult. On the reverse side, we have all encountered how circumstances in the classroom can, in turn, affect our Presence outside the classroom. We are not solely defined by our careers as teachers, of course. Our lives extend well beyond this singular role. We will be best served, however, if we understand how the exchange between our lives inside and outside of teaching plays a role in our Presence.
How do you let what happens outside the classroom influence your state of Presence in the classroom? How do you let what happens in the classroom affect your state of Presence outside of the classroom?
How can you help your students understand, in their own experiences, how the interplay between what happens outside and inside the classroom may affect the Presence they bring to learning?
Does how you teach matter? More specifically, does how you teach matter to you? Because, as teachers, we can get very caught up in the perceptions of others related to us and our teaching. In the form of evaluations, we hear every semester what students think about our teaching. We also may undergo at least a yearly review and observation by supervisors and/or peers. Within these acts of having others witnessing our work as teachers and providing their opinions and criticisms, we can develop a sense of disorientation related to our own evaluation and understanding of the work we do.
No one can give you a sense of relevance, if you can not give it to yourself by noticing and embodying what matters most to you as a teacher. You cannot go into your classroom experience without Presence and expect to then be able to effectively integrate and respond to any feedback you receive. Having a solid Presence within your teaching will enable you to find the relevance in the teaching that matters most to you.
What matters most to you relative to your teaching? How does your Presence reveal that this matters to you?
How do you reveal to your students what is most relevant to you in regards to your teaching? What happens to students when a teacher shows up without a sense of relevance for this or her work?
Teaching is not an easy activity. As teachers, we are constantly “on”, holding the space for the betterment and evolvement of all. Given these challenges, the difficulty of teaching only increases when we are not present enough to be effective. Presence is how we show up, and if we do not show up in the best way possible, how can we expect to have a good classroom experience? Presence is how we mold and shape our classroom environments. Without Presence, we are “there” but not really “there”, and in this, we operate with limited power.
How much of your success as a teacher depends on your state of Presence or how you show up? How may a lack of Presence contribute to your failures as a teacher?
What happens to your students when you show up to teach without a positive state of Presence?
The Presence you bring to your teaching has the power to transform your experience.
If Choice creates the opportunities for certain experiences in our classroom, Presence, the second step along the Arc of Transcendence, solidifies this experience. Presence is how we “show up” to do the work of teaching, and all the steps this entails, both inside and outside the classroom. You can make the best Choices as a teacher, but if you do not back these Choices with the power of your Presence, you will fail.
How would you define the primary state of Presence you bring to your teaching activities?
Do you consider your primary state of Presence to be a benefit to your students or a detriment? How does your answer make you feel?
Our teaching experience is based on the Choices we make. One way we can detract from our experiences is when we make Choices that conflict with one another. Many times, in the classroom, we create confusion and a lack of confidence, not because we are necessarily making bad Choices, but rather we are attempting to make Choices that are in opposition. We may make the Choice to give more assessments opportunities this semester, yet, at the same time, choose to have more free time at home with less grading. Or, we may make the choice to change our curriculum, yet also want the comfort that comes from using our same material and curriculum from before. None of these Choices are “good” or “bad”. The problems only arise when the Choices are in conflict with one an another.
Where, in your classroom experience, are you making Choices that are congruent with one another? Where are you making Choices that are in conflict with one another? How do these Choices contribute to your teaching experience?
How can you work with your students so that everyone, within the classroom experience, is making Choices that are congruent with one another rather than in conflict?