I have been thinking a lot about how the acorn effortlessly turns into an oak tree. It is the intention of nature for an acorn to become a tree, so it gives it soil and rain and sun without worrying about the outcome. Nature shows up every day and does its best without caring if the acorn becomes a towering oak, a Charlie Brown sized twig, a weed or a squirrel’s midnight snack. Nature knows that all of these things are needed to make our world the beautiful place it is anyway.
Something happens because change is inevitable when we show up. Good intentions lead us in a positive direction. Planning, organization and structure facilitate change. The outcome is not ours to decide.
I see this process happen each day in my job as a yoga teacher. It is always my wish to teach a helpful class that will give each student something they need, either big or small. I have a plan in my mind about the poses, the pace and the things I will say to offer a space of deeper understanding of the practice and the person inside the practice. And when the class begins I have to let go and be led by the atmosphere, the physical abilities and the amount of focus and understanding in the room as a whole. I cannot allow myself to celebrate or commiserate about each class I teach. My role is like the Sun’s, to get up each day and do my best to shine.
Because I was once a middle and high school teacher and because I have two children in the public school system right now, I often think of how education is approached and continuously changing. I see many teachers who are frustrated with all of the testing they are required to do and many kids who gauge their success or failure on grades and scores.
I still remember my own years in school when my mother would lament about the fact that my grades were often mediocre at best but my standardized test scores were outstanding. She would tell me that I was the most frustrating type of student for teachers to teach because they knew I was capable but I was choosing not to give my all. In the mind of the little girl that I was, I was doing my best. I was showing up at school each day with a good attitude and good intentions. I was respectful of my teachers and classmates. I actively participated, even when I was the last to get picked in kickball. After school, I was practicing my dance, gymnastics and piano. I had friends who I played with and was loyal to. I took care of my books and toys, learned to make my own lunch and fixed my own hair. I endured weekly allergy shots without complaining. I tried to obey my parents and resist the urge to read my sister’s diary. I was doing my best and the outcome was what the outcome was.
I grew up to be a college graduate, a responsible parent and a career-minded business owner. I may have made more than a few bad grades along the way, but I think things turned out alright.
People who work for our schools love children. They want each child to learn things that will enhance their lives and guide them toward their own personal successes in life. They wake up early each morning with good intentions to be a beacon for the students they are entrusted to educate. They spend endless hours researching new ways to introduce and present their topics, write detailed lesson plans and read papers and tests with hope that they will see knowledge, understanding, creativity and individuality shining through.
What is unfortunate is that both the teachers and the students feel judged on whether they are an oak tree, a twig, a weed or squirrel food.
What if there was a way for educators to become empty? Wouldn’t it be something if we could show a child his grade and say, “This is the outcome you got this time. What will be your intention for the next time and what kind of plans do you have to make that happen?” And more importantly, what if we could say that without making anyone feel judged or unaccepted? Is it possible that we as parents, students, teachers and administrators are making this way harder than it needs to be? Could we all be striving enough and the problem is just that we are not allowing ourselves to accept the outcome?
The world needs us all. We all offer our own flavor of beauty that is etched on the people and places we touch. It is important to live with intention and principle and always do our best. It is necessary to plan, study and strive. It is possible to work with what we have and proudly shine however we may bloom.