When I tell people I'm a teacher, people usually make the following assumptions about me
1. I'm broke and stressed (which is not always true)
2. I have an unbelievable and infinite capacity for patience and altruism (definitely not true!)
Strangers will say something along the lines of ......"Oh wow you're a teacher? Good for you. I could never do what you guys do all day. How do you even do it? Those kids must be tough! "
While I know assumptions like that come from a good place, I wish more people knew what the act of teaching really is.
What I'm learning is...teaching doesn't require infinite patience. Teaching doesn't require an amazing ability to self-sacrifice for the good of society and our children. Teachers aren't saints. In fact, nothing about a person's innate personality automatically makes them a good teacher. Teaching is the act of practicing compassion. I'm learning now how to engage in that practice.
In reading about compassion, I found the following definition especially helpful and relevant.
"When we practice generating compassion, we can expect to experience our fear of pain. Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently towards what scares us...In cultivating compassion we draw from the wholeness of our experience- our suffering, our empathy, as well as our cruelty and terror. It has to be this way. Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity"
What does this random quote from an American buddhist monk tell me? A lot of things
1. Generating compassion requires practice
2. Generating compassion is scary
3. Compassion involves a relationship between equals
4. Generating compassion for others requires that you know your own darkness well
Of course, I'm not any self-proclaimed expert in any of this. But...I do think that the more we practice writing about, talking about, and sharing compassion, the closer we get to ensuring that school feels safe for all students.