There are times
when teaching goes really well. My students are motivated and enthusiastic.
They diligently complete all the tasks I designed for them, and they appreciate
my creative ideas. The truth is that most of this just happens and I have little control
over the situation. The positive simply occurs and it makes me feel happy. Deep inside I wish I could experience the intoxicating feelings of success every
day but ....
.... there are times
when teaching sucks. My students are tired and they look bored. They refuse to
do the tasks I ask them to do and they explicitly show their reluctance. Again,
I have little control over this. Negativity comes uninvited, no matter how much I have prepared
for the lesson or how desperately I try to change the situation on
the spot. My plans fall through, which makes me feel sad and frustrated. I hate the painful feelings that accompany failure, and I secretly wish I could avoid them completely.
And there are times
when teaching doesn't go really well. My students don't respond to my questions
and, overall, they are terribly passive throughout the lesson. Sometimes they
even say things which I’d rather not hear. However, this doesn't get me down.
Somehow, I can handle the lifeless atmosphere easily and my students' negative
frame of mind is not a problem. This is a scenario I neither like nor dislike.
It happens and although it seems I have no control over the situation, I
actually do. The control comes within.
The first situation above is what most people (and teachers) would call sheer happiness. The teacher is
excited because things are going according to plan. However, in the book I'm currently reading, Dalai Lama calls this state of mind pleasure, not
happiness, because he distinguishes between pleasures that depend on the
circumstances and genuine happiness, a state of mind that endures life's ups
Having said that,
the first situation can never last for long because our happiness is dependent
on external sources - our students' state of mind, the equipment we use, the
weather, etc. In other words, this kind of happiness will inevitably lead to
unhappiness (or emptiness) because our students are not the same every day and the
circumstances vary from minute to minute. On the other hand, unhappiness won't last
forever either. At first sight, this sounds like good news, but going through an
unhappy state of mind is rarely pleasant. We may try to convince ourselves that
this period is only temporary, but who wants to feel pain?
So the third state of mind seems to be the one we should strive for. Regardless of what happens
outside us, we should stay detached. I believe it's important not to take things
personally because our students' intention is
not to make us feel unhappy. Although they do bug us at times, I dare say they do
so quite unintentionally, and the only thing they crave, like all human beings, is happiness. It means then that it's not them who actually make us
feel all the negative emotions; it is us, the teachers, who are to blame for the way we feel.
Dalai Lama says that real happiness is
determined more by the state of one's mind than by circumstances or events. Now, logically, if you can't change your students and the circumstances, you need to
change yourself. Wouldn't it be liberating to find the source of happiness that
would be absolutely independent of external conditions? Wouldn't it be
wonderful to be able to train one's mind for happiness? Wouldn't it be fabulous
if this type of training was a compulsory part of teacher training courses? Imagine how
amazing each lesson could be! Imagine how genuinely happy ours students would
eventually be! :-)