“Why did you leave the weekend program early?” The question is posed to me over the phone on a Sunday evening by one of the program’s key organizers.
“This morning, I reached a point in the teachings where I had been given what I needed to continue my own work. I left early to apply those principles,” I answer trying not to express my surprise about the late-evening call.
“The teacher was concerned about what might have happened to you. He felt that a connection was made over dinner last night. Your departure prior to the closing session was confusing. It seemed abrupt.”
“Please reassure him that everything is fine. I am fine. The light bulb came on during the morning session, so I went home to apply what had been presented. Thank you for checking in with me. Give him my regards.”
I hung up the phone thinking, “How odd to actually have someone call me at home.”
Years prior, when I was functioning in the role of a teacher, working as a paid intern in a secondary school, there was a particularly difficult traditional piece of literature which was part of the curriculum. With so many new and amazing voices available in modern, global literature, I felt the crunch and crush of the classics taking the wind out of my students’ sails. To accommodate for the rigidity of the traditional reading, I decided to make the choice of projects about the reading as broad and inclusive as possible. Think paper-machéd theatre masks, live musical presentations, silk-screened t-shirts, Greek food dishes and one-act, in-room dramas.
What had been one of the most reputedly dreaded of academic uglies, in terms of assigned readings, blossomed into an amazing, impromptu project fair. Students were able to choose how best to express their comprehension of the material in a manner closest to their individual skill sets and expressive hearts.
Walking through the halls with my mentoring faculty member near the week’s end, I observe, “The amount of pride I feel about the projects coming out of this assignment is absurd. I did not personally create any of these things. These students are not my children. This pride or ownership is embarrassing really—hubristic.”
Thoughtfully my mentor answers, “Yes, but you created the environment—the assignment parameters—allowing these kids to shine. Some of them have never experienced this level of creative freedom before, especially in a classroom setting with a traditional reading.”
“Nonetheless,” I ruminate, “there is something discomforting about the degree of emotional involvement I am experiencing.”
Whatever role we are playing—the person on the seat of the two-wheeled bike learning how to ride or the person hanging on to the back of the seat assisting with the mastery of balance—there comes a time to let go.