Teaching in the moment

I’ve not bought into the mindfulness craze but, as I understand it, part of the technique is to live in the moment; to make the most of now.

Teachers, like everyone else, have plans. We have summits that we want to reach. These may be numerical targets, skills that we seek to develop, bodies of knowledge we seek to convey or any of these. But we’re always looking ahead. I know my job. At my school it is to maximise my students skills, competencies and capacities so that when they stand on the threshold of their futures they can choose their heart’s desire. Those futures are always on my mind.

But I think we lose something if we are only ever thinking about where we want to be.

It’s easy to accept the idea that you can either have fun now or delay gratification in the service of some future goal but I don’t believe it works quite like that. This is a false choice. Many fun things grow tiresome fairly quickly. And the supposedly painful tasks that we have to complete in the service of the future are often not so bad.

In fact, there’s a lot of joy in learning something new, in mastering a concept or in being able to do something we couldn’t do before. It can be pretty motivating. And as teachers, it is our privilege to share in this every day.

I teach maths and physics. These are supposed to be painful, hard subjects. And yet I am lucky to work with the most wonderful young men and women. In each lesson, I see the sense of achievement when they learn something new. It is in these moments that teaching happens. I’m going to try to live in them a little more. 

Because life is pretty fragile and the future is uncertain. All we really have is now.

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5 Comments on “Teaching in the moment”

  1. ijstock says:

    Interesting -but with respect I think you have slightly missed what it means to be ‘in the moment’. A favoured technique is to focus on one’s breathing and just accept that thoughts come and go.

    I regret that there is a ‘craze’ about this; I was very sceptical but have found that it can be noticeably beneficial.

  2. mhorley says:

    This really resonates. In the past I have spent too much time marking, creating resources, etc. such that I have been too knackered when “the moment” came, i.e. when I was in front of my class. I am realising more and more that what matters is my connection with those learners as they are learning.

  3. David F says:

    Hi Greg—thanks for this…we call that cura personalis in the Jesuit tradtion.

    Upon reflection, my hope is that we can work towards providing more evidence-based policy making…

    ….but then I read this: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/education-plus-development/2017/01/24/new-data-on-the-breadth-of-skills-movement-in-education/

    and think maybe that’s why the wealthy people do this: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/30/doomsday-prep-for-the-super-rich

    Which makes me want to keep a pitchfork in my classroom…


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