Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An unintended sidenote about contemplative education.

So, over a week ago, I said, "Next week there will be links." And have said links appeared on this esteemed blog? Indeed, they have not.

There are a variety of reasons for this lack, both domestic and professional. The temptation is to give those reasons (or at least allude to their seriousness), apologize, and promise to do better in the future. But why is this the temptation? Why are there so many blogs with posts about how the author feels bad that they haven't posted so long, and really, truly they will soon have something brilliant and/or funny and/or meaningful up for whatever audience they may have?

Imagine a classroom. A teacher walks in, says a few words, and invites a response from the students. Mostly there's silence. Occasionally someone will start to say something and kind of ramble off. Let's say this goes on for, oh, 20 minutes. Has any learning happened?

By traditional criteria: no. By contemplative criteria: maybe. Students may have learned that a particular topic is hard to talk about, or that they wish some of their classmates would have developed their ideas more because there was some interesting stuff there, or that when left to sit with a topic for while all kinds of unexpected connections with other classes pop up, or that silent teachers really cheese them off. Who knows? The teacher, too, may have learned something--about the students, individually and collectively, and about their own engagement with and investment in the teaching/learning process.

The point being, when learning is set in the context of personal formation, everything is a potential learning experience. Even actual not-learning is potentially educational. The two obvious complications in contemplative education, then, are time (contact hours and credit totals) and expected measurable results.

The analogy to this blog is obviously not direct. I'm not teaching here, and whatever readers I do have, aren't students. Any lessons from this missed self-imposed deadline are my own to learn. But looking at my own reaction to it, and realizing how much contemplative practice has moved me over the years towards being relaxed and accepting of unmet expectations instead of anxious, suggested that it might be worth a post.

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