The last days of the year are a time of contemplation. I'm on vacation from teaching for a few weeks, and I have the luxury of not racing off to work. My mind is free to wander and wonder, and at the end of the year it looks forward to a brand spanking new January.
One of the great perks of being a teacher is that each semester brings a chance to begin again, to not make the same mistakes I made the previous semester. I can revise my syllabus, change textbooks and lessons plans. During thirty years of teaching, I've re-invented my curriculum many times. But sometimes I've gotten stuck doing things a certain way. It's easier to stay stuck than it is to change. Last year, I felt mired down by my job, so in 2011, there will be changes.
Some of these changes in the classroom are also connected to my New Year's Resolutions. Here they are:
- 1. Work less at teaching. I do less, the students do more. To work less at teaching and have the students do more--in the sense of what actually helps them learn and in an interesting way--takes considerable thought and planning. Teaching well is all in the set-up, and then being fully present for the students when I'm with them. So I'm honing in on how I can do my work and then go as Lao Tzu suggests in the Tao Te Ching. I've also dropped a class from my schedule. I used to teach four classes every semester. For years now, I've been teaching five classes, and two in the summer session. It's too much. Greed put its choke chain around my neck and led me to the Money Trough. Time to change that pattern. If I want more of anything, it is peace of mind, relaxation, lulling days with friends and family, loving them, having fun together. And I will have more time to write, which makes me happy.
- 2. Be happy. So that means yoga. Tomorrow morning, with a friend, I'm going to a two and a half hour yoga session, a celebration of starting the new year with the best intentions. My hair stylist, Annie, once said to me, "What would the world be like if everyone did yoga?" It certainly couldn't hurt! For the past ten months, I've been dedicated to yoga practice once or twice a week. The benefits have been terrific. I lost ten pounds, (well, I also changed my diet from snacking on pretzels, crackers, tortilla chips and cheese to snacking on vegetables-I make fresh vegetable juice in my new juicer), and I feel better in every way although I have a ways to go in taming my hot-headed nature and over-reactive ego. I've been working on this for a long time, and with yoga, I can see progress. Ego junk is like junk food; I'm going on an ego diet in the new year. Yoga makes me happier, and when I'm happier, I'm nicer. In Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman, the character Socrates says, "Be happy for no reason." This is profound advice and, for many of us, difficult to achieve. Yoga and meditation make it easier.
- 3. More tennis. I adore a tennis court. In a few hours, I will be running on the green cement in the chilly December breeze, listening to the thwack of the ball in the sweet spot. When I'm playing tennis, I feel part of nature, the wind in the maples, the flickering leaves, the court beneath my feet. It's my church, and God is there in my whole attention to the moment.
- 4. More gratitude. I'm alive. I get to live. I'm healthy, so far so good. At my age, 58, this is an incredible blessing. It won't always be so, and so I resolve to be happy for no reason.
Blessings to the Redroom Community of Writers, and thanks.
Causes Susan Browne Supports
Run Together, A Race to Raise Money for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society