So I just returned from another trip out to the Philippines. This trip was, for the most part, a training endeavor for my practice in the Filipino martial arts but on every count it was spectacular. Not only did I feel my learning expand day by day but, as well, in the company of some pretty fantastic people, I had the opportunity to explore the region in a way that was completely new to me.
So much knowledge was being shared student to student, teacher to teacher and teacher to student. I felt I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge an aspect of teaching that can sometimes be overlooked.
Common knowledge, teaching can be extremely difficult. Not only that, it is often one of the most culturally, and definitely financially, undervalued professions in our society at large. But I wanted to speak not only to the amount of respect and gratitude that our educators deserve, but also of the special role that gratitude plays in effective teaching.
Although the training was often hard driven under intense heat and uncertain sand, the words I consistently heard from instructors were “thank you.” Seems like such a small thing. But being acknowledged for our presence, our time, our acceptance of our faults and shortcomings, created a recognition that the teacher acknowledged as well their own humanity and reliance on us, as participants in their process.
Over the past year or so, in every class I do, no matter how difficult, I’ve been trying to be more and more diligent about beginning with thanks and ending with the same amount of gratitude. Teaching is only itself with the presence and attendance of students. Optimal learning happens when teachers allow themselves to learn and to access their own human connectivity and when students find themselves connected to the process.
Additionally, not only can we create available spaces in which students can learn, but educators must also, provide tools so that learning peers and community members can demonstrate gratitude by supporting a matter of growth which will ripple effect throughout the environment.
One evening we went to a local restaurant to commune and to bond. As we entered I noticed that on almost every wall there were posters of American Sign Language. It was curious but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why this was relevant in the context of all the random kitsch wall adornments. When we sat and I found another copy of the sign alphabet inserted in the menu I was so impressed, in reading closer, to find that it was meant as a tool for clients to use in support of the staff members who were deaf and hard of hearing. Such a profound demonstration of gratitude! We do not just hire deaf staff members, we don’t just hold the expectation that they will completely accommodate a hearing culture, but we also give our community tools and insight into the importance of broadening our vision of who makes up our society .
All of this said, it can be an important thing when we recognize that positive actions can influence and inspire in ways that read as actual visible productivity.