26 Mei 2009

The Risk of Reflection: Letting Our Students Teach Us What We Don’t Know

English Version

In his introduction to Shrunryu Suzuki’s classic Zen Mind Beginner Mind, Richard Baker says that the purpose of all Zen teaching is to “make you wonder, and answer that wondering with the deepest expression of your own nature” (1970, p. 13). Isn’t this what is going on for us in those moments when we bring ourselves so fully present that we make new discoveries that illuminate our understanding of ourselves and our world? Isn’t this what we long for? What if this is the purpose of all teaching, not just Zen teaching?

If I borrow Baker’s phrase and propose that the purpose of education is to make us wonder, and answer that wondering with the deepest expression of our own natures, then education is a deeply personal process, for the student and for the teacher. We teach, then, to provide the opportunities and conditions through which our students can wonder and answer that wondering with the deepest expression of their natures. The teacher-student relationship becomes a shared process of discovery. The teacher practices “beginner’s mind” along with the student. As Suzuki said, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s there are few” (1970, p. 21).

Paulo Freire calls this “problem posing education,” which happens through dialogue in which teacher and students … “develop their power to perceive the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as static reality, but as reality in process, in transformation” (1990, p. 70). Thatis, as the students and teachers explore their questions together they come to new understandings through which they can transform themselves and their world.

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