Empowerment through Language...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Satisfaction is a Renewable Resource

Satisfaction is an elusive emotion. Yet it truly takes so little to have the warm wave wash over the body and soothe tension and longing. Instead of striving for "happiness"  in my endeavors, of late, I have been seeking satisfaction and contentment. It is so much more definable and attainable, at least as I see it, live it.

One of the greatest satisfactions in my life is constantly harvested from teaching. I love to teach. Although I did not follow the traditional path of this profession, I actively engage in teaching regularly and there is such a reward every time I lead a class to discover new thoughts, new ways of looking at the world, and new ways to engage in themselves.

Teaching is not just instruction; it is performance art. Teaching is an endeavor that requires full investment in one's own knowledge and confidence, but also in the full implementation of listening and intuition. A good teacher also becomes the master of improvisation, known in the field as "embracing the teachable moment."

Yesterday, I taught two very different classes, one in the Honors Program at Syracuse University and the other at the Syracuse YMCA's Downtown Writers Center. The morning class is a small group of vibrant young women who join me on an investigation of arts in society titled Viewing the World through Changing Lenses. Although we started this week's class furthering our views on dance, media glitches (I love the modern classroom!!) drove the discussion and videos to watch to the incomparable Lily Yeh, a personal hero. After sharing what I know of Lily, who I believe should be honored with a Nobel Peace Prize, we looked at images of her beautiful face and some of her public art. Then we watched a video of a project in which Lily worked with a community in Rwanda to create a memorial to replace a bleak, impersonal mass grave. At the end of the video, I was tearful and nearly speechless. My students were moved, of course. We were experiencing the proof that art affects change. We were witnessing that the clear intention of one determined human can change lives and communities. This is the kind of human I want to be and I keep my eyes on those who are so much more able to meet the goal so I keep myself moving forward. Click to see for yourself: Lily Yeh in Rwanda.

In the evening, I was with a class of adults pursuing the craft of writing in my DWC Foundations of Poetry class. We had an active conversation centered on questions the students had as a result of the first 4 weeks of class and all that I have thrown at them in rapid fire. We talked about the endless choices a poet faces in molding a poem from the original intention to the revision that finally satisfies the poet well enough to let the poem rest. We barely had enough time to get through five of the key questions and still hear new work from members at the table. The fact that one of the students was chomping at the bit to share a poem she had been revising since the summer course she took with me washed me in a warm wave of satisfaction. She is really excited about poetry and it is joyous to see this wonderful woman discover something new in herself.

The adage is true: teach what you want to learn. The more I have to articulate my views and intention, my patterns and habits, the better I am at exercising them in my own expression as a poet, writer, artist, human. Teaching requires lots of time to prepare, buckets full of both energy and patience, compassion for others, and enthusiasm for the responsibility. When I was a child, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I have discovered that the traditional path to that dream, that goal, was not my path. But I have been actively teaching for nearly 20 years and I can say that I love it more now than I did when I started. It is never static, always inspiring, and it is good service to the world. 

Today, I delare: I am satisfied... 

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