Thursday, February 11, 2010
I was called into a meeting a few days ago at work to be held accountable for comments I made at another meeting the previous week.
To make a long story short, the adult basic education field, which ESL teachers are a part of, is experiencing a top-down "professionalization" effort and I'm resisting.
The specifics during the meeting the other day had to do with why I said I wouldn't do the continuing education hours that suddenly appeared on our plate from government agency X. And maybe you, too, are wondering. It's simple, really - it's another unfunded mandate that came from people who have no idea of it's impact on those of us actually doing the work. Sound familiar? I imagine it does, and I can also imagine plenty of folks out there saying "Oh, shut up - injustice is everywhere. Suck it up. Move on. Don't waste your energy. Go with the flow."
Go with the flow more. This is exactly what one of the directors at work told me I needed to do. It's an interesting statement, don't you think? There's buckets and buckets of commentaries on "not attaching" and "not grasping" in Buddhism. Endless energy is expended by teachers and dharma peers on these issues, pointing to us the struggles that occur when we cling to anything, even the truth.
I'll admit there is clinging to the truth going on when it comes to my workplace, and my current field's slide into standardization and faux accountability. I'll also admit that I'm absolutely fed up with people defending these changes, and suggesting that people like me, who disagree, need to shut up and go with the flow. Taoist teachers like Lao Tzu may have advocated doing exactly what I'm resisting, but it feels like nothing more than a hollow platitude designed to keep the sheep as sheep.
As far as I'm concerned, there's no liberation to be found in being a sheep - if you always follow along, you never learn a damned thing about who you are.
I also see, however, that the attachment present in my life about the injustice of the situation is probably keeping me in this workplace, when it's probably past time to move on. In an ideal Buddhist wonderland, I'd be fully able to dance with this situation, instead of the sloppy, awkward steps of reality. Sometimes free, something terribly stuck in the three poisons (greed, hatred, and ignorance). Or maybe another ideal would be to just walk away, which many people in my life have suggested on a frequent basis.
One of the sticking points for me is that this isn't just any old job. I care deeply about adult education and feel that lifelong learning is not only of value, but should actually be at the core of our experience. And the people I work with, and that my colleagues work with, are at the margins of society, and often the last people to be given a chance in most areas of their lives. My students struggle with feeling inferior because of their struggles with English, as well as the fact that most of them had their education curtailed in their homelands by oppressive governments, warfare, and other conflicts. Other colleagues of mine work with people who grew up in the U.S., but failed to gain a high school diploma or any kind of post secondary education and are trapped in a cycle of poverty they want to break free from, but just can't quite break free from. These are the people politicians love to demonize as system welchers, as they hand out millions to corporation X, bank Y, and defense contractor Z. It's such a cosmic joke, I sometimes want to throw my hands up and say "fuck it, why bother!" But then I go to work the next day and look my stuents in the eyes, and "fuck it" just isn't in the cards.
I've been considering other options for doing this work outside of the beast of a system known as Adult Basic Education. I know it's possible to work on the outside, but I have some resistence to that as well. Why? Because it's a hell of a lot of work, and there's a distinct possibility that you'll end up broke and crawling back to some system in the future. I suppose that's not the worst thing in the world, but I feel tired, and want a break from the hard work.
Which is really the crux of the issue - wanting a break. I think we all want a break sometimes, and probably need it. I'm fully convinced that the way we are supposed to live in a capitalist society like the U.S. is killing most of us. It's inhumane. It's absolutely insane. And yet, the vast majority just "go with the flow" and view it as "common sense."
I can't do that. It's just too much to give up this life to "fit in" and "get along."
But I also know that the resistence I'm experiencing is both a teacher and a hinderance. What to do? What to do?
I sat in zazen last night during our Diamond Sutra class, with muck running around in my head, but no need to go anywhere, or do anything about the muck.
That's a good start - a way of going with the flow you might say. But there has to be a return to life, to the world of action, with that sitting. Otherwise, you're just fooling yourself, and slowling becoming a sheep of some sort. And don't be fooled by appearences - even serene monks can be sheep to the form of being a monk.
Posted by Nathan at 7:58 AM