In my pre-pandemic life, I am (was?) a teacher. I teach adults to partner-dance, and I coach instructors to teach, too. In training other instructors, I’ve gotten to witness a hallmark of great teaching unfold: letting go of ego. It’s as amazing to watch that occur as it is to watch a student develop.
In a recent writing workshop, we were given this poem by Robert Longley as inspiration. He apparently wrote it about fatherhood, but I immediately thought of teaching and of something I often say to other instructors.
“Planting Seeds” is the short prose piece I wrote about that, but I think one could apply it to self, too. We need to trust that the chances we take and the experiences we have will lead to something, eventually.
“We’re planting seeds,” I tell my instructors. I say it again and again to short-circuit their impulse to try to catch everyone before they fall. The impulse to solve problems that haven’t occurred, problems they imagine now because they’ve seen them before. Their own seeds of fear or impatience.
“Let them fail,” I tell my instructors when they have talked and talked for three minutes or more, and the students are disengaging, bodies closing, then distancing from the circle. “What’s the worst that can happen?” I ask.
Slowly, they learn that teaching is not preventing but opening. To open seed pod after seed pod and watch them land. Some flail around in the air it seems like forever, then land where they can’t possibly take root. Some fall straight to the ground like spears and send out shoots right away. Most land softly, roll around on the ground for a bit, finally settling into a space uniquely their own.
“We’re planting seeds,” I say, “and you may not be there to see them blossom.”