Monday, April 25, 2011

Transforming Suffering into Happiness

My life's work, whether as a kindergarten teacher or a spiritual practitioner, can be understood metaphorically as growing flowers and veggies from fertile compost. What I do—as well as I possibly can—is to transform suffering into peace, joy, and happiness.

If a videographer were to visit my classroom for a year, the result would be similar to this. The video I offer to you today (part one of of five parts) is a look at a teacher in Japan whose work is exactly parallel to my own work. His focus is mine: Be Happy!

This video documents fourth grade teacher Toshiro Kanamori engaged in deep teaching practice. In this part, he helps his students touch their suffering and transform it into happiness. His students discover they are not alone: they share much. He builds community. He builds happiness.

Enjoy!



Two notes:

1. Find 10 minutes to see it. It gets better and better as you go along; you won't want to be interrupted.

2. Have a box of kleenex handy. Your cheeks will get wet.

16 comments:

Ruth said...

So wonderful, Dan. Watching this has been an inspiration. I so appreciate the teacher's courage to keep with this, in spite of how we have for so long kept grief and other emotions hidden, not knowing how to share them.

I'm especially happy to see a teacher who reminds me of my husband, a fourth grade teacher. He has 5 Korean students in his class, and they have told him how different he is from their teachers in Korea: more open and relaxed. I assumed Japanese teachers were more strict, formal and less accessible than the one in this video, and I am overjoyed to know I am wrong about at least one teacher.

Dan Gurney said...

Ruth, thank you for your comments. The funny thing about our more difficult emotions is that sharing them instead of hiding them seems to be the best approach to dealing with them.

I hope you will share this with your husband!! I am sure he would like it. When I visited Japan in 2004 I was very fortunate to visit several schools. I found the classrooms to be a whole lot like this one: full of happiness, smiles, and laughter. Lots of men teachers, too. I remember being strongly impressed by that.

justine said...

So incredible. I can see the strange relationship between suffering and happiness as you were explaining in your previous post.

I wonder ... is this, in some small way, what the blogging community enables us to do?

steven said...

dan, i came in from the garden after having pruned and cleaned up what i could before the rains start. i wished each plant well as it returns to life. then i watched part one of the film here. there are so many ways in which i connect to this man's work and then his classes' work. the outer edge of class culture - curriculum, assessment, rules, social niceties are so easy to fulfill and manage. the deeper mapping of qualities like empathy and care are where the true work of a teacher and a class can be found. the real work. i've said since the first year of my teaching that real education is a means to an end that is far greater and more meaningful than the sharing of knwoledge might suggest. thanks for sharing this dan. i really thankyou. steven

Dan Gurney said...

Justine, thanks for leaving a comment. "Suffering" (the English translation for dukkha) is the stuff of life—the stuff that's not always easy to accept. We don't have a good English word for it. But, boy, it sure is there. Thing is, it's like fertile compost. It grows roses. I thought this video would make a good example of what I'm trying to describe. When you see the girl smile at the end of the video, you can see what I'm trying to convey.

Dan Gurney said...

steven, of course I was thinking of you as I posted this. I know you know the real work of education is the everything else of it on the margins of the overt curriculum. That's why I love work as much as I do, and I know you're doing the same rewarding work as Mr. Kanamori

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

I am so glad you shared this Dan. How seamlessly the children move between play and sorrow, joy and pain. I think we much to learn from them.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Lorenzo—

Indeed we do have much to learn from children. Because of their newness to acculturation, the can offer us a great deal of insight into human behavior.

For example, I've been told by experts (and read in textbooks) that young children are not capable of empathy, generosity, etc. And this is simply not true!! Children (at least five years of age, and probably much younger) are capable of the best of human emotions and impulses. In fact, lot of times our acculturation seems to take away positive human qualities to be replaced by less positive ones. Or so it seems to me, at least.

In any event, I was drawn to work with very young children because I had the hunch I could learn a lot about really important human qualities from them. I thought they could give me an unvarnished look into our souls. And my experience has borne out my hunch.

Jo said...

Incredibly beautiful, Dan. It resonates so much with me at this time of my life.

As I quoted Swinburne in my blog today, "time remembered is grief forgotten" and it's so important to allow the memories to surface. What a wise and compassionate teacher.

I will share this video with every teacher I know.

Thanks so much for this gift today.

Teresa Evangeline said...

I can see why you suggested a box, two Kleenex didn't do it. What a wise and loving teacher Mr, Kanamori is. All teachers should be so. I can well imagine life in your classroom, Dan, full of this kind of compassion and grace. I am so happy to know there are teachers that teach, along with knowledge, those things that truly matter: how to live a compassionate and empathic life. Thank you so much for this beautiful look into another culture where we can see the thread that connects us all.

Dan Gurney said...

Jo, I'm glad you enjoyed the clip and will share with teachers you know. More to come--and relevant to processing difficult emotions.

Dan Gurney said...

Teresa Evangeline, thank you. The work of teaching what really matters is the hardest part of teaching by far. We're, of course, encouraged to teach the overt curriculum. We're given lots of support for that kind of teaching: books, curriculum guides, methods. For the important stuff we're largely on our own, I'm afraid. That's why I do this blogging. To talk about the other stuff, the stuff that matters most of all. More to come. Thanks for commenting.

neighbor said...

Oh Dan, this is wonderful. Of course my eyes are dripping, but I'm good with that. :-)

Thank you so much for posting this and for what you do for your kids too.

It's been a busy week and I'm behind on your posts, but I'll look at the others in the next day or so. With my box of tissues at hand...

Dan Gurney said...

neighbor, I'm glad you saw this. I'm going to stay on this video all this week. I find this work so inspiring, I guess because it resonates so much with my own work.

Sabio Lantz said...

Choked me up! As you know I use to teach in Japan -- keeping emotions inside was very normal and strange for me. This seems an unusual class, unless the culture is changing.

My kids were touched by it too. Thank you.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Sabio, I know. What a wonderful experience it must have been to teach in Japan. Had I the chance to do my life over, it would include teaching overseas as a young man at the beginning of my career for sure. My son, at least, has done/will do that so, I can experience it at least vicariously. Who knows? Maybe in retirement.

I'm glad you enjoyed seeing this and your kids, too. I can't watch it without tears welling up and more.