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Responding as a Scientist in Education- Honoring the life work of MLK, TNH, and Maya Angelou

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

This picture was purchased for use on this blog after seeing a post on a parent group from her Mother on Martin Luther King Day. I hope Harmony's art makes your heart expand as much as it did mine!

The Dalai Lama shares “Do not try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist; use it to be a better whatever-you-already-are.” I read Buddhism because life is hard, it just is at times. Buddhism teaches lessons on responding instead of reacting. The profound lesson might be captured in this statement: Be kind by having compassion for yourself and then you can take that compassion to the world. With this wisdom and centeredness, you can be in a place ready to problem-solve life's hard challenges.

In education, we have such challenges sometimes referred to as "wars" with each other to do right by our future generations. This impassioned set of debates and ongoing conversations can get very heated at times. This leads us to believe we need to be angry with EACH OTHER and mad AT the person spewing words or just sharing the information we do not like or disagree with about the subject at hand.

To honor and celebrate Martin Luther King Jr, Maya Angelou, and Thich Nhat Hahn also affectionately referred to as Thay (teacher), I want to offer an idea to consider when one is in a situation discussing hot topics in education that has an opportunity for emotional reactions.

The backstory that led to this blog: I am finding it very spiritual that Thich Nhat Hanh passed last year (not his death but his continuation day) the same week we celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday, knowing they had a short but profound impact on each other, I searched their story and came across this article. This has led me to a new reading list. But, back to sharing thoughts from the article/story I found.

In the link to the article I read, Thay encouraged Martin Luther King Jr. to more deeply understand what was happening in Vietnam with the people and the war. He shared a practice we could all adopt no matter the problem at hand. I believe as educators and leaders in education, we have a responsibility to rise up and lean into this practice. The practice is this: The essence of responding in these heated situations is to have compassion for the person, for the human being in front of us as opposed to anger towards the person because of a topic. Unconditional compassion allows us to connect and understand one another. If we are having negative emotions and letting that lead us to react AT the person we are not in a place to collaboratively problem solve. We need to be clear that we are mad or angry or frustrated about a TOPIC, not a person. Thay and Martin Luther King in their work were mad about the injustices, they were not mad at people or at a person carrying that injustice in their hearts. They were focused on solutions for topics that were vehicles for suffering and leading people astray from common goals and outcomes. I believe this is a message (if they were here in body) would want us all to comprehend and carry out.

Maya Angelou (another partner working with Martin Luther King) shares with Dave Chappelle in the series Iconoclast 2 important lessons we can use in this way of connecting to others. (This show was episode 6 of iconoclasts and can be viewed on youtube, however, it is unclear, who holds the rights and shows this video as it was from 2006. I wanted you to have her words. Youtube no longer offers transcripts and all that is available is closed captioning at the time of this blog. Thus, screenshots were taken and errors are in the captioning.)

1) She explains courage is the most important virtue. In essence, courage is the foundational virtue to carry out all other virtues.

2) She counsels Chappelle on Anger versus bitterness and follows it with how one could go about channeling anger not at people but toward solutions.

As educators, maybe the greatest gift we can give in honor of Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou, Thay, and all of the great peace leaders could be a four-step cyclical self-journey:

1) COMPASSION- Study compassion for yourself and then for others don't let the feeling of fear and anger rise up and lead

2) COURAGE- Build your courage and don't take the small quiet path

3) ACTION- Focus your negative emotions into action to work to improve the situation and don't aim your negative energy toward individuals or groups

4) CONNECT & COLLABORATE- In problem-solving allow discussions to focus on the problem and work with your fellow people about the topic and don't run around criticizing, complaining, and gossiping playing 'ain't it so awful"

These are just thoughts and reflections on Martin Luther King Day coming up on the first anniversary of Thich Nhat Hanh's continuation day. Dear Martin, Dear Thay, and Dear Maya- I accept the responsibility to do right and carry out the lessons you gave us all. Gratitude for your selfless generosity and compassion.

Discussion welcomed. "never stop talking about it." ~Maya Angelou

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