Siddhartha sits under the bodhi tree.

Siddhartha-under-bodhi-tree

U Ba Kyi from THE ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF BUDDHISM by ASHIN JANAKA BHIVAMSA (Aggamahapandita)

My friend Michelle Gunderson teaches first grade at a Chicago public school.

She is a staunch teacher union activist and a proponent of student-learning from play.

In a sane world this would be considered common sense and obvious.

As a sign of how nuts schools have become, Gunderson must be considered an educational radical for advocating play.

On Facebook this morning Michelle posted this:

As we build education policy groups, let’s make sure we include teachers who have spent their lives playing on rugs with children. Too often early childhood voices are missing from the process.

I think I would take that another step.

Education policy groups (if we need them at all) should only include teachers who have spent their professional lives on the floor with children.

Years ago I worked with an administrator who happened to be a Buddhist.

She often complained to me how she missed being in the classroom with kids.

“No problem,” I finally said. “Why don’t you come to my room and tell my second graders the story of how Siddhartha got to be the Buddha.”

I was already showing my students how to draw the human figure and how legs and arms bend and which way they bend. And which way they don’t.

And how some joints bend only one way and others have joints called balls. Which always got a giggle.

I would stick pieces of tape at the joints and we would move around and discover the amazing fact that arms and legs only bend where there is a joint.

One student would demonstrate a ballet position and then we would all take that position.

Another would pretend to be a hockey goalie. And then we all would.

Trust me. This all led to amazing discoveries.

The day came when the  administrator came to the art room with her personal Buddha and sat on the floor in a lotus position, telling the story of how Siddhartha sat under the bodhi tree and gained enlightenment.

And with tape on our joints we also sat in the lotus position.

Including me.

And listen. I was still doing this at 60.

I believe we gained a level of enlightenment.

I’m not sure that it made her a better administrator.

But she continued to come back every year for years.

I have to admit that in my last few years it was much easier for second graders to go full lotus than it was for me.

Yet I never gave up the floor.

4 thoughts on “Siddhartha sits under the bodhi tree.

  1. Wish she (and you) had been at the CPS schools I attended at a child…would have really given some of us a head start!

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