Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Aroha and the Making of All Things

At the very beginning of all things, at the making, there was a word, and that word was the making.  It has echoed through eternity, across the vast reaches of space and time, and it will echo ever more, until the end of all things and the making renewed.  It will outlast us all, for it is us, and we are it, yet it will endure and we shall not.  This is its story.

On the morning, as the sun rose for the very first, it warmed the ground and the air began to move.  The air, that had until this time been still, felt the life within and it smiled to know that it could now move.  So it did.  It travelled across the land, rushing through the tree tops, moving bough, branch, and leaf, it raced across the plains of grass and of sand, it rose up and up over the mighty peaks of mountains, and it plunged down into valleys.  Joyous was the air that was now the wind, and it exalted in its new found freedom.  As it raced across the oceans, ripples become waves that became great swells and they heard the wind cry out to them, "Aroha!"

At the edge of the shore, where land and sea meet in their eternal duel, the swell washed and became waves that plundered the beaches, and smashed themselves hard against the rocks.  Great plumes of spray flew up high, catching the rays of sun, turning into droplets of gold, only to fall like rain, and to begin the cycle over again.  The water that had been flat and calm until the wind had begun to blow now rejoiced in its new found excitement and it raged on, pounding and throwing itself against the land.  "Aroha!" it cried, "Aroha!" it roared, for aroha it was.

The mighty eagles rose up high on the currents of air that now flowed where before there had been none.  Wings spread wide, they soared and glided, they gained height so that the trees of the forests below were nothing except a small green patch and soon faded from sight, so high that the peaks of the tallest mountains, coated in the glistening white that sparkled and dazzled like millions of tiny diamonds, were far below the reach of their powerful talons.  As they soared on the air, stretching and arcing their wings, twisting, rising, and falling at will, the noise of the wind could be heard to whisper, "Ar-oh-a", and in response the eagles cried out "Aroha!  Aroha!"

In the forests down below, the wind rushed and the trees swayed.  "We are flexible", they said, "you cannot break us, you shall never break us", and they stood in defiance of the air that had become the wind.  The wind only laughed for it knew that its power was unlimited, that one day it would have to blow harder and bring change, but until then, it was content to blow as it did that first day.  The leaves of the branches rustled with the breeze as they swayed and moved, and danced this way and that.  "Aroha, aroha, aroha!" the trees too were alive.

Under the dense green canopy of the trees, in those places where light found a way to break through, the deer sprang forth, the squirrels scampered up the trunks of the trees, and the wolves ran in mighty packs, barking and yelping in the fun of the day.  In the fragile leap of the deer jumping clear across a stream, in the scurry of the squirrel along the branch of the tree, in the playful rough and tumble of the wolves, there could be heard the same words over and over and over.  "Aroha!  We are alive."

Under the surface of the ocean, giant schools of fish formed and moved in a swirling, colossal, dark mass as one.  Dolphins exploded into the air, twisting and turning, squealing and whistling with the delight and the play, and to tell each other what they must.  With power and grace came the sharks to watch the commotion, to beat their mighty fins, and slid through the water with grace and poise and all that saw them revelled in their beauty.  From the depths of the oceans, huge beasts rose and broke the surface, rising clear, to suck in new air and life, to slap a fin and splash back down.  The ocean was a heaving frenzy of life and in every slap, squeal and whistle, and movement of fin, the same word could be heard.  "Aroha."

Sitting on a rock on the beach, a pair of eyes looked upon all that was good that day.  With each beat of his heart, the boy heard the same word over and again, as he would for ever more, "Aroha", it said.  The wind too heard the beating of that heart, so strong and true, and came to see for itself the boy on the rock to whom it belonged.  The wind, that had now travelled around the world brought with it a scent from far off places, and it blew the scent over the boy.  The boy looked up and smiled, he did not need to hear the words that the wind spoke to him, because his heart had already told him the story of how it was, how it is, and how it would be.  The boy rose to his feet and took one last look out across the ocean.  "Aroha.  I am coming.  Wait for me."  He knew that she would always be waiting, like he, for the right time, the right place, and for the right moment in which they would again find the other.  And when they did, the making would start anew, for the making would always begin and end with aroha, because that is all there has ever been and all there ever will be.  It was true then, it is true now, and it will be true for ever more.  Love.

~ ~ ~
The Māori were the first people of New Zealand and aroha is their word for love.  If you sit quietly, you can hear it whispered to you on the breeze, calling to your heart, telling you of your dreams, and of the path that is your own to walk.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

The Question Remains

I'm sitting in the departure lounge of Sydney airport, waiting for a flight that will take me back to Wellington and New Zealand.  I've flown down from Brisbane this morning after taking a six day vacation staying in Byron Bay.  It was a gift to myself, a present to say thank you, you did it.  It was a chance to recharge my soul after a hard slog through the first half of my post graduate teaching diploma. On Monday, the hard work resumes, university commences after the break that marked the end of the first trimester. Four papers completed, one seven week school placement successfully negotiated, four examinations passed.  The grades are in.  On Monday it begins again. Still I wonder, is this really me?  Is this truly my life's purpose?

How is it ever possible to know the answer to the question unless you try?  I loved my first school placement.  Absolutely loved it. The kids were amazing; we shared some amazing moments; I helped them to learn; I taught lessons in mathematics, French, and social studies; I helped out in PE (physical education), took groups for reading, and assisted in all other learning areas of the classroom.  I recently returned to the school after a few weeks away and the children were very happy to see me, exclaiming that I was the best student teacher ever.  Heady praise indeed.  I try not to think about how many student teachers these eleven and twelve year old's have actually known.  It doesn't matter.  The fact that they told me such things is the most important.  It tells me that we connected, that whatever I did in the classroom and outside in the playground, down in the city at the ANZAC memorial, on the park at the girl's football tournament, at the ten pin bowling alley, and at the trip to the zoo, it must have worked.  It must have been good and it must have been right.  

Not every student told me I was the best but one of those that did was one of the students with whom I had experienced a real difficulty in making a connection.  He often seemed closed off, reluctant to work, apathetic and lethargic.  When he spoke to me and made his proclamation I was absolutely stunned and taken aback.  Perhaps his view is the one I treasure the most because it was the hardest won, even though I wasn't fighting to gain it, just trying to be the type of teacher that I would have wanted. 

It was not an easy placement and I experienced many difficulties.  For example, lessons that I had meticulously planned infrequently didn't quite work out in the way that I had envisaged. Time was a major factor in this - there was never enough of it.  I wanted to take my time, to explore where the children wanted to go, because I wanted to respect their opinions, their desire to ask questions that I had not thought would occur, and to take the lesson into areas that were of interest to them.  Now that I think about it, maybe that was as important as the lesson itself.  Learning occurred in a different way but it was still learning.  We were never off topic, more often just taking a tangent, a minor detour that changed the scenery but did not necessarily alter the overall journey.  For me, learning needs to be a two-way street.  I am a strong believer in the views of William Glasser and Carl Rogers, their views resonated with me deeply, I intrinsically understood what they meant, how they believed the classroom should be maintained.  

Other problems occurred that I would not have envisaged.  One member of the staff expressed very negative views of the teaching profession that I found shocking and which saddened me immensely.  I had not been prepared to find people teaching that did not want to be teaching. I witnessed some incredibly poor teaching methods, students relevant and well-thought questions were ignored and dismissed, and I found that for every very good teacher, there was equally a very poor one.  It was an eye opening experience to what can occur and in retrospect, I am grateful for the experience.  Initially, I wanted to give up but I decided that the children needed better and I wanted to give them that.  I wanted them to see that not every teacher was the same.  I wanted to let them know that I cared deeply about them.  I hope I achieved it.

I raised the question, is teaching my life's purpose?  I do believe that it is.  It is not the classroom nor the thought of teaching that is my concern right now.  Now I am half way through the course, I know that the end is going to fast come into sight.  It is always the way of things.  Just think back to any two week vacation you've ever taken and you'll know that there is a significant difference in the experience of time between the first week and the time of the second week.  It is as if time accelerates the closer we get to the end, like we are being inextricably pulled towards the end, sucked into the vortex of a giant black hole of time.  With the end of the course comes my next big adventure. I will need to make a commitment to one place, something I have not done for ten years.  Perhaps it does not need to be like that. Already, I considered teaching overseas, using it as a means of travel.  Africa pulls at me, South America maybe, back to Central America perhaps?  

So, there is my decision.  I am going to finish the course and I am going to become a school teacher.  Another dream accomplished.  The dream that has been in my heart for many years.  Let's get that job done, let's get through the next five months, four more papers, and one more placement.  Then we'll see how the land lies.  Nothing is forever in this life.  That is the joy of making decisions, of being able to follow the heart.  You have to do what is in the heart today. Tomorrow, well, when tomorrow comes, then maybe we will find another dream, a new dream to pursue.  Until then, I am teaching because of one thing I am sure.  I was born to teach.