Don’t report me to the Zen community, but truth be told, I often used my morning meditation to plan the day’s classes. Seated in that posture with slowed breath, I could enter more deeply into the plan, fully imagining it before the actual teaching so that I had already lived the class once before the teaching.
Years back, I wrote: “All things are created thrice.” It’s a subject that doesn’t come up very often in the teacher training in my field, but for me, it has been essential. The practice of teaching the lesson three times:
1) In your imagination, as described above. (In my early days, I used to close the door to our front room and literally teach the class out loud to my imaginary students!).
2) The class itself.
3) The reflection after the class, scrolling back to see what worked and what needed adjustment. When I had two classes back-to-back with the same lesson plan, that scrolling happened in the short interval between the first class leaving and the second class entering.
I wonder how my teachers consciously go through these three steps. I’ve witnessed some teach a class that had problems and then teach the identical class to the next group. Not good. I’ve witnessed others in which the teacher seemed to be figuring out on the spot what to do next, having not prepared the class in the imagination ahead of time. Also not good.
I arrived at this practice intuitively, but I wonder if these are trainable skills. I think they are. You don’t need to sit cross-legged on a pillow, but you do need to cultivate the discipline of pre-imagining the class, dreaming it ahead of time before it takes a physical form.
My most profound experience of this happened on a four-hour bus ride in Ecuador. With plenty of time on my hands, I began to think about a concert my students were scheduled to perform at an Orff Conference in Las Vegas. I pictured the pieces we would share, ending with a piece sung by Will, an 8th grade student who began singing Broadway Show Tunes when he was three years old. I pictured the Orff band behind him swinging through Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm, changing the tempo in the last phrase to a slow, kickin’, bluesy few measures with Will's hand raised as he belted out his full-bodied final note “MOOOOORE!!!” and 1500 music teachers from around the country jumping to their feet in a roaring standing ovation. In just dreaming it, the effect was so powerful that I was wiping tears from my eyes. While riding on a bus in Ecuador.
And when the actual moment came some five months later? It was exactly as I had pictured it. And it still gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
All things are created thrice.