A  longer entry but stick with it. You’ll be rewarded.


Zen stories, Hasidic tales, and Native American wisdom, as well, have fed the soul of my teaching. These came in and out of lessons as needed and created moments of insight for my students and me. Among the most significant was, “The Rabbi’s Gift,” from Scott Peck, who was not sure of its source. It is the story of a monastery fallen on hard times with only four monks and the abbot. In desperation, the abbot seeks the advice of a rabbi who lived in the nearby woods. After commiserating and reading the Torah together, the rabbi can offer no advice except the mysterious “the Messiah is one of you.”

The Abbot returned with the cryptic message, which, in turn, transformed the monastery. The monks, suspecting truth in the rabbi’s words, “began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the chance that one among them might be the Messiah. And they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.” Soon, more people came to picnic, and young men began to inquire and then joined. “So within a few years the monastery had once again become a thriving order, and thanks to the rabbi’s gift, a vibrant center of light and spirituality in the realm.”45

I found a deep knowing in this story. How amazing to imagine each student as the Messiah, and how much more of a challenge to think of my colleagues—or me!—as the Messiah. The rabbi’s gift to the abbot encouraged me once again to let go of assumptions about others, to see the gifts in everyone (including myself), and to live in the present. While I may not have always succeeded, the gift of this story assures me that I will always try. I imagine classrooms where teachers and students “treat each other with extraordinary respect” and “treat themselves with extraordinary respect.” What a difference that would make!

As I write, I recall more and more of these magical moments from the wisdom that continues to feed my teaching. I’ve discovered these truths sometimes when I allow stillness to be present. As the Tao says, “We join spokes together in a wheel, /but it is the center hole /that makes the wagon move.”46 I can’t imagine teaching without such sources. Given the enormous responsibility we have to reach the young and engage them, we need all the help we can find.

“God blooms from the shoulder of the Elephant who becomes courteous to the Ant.”47 Hafiz says it all.


For more on the Tao and knowing see Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting students to Learn from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Middle-Room-Frank-Thoms/dp/0615358918.