Namaste in the Classroom

A friend and former colleague shared a recent incident in her classroom that spoke volumes of the intended consequences teacher elicit through purposeful nurturance and guidance. Such actions don’t show up on a state measure, but rather subtly in a student’s behavior many days, months, and years beyond school. As my friend tells it,

My Business Law class enjoys lively conversations about contemporary issues. This past year I’ve noticed “reality show” behavior occurring in our discussions with incidents of insensitivity and inadvertent personal attacks.  In response, I requested that we apply the yoga philosophy of Namaste, by showing respect and gratitude toward each other. One brilliant young man, whose aspiration is to become President,  publicly corrected a factual error by a quiet young woman whose goal is just to graduate. Her error was calling Africa a country instead of a continent.

I asked to speak to him privately. We spoke about his aspirations of becoming President. I said he had been correct in his remark about Africa, but that the only result was that the quiet girl had shut down, rather than share her valuable insights. Her error may have been inadvertent and it had not impacted the conversation, but it did disengage her from any further discussion.

I suggested to my young future leader that reaching his goal will depend on maximizing the motivation and skills of others; he needed to use his talents to get the best out of the people. By applying the concept of Namaste, by honoring each other and recognizing that our lives are interrelated, people would feel valued and optimize their abilities. He would likewise be valued, instead of resented, and benefit from their successes and insights to become a more intuitive and wiser President. I have since noticed more respectful, mindful interactions from the young man.

And so it goes. Teaching students goes far beyond content and skills outlined in curriculum guides and standards. Good teaching develops the whole person for the betterment of society. This wonderful educator took a “teachable moment” and transformed students’ interactions. By focusing on respect and gratitude toward each other, her students were acquiring a deeper sense of social capital and harmony. That’s a good thing in today’s digital, fast-paced world.



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