Saturday, 4 September 2010
Zen and the Act of Teaching by David Deubelbeiss
Every once in a while a book comes along that you wish had been published much earlier. Zen and the Act of Teaching is such a book. Written by David Deubelbeiss from EFL Classroom 2.0. and published by Lulu, this Publish On Demand (POD) book is very philosophical and reflective in nature. I believe it is a must-have source of inspiration for teachers beginning their careers, teachers in mid-career, or a very rich and motivational resource for veteran teachers. That indeed says a lot. It contains something for every teacher at whatever stage or level they may be at. David has written a very informative post on how to go about self-publishing such a book here.
What I like most is the clear, simple, classic feel of Zen and the Act of Teaching. The cool grey/white background on each page has an image of 5 tranquill-looking pebbles, which for me immediately symbolise inner peace, calm and contentment. The scene is therefore set for an enriching and truly thought-provoking personal voyage of discovery and contemplation. This well-written book is also a self-help guide written for all teachers to reflect upon their teaching practice and outlook. It contains useful nuggets of information, and prompts, which can be easily digested and then acted upon. It could also be successfully incorporated into a teacher training course. I know I will definitely be using it and showing it to teachers to discuss in November when I do a Teachers' Refresher course at the Lake School of English, Oxford.
"Be the change you want to see in the world" by Mahatma Ghandhi is one of my favourite quotes from the book. I like it because it is a powerful and motivational set of words. Only you yourself can change what you want to be and do. Nobody else can do it for you. It's good to read such words often in order to remind oneself of what can be achieved, only if you put your mind to it. I will definitely try to enact this principle!
The Socratic notion of the "good" resonates with me personally, because it is important to always question why we do things in the classroom. Each of our actions have far-reaching consequences.
"The best teacher teaches from the heart, not from the book" is worth remembering if you ever need to abandon the coursebook in the middle of a lesson, because something else has evolved spontaneously from the students themselves. Don't be too rigid. Be flexible. Follow your instinct.
The book contains a rich source of questions for discussion and reflection, and there is space on alternate pages to write a journal and consider the pieces of wisdom imparted. There are also some lovely examples of short poems which act as a catalyst for reflection.
As it's the beginning of the new term in most areas around the world, this book will definitely inspire you and get you off to a flying start! Also, in terms of your own CPD, it is an excellent way to re-assess and check that you are going in the right direction. As a veteran of many years teaching myself, I loved reading Zen and the Act of Teaching because everything in it is practical and most of all, achievable. I know it will help to make me the best teacher I can be.