Testing the Waters in School

The famous Bruce Lee spoke eloquently on life and learning.  Here is one of his most famous quotes on being like water:

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There are several layers to uncover in the meaning of this seemingly simple metaphor.

“Empty your mind.”

We can only clear our minds if we let go of our thoughts, feelings and habits. This is an extremely difficult notion to take on especially at the beginning of a new school year.

“Be formless. Shapeless. Like water.”

In order to be formless we must let go of our preconceived ideas, our emotions and our false perceptions of what is happening. The only way to adapt to anything is to be open to anything and be completely present. Our students need this from us.

“You put water into a cup.  It becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle. It becomes the bottle. You put water into a teapot. It becomes the teapot.”

Our expectations will give a definite form to everything that happens in our classrooms. They will shape how we respond to everything. Most importantly our students. Those who come in excited to be in school to those who are tired, hungry and not ready for our expectations.  We have to set high expectations for all students but remember that they will need to take on many different forms.

“Water can flow or it can crash.” 

Think about the impact we have as teachers on our students. We can help students build a learning environment in school that flows over any obstacles. We can help them break down barriers to their learning with a force as powerful as a wave crashing over a rocky coastline. We can adapt to the many differing needs of our students.

The wise Bruce Lee has a lot to offer as we get ready to begin a new school year. I wonder how being honest with ourselves influences our ability to do what he is proposing. We all know that entering the new school year begins with a period of testing the water.

We feel our way through the first couple of days and our students are doing the same. We are not always going to be able to make a perfect decision to become what our students need us to be every moment of every day.

“Be water, my friend.”   

There are days we might dive in, others when we will float and some when we may race to the finish. We will make mistakes.  We might get stuck in our old habits, freeze and turn to ice.

Even during those moments we have to realize our ability to change. Water takes on many forms but unlike water we choose which one to be and when.  Most importantly we need to teach our students that they have this choice too.

Heres to a happy and healthy new school year!


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