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Educating for Noble Qualities In Challenging Times

The Tempest, photo by Noel McLellan

Article by Acharya Noel McLellan, originally posted on Elephant Journal

I went to school in the early 80’s at Vidya Elementary, a Shambhala Buddhist school that used to exist in Boulder. The school was in a couple of houses in what in those days was the far north end of town. There was a lot of land around the school, and a creek behind it. I remember catching water skippers in the creek and observing the exploits of red ants in their anthills. We put on Shakespeare plays in grades 5 and 6. Each morning we did a few minutes of silent meditation.

Those were the days. But I had my struggles back then, such as for example, when I lost my English book one term and was too embarrassed to tell anyone, so I failed English. But there was something in the experience of going to Vidya that affected me deeply. The school seemed to be speaking to something in me that I was not aware of. It was calling to my noble qualities, latent as they were from my point of view, and training me to be my most noble self, my bright self – to trust myself.

Shambhala School Women's Circle, photo by Marvin Moore

Today I teach English and History to Jr. High and High School students at the Shambhala School in Halifax, Nova Scotia. After Vidya, I trained extensively in the Shambhala meditation tradition. As a teacher, my main practice is being present with each student, not being distracted from looking at and listening to their noble qualities. Our interactions are generally about academic content, and I do my best to help the students learn, but passing on the transmission of trust is the real point.

The Shambhala School is much bigger than Vidya was, and it’s more open to students from a range of cultures and faiths. But, like Vidya, the day is framed with 10 minutes of meditation practice in the morning and afternoon, and the environment is informed by mindfulness. Each morning also begins with about 15 minutes of yoga. Each class begins and ends with a simple bow. Bowing creates a moment of space, invokes dignity by getting teenagers to uplift their head and shoulders for a moment, and communicates a sense that “it’s worth being here together.”

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Acharya Noel McLellan is a householder, a biker around town, a lover of good tea, and a changer of diapers. In Shambhala, he is active in emerging teacher training and social engagement. At the Shambhala School, he is a middle and high school teacher of English, History, Culture and Leadership, and Shambhala Traditions. He lives in Halifax with his wife Marguerite Drescher, who is an artist and facilitator, and their two young children Gabriel and Esmé.

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1 response to “ Educating for Noble Qualities In Challenging Times ”
  1. Iektje van Bolhuis-Stephens
    Jan 26, 2012
    Reply

    This was a great article, thank you so much for sharing it with us! In response, I would like to share with you something from my daughter Emma’s school. Recently, Emma’s beautiful little Montessori school merged with a middle and high school (The Khabele school). Together, they have a wonderful and very Shambhalian vision of education and society. What I find very hopeful and inspiring is that the school truly manifests enlightened society, without being affiliated with Shambhala. This, to me, proves that Shambhala qualities are universal human qualities, and basic goodness can manifest anywhere.

    I would like to share with you a link to the Khabele school’s director, Khotso Khabele’s graduation speech from last year. Does this not seem like a Shambhala talk to you?

    Enjoy!

    http://khabele.org/blog/2011/07/11/khabele-graduation-speech-2011-on-mastery-and-being-awake-to-ones-purpose/


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