An hour of “right effort” in the teaching business each day

Today is the first day of the Summer Quarter at my school. I’m teaching 6 classes online: Composition, three sections of Film, Introduction to Literature, and The Novel. I really enjoy all of the classes and I’m happy to be a teacher. Sometimes the job doesn’t give me a lot of satisfaction, though. Here is a problem with being a teacher, especially in an online world that is more scripted and less creative: It’s the same old same old every quarter. And thus, I start to go slightly comatose…

After big meal, in the midst of teaching same thing over and over.

My students tend to like me, because I pay a lot of attention to them (How you doing? All right!). But I don’t like me, because I’m bored. This quarter, I want to concentrate on what I learn: about students, about the material, about doing a better job in an electronic environment (it is not easy).

I actually like my job. I can be a better teacher. The Buddhists hang some language on this sort of situation. They have a series of prescriptive behaviors that help one detach from suffering. It is called, “The Noble Eightfold Path.” One aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path is “Right Effort.”

I have really good intentions, generally speaking. I also have an assload of energy, which can be good and can be bad, depending on how the energy is applied. For instance, I can stay up all night having beers (I mean ALL night), while shouting at the television and making phone calls to long lost friends (they don’t appreciate my phone calls, I’ve come to understand). Or, I can write a book or a radio play fast or weed the garden (did that, thank you very much). Some of this energy should be combined with my intention of being a good teacher, which would create “Right Effort.”

This Buddhist fellow is a good soccer player, because he concentrates!

Right effort is the 1) energy we use to prevent unwholesome states that have yet to arise (I might be bored teaching sometimes, but worse could be coming: anger, depression, etc.?). It is 2) energy we use to abandon unwholesome states that have arisen (in this case a sense of boredom). It is 3) energy we use to bring out wholesome states that have not yet arisen (satisfying concentration, new learning, etc.). And, it is 4) energy we use to maintain wholesome states that have arisen (I like my job… I am proud to be a teacher… I feel decent about the good work I do already… but it takes concentrated energy to continue to do so).

I have to constantly check myself for proper use of energy (Right Effort rather than Random or Badassed Effort). Concentrating on the right behaviors is very important. I will spend one hour a day during this quarter not just doing the job (emails, busy work, grading), but figuring out ways to innovate and become better. This action will add 10 points to my daily metric.

I’m figuring out, by the way, I need to score 35-40 points a day to feel good. Whether this is a true metaphor for daily fulfillment or a competitive behavior (I win!), I don’t know. But, I am paying much better attention to how I use my time and I am feeling pretty good. More on this as it all crystallizes.

Buddhist kids train their brains early… at this age I was repeatedly running head first into the refrigerator while wearing an old-school Green Bay Packers football helmet. I had a good time, don’t get me wrong.

As the Buddhists say, “Namaste.”


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I am…

Geoff Herbach. I am the author of Stupid Fast and Nothing Special, among a bunch of other stuff. When I'm not writing, I teach writing at Minnesota State, Mankato.

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