Shoshin is a concept dear to me as regular readers know. Shoshin is the Zen Buddhist word for ‘beginner’s mind’, denoting the capacity to bring wonder and open-mindedness to learning anything.
To continue the quest in Shoshin seeking, I volunteered to take an online writing class with a focus on Science for elementary school children.
The idea for the class was inspired by multiple factors:
(1) A sense of wanting to be useful while doing the socially responsible thing of staying home during the Corona-virus shelter-in-place.
(2) My brain after years of running around from Place A to Place B found a method to calm down from the frenzied lifestyle that modern man prides himself on (The Virus is a reminder of something lost long ago – an essay by Alan Lightman – a writer and physicist at MIT)
(3) Combining the marvels of Science and keeping the wonder of Shoshin alive is pretty much what my writing has been about (at least in the past 1/2 a decade). An area of passion that I was happy to share with the children, from whom I learn Shoshin in spades.
(4) A love for children and young minds has me yearning to be like them on multiple levels. I live precariously through this yearning by reading children’s books, squabbling childishly with my own children, and much more.
The result of this was a marvelous month in which I went about reading topics that had long since been pushed to the back of the brain. I wondered as I prepared for the classes, how we wasted those marvelous moments of youth with all these fascinating subjects. I understood as the class went on: sometimes the children were enthusiastic and wanted to write all about the topic under discussion. Other times, they liked the sound of music-like science lilting in their ears, and they nodded along sagely. The rays of the afternoon sun filtering in through the window made for warm, cozy sessions in which one saw one’s friends on the zoom call, and answered when one felt like being a part of the discussion. This was nothing close to the normal they knew, but they adapted with ease and their customary good sense. All in all, it made for a marvelous time, and with the children happy, so was I, their teacher.
If post-Covid, some children recall sunny afternoons with thrilling science to a background of their classmates trilling in the background, while taking a leap of imagination, it is time well spent, in my opinion.
I remember distinct moments when something piqued the children’s attention. The time I told them about giraffes in the savannah, or when we played the little game of hearing frequencies, or when we spun off pretending to be whales using sonographic techniques to unearth something really unexpected.
I am going to sign up for another 4 week session in which I hope to have as much fun, learn as much and enjoy the companionship of younger authors, who are by virtue of their youth also leaps ahead in imagination and spirits. Wish me luck!