Saturday, November 19, 2011

Masters of Spirit

In late 1996 I was a middle-school math-sub at a local middle school, which was mostly for Native American children.  We had just moved to the area.  I saw the job opening and applied; I had to take a 7th-grade level math test, which I passed, and they were happy to have me.  I was told that the position had been open for three months, and no one could fill it because the applicants couldn't pass the test.  I was quite appalled, because the test wasn't difficult at all (I think it was lower than 7th-grade level).

The principal was a wonderful, regal man, and I built good rapport with the homeroom teacher of the sixth grade, call him Mr. B, who was so glad to finally have an assistant for his math class.  He was a spiritual man, a mystical Quaker.  He somehow knew that I wasn't just a mundane math-geek, and though I never mentioned it (and I never do), he extrapolated that I had a Buddha-bent about me; how he did it, I don't know, but he connected with me on a supernal plane.  

I'm a terrible disciplinarian, and if Mr. B wasn't in the room, the room would turn into a free-for-all romp for the happy children, even while I droned on about FOIL and finding solutions for polynomials.  But Mr. B didn't care, he was just happy to have me there, and I was grateful that he didn't expect me to do the teacher-thing that he did so well, so naturally, so strongly and yet kindly, like a father to those kids.  

When the time came for me to move on to another job, I commuted to the school in my usual way, went to class, and waited for my turn to tell Mr. B that that day was going to be my last.  He walked into the room, and I nodded to him.  I didn't say a word.  He looked up, and made a disappointed look.  "Yes," I said, and nothing more.  "Oh no," he said.  So I used words this time, and told him that it was going to be my last day.  And he exclaimed sadly, "I knew it!"      

We had had a non-verbal, telepathic moment, and I never forgot that "conversation."  I was invited to a Pow Wow of the school kids, thereafter.  They danced in a circle in traditional garbs, to beautiful chanting and drumming.  I noticed one of them, who was a very morose, melancholy girl during math class, who was flunking it big time.  She hated it, and was utterly despondent.  Mr. B had me counsel her, and I told her to not worry, that it wasn't important, and that it really didn't matter if she didn't know all that stuff.    

And I was glad that my counseling was correct; when she was in her element, she became free as bird, and danced ecstatically.  I couldn't believe that this was the same sad-sack math-flunker.  Watching her dance was incredibly beautiful; she wanted nothing of the thought-shackles of the conventional world. It was a symbolic moment for me, which had said more than words could ever say about the soaring Native Spirit.