Shoshin is a word from Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind.” It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even at an advanced level, just as a beginner would. Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki outlines the framework behind shoshin, noting "in the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.” No matter who we are, each and every one of us has had to cultivate a beginner’s mind to thrive during this pandemic. As we begin our fifth week of Remote Learning @ Hewitt, I wanted to share 10 things I have learned this spring:
10. I have learned that the best way to end the week is to join a lower school pajama dance party with DJ Suquilanda (our technology department colleague Estefania Suquilanda)...and that my yellow lab, Gus, has way better dance moves than I do.
9. I have learned that our students have the capacity to be far more independent and autonomous than we think, and that when we return to campus, we are going to need to reevaluate how we bolster students’ independence and self-efficacy to empower them to become the game changers and ethical leaders our world needs.
8. I have learned that a few encouraging moments with someone experiencing self-doubt — whether young or old — can completely change their self-concept, and that, as French philosopher Simone Weil said, attention is truly the rarest and purest form of generosity.
7. I have learned that a really good reason to cut a work meeting short is when a colleague's baby suddenly has a diaper “blow out.”
6. I have learned that when someone says “I don’t think we should do that,” what they might actually mean is “I have no idea how to do this new thing, and I am scared I’m going to fail and be criticized” and that if we break new concepts down into steps, establish a judgment-free zone, and show how the benefits far outweigh the risks, people will rise to the challenge and do amazing things they’ve never done before.
5. I have learned that connection is more important than communication and that there is a tremendous difference between one-way transmission of information and a bonding experience that makes you feel a sense of attunement with others.
4. I have learned that our faculty, staff, and administrators do not just work for this school, they are working towards a cause they believe in and care so deeply about our students, one another, and this school, that even when they are tired and stretched thin, they find the energy to go above and beyond to ensure that our students continue to learn and feel connected to this community.
3. I have learned that there is no substitute for the real thing when it comes to end-of-year school events to honor students’ growth and transformation and demarcate important and symbolic rites of passage into adolescence and adulthood, and that we must use this moment of social distancing to make school gatherings and events even more student-centered, meaningful, and memorable.
2. I have learned that students will surprise you if you give them the chance to learn about things that enable them to effect positive change in their world, and that Hewitt’s new mission and direction are designed to unlock the leadership potential of girls and young women who want to make a positive difference.
1. I have learned, now more than ever, that it is “the touch of life upon life that matters most in a school,” that Hewitt’s culture is defined by authentic human connections that inspire learning, and that these words from our founder might well be Caroline Hewitt’s most enduring legacy.
And let us always remember that in the beginner’s mind, there are many opportunities…
- Remote Learning