General Meeting

General Meeting: Welcome,Introductions, Brainstorming
Dialogue and Disarmament
2011 Brazil Trip Plan
Improve CEIN

Brainstorm Session

  1. What is a Soka educator?

A Soka Educator is someone who teaches towards world peace ... and the building of culture, but also teaches value creation. The Soka Educator teaches each student to appreciate his or her own value and then to learn to create value out in the world with their lives.

I don't all the time think about being a 'Soka Educator'...I'm challenging myself on the front line of education in Columbus, Ohio as an art teacher in the urban arena. It's really who I am, or my core identity, that ascribes what I do on a daily basis in education. What I am is a Buddha, an SGI member who embodies the Soka mentors spirit as I move within the realm of my every day life as Susan Tan. Embodying the spirit of the Soka mentors, especially for me, Makiguchi, as an educator is to see the ways and means I impact my students in order to address what are the dehumanizing qualities of American educational practices as they have been funneled from, what I believe are self-satisfying political decisions without taking into account the "front-line"; educators, administrators, staff, and students.

I think that a Soka educator is exactly what Susan said. It's being confident on our Buddhahood and applying the concepts we learn from Makiguchi, Toda and President Ikeda and help our students to find their own potential and make the changes in their lives, because they realize it's worth and better for them and the world. We have been talking about peace but we have to create it in our own lives everyday. When I get in front of my class (immigrants some legal, some not) to teach ESL I look at them and I see people willing to create a better life for them and their families and I feel that it's my responsibility to help them to achieve this goal. (Fatima de Oliveira - ESL teacher in Connecticut,USA)

A Soka Educator is someone who can walk the walk of the Bodhisattva Disparaging in words, action, deeds and definitely lead by example. a Soka Educator does not place judgment but instead places immense praise upon all efforts. a Soka Educator shines the light upon darkness and makes all things brighter because of it.

2. What are the best lessons from Sensei in my work?

For me it was how he deeply understands each culture, each human he is speaking to..., and also...have a better understanding on how we inter-relate to have this great world with each one on the concept on ways to create a better and a happy being...,

So because of the above, what I tend to do is observe my students and develop lessons in art that serve their needs...also within the curriculum. If the curriculum is too "other" directed then there's no flexibility to teach for your students; they in fact are not really considered as unique individuals, but as a part of a faceless unit. I can do this in art more so than other disciples; however, even with other disciplines (subjects???), the important factor is NOT the discipline, but the teacher to student, human to human factor. I use to envision President Toda (this was a long time ago) teaching with only a blackboard and a piece of chalk. If I were his student, I would have been riveted. Why? (I even hated math)

Because for a teacher, your personality teaches. This year has been my test for that. I started teaching high school digital photography; no curriculum, 7 computers with only 2 that had the computer program, Photoshop, and only a book that was about dark-room photography. I was freaked! The last time I had a class on photography was years ago during my undergrad years. One of my youth members advised me: "Susanize them! Don't worry about what you don't know or have. If you don't you'll lose."

I sought out any advise to get started and then tried challenging my lack of expertise in this area, claiming my strengths and moving through "rings of fire" thrown at me by the administration, students, and parents. My determination was to be the best "photography teacher" the school has had (I'm still in process). But, I never forgot that youth's advise, and a few weeks ago a teacher came into my room and said, "The word, "on the street", is that Mrs. Tan is cool", implying that I now have credibility with my students!

The January issue of the World Tribune has an experience by a young man who studied Journalism at the University of Missouri. He recently moved to Eugene and attended our district meeting after coming to the University of Oregon to visit me in my office. He quoted some things Sensei had sent as messages to students at SUA. One of the sentences really stuck with me. Sensei stated "...I believe in you..."That comment epitomized Soka education for me and Sensei's attitude toward each student. Makes me think more deeply about each student and their greater potential. (Dave Koranda)

Infusing happiness upon each individual and helping them see thier "true self". teaching them to live with compassion for self & others. enabling people to see the world is within them and not focus so much on they are in the world.

3. As a Soka educator, what does “Open Your Eyes to Nichiren” mean?

That Nichiren and I are equal (even when I don't FEEL like it is true) or ...It is that state of human life when you are in peace within yourself and life in general.

It means, to me, that in spirit and practice, you and Nichiren are equal. The biggest fight a teacher has to go up against is "misunderstandings". This invariability occurs with an administrator, or it always did with me. There was one such time that I had to fight with my own belief system in front of the Gohonzon defeating the callously implied one that my administrator, at the time, wanted me to believe. In this case it was not only me that endured this harassment, but many other on staff. "I'm a Buddha!" cannot be a intellectual acknowledgment, it must be a battle cry of empowerment against injustice, just as Nichiren had to face, just as the three presidents, especially Makiguchi, had to face. To this extent I have, as a "misunderstood art teacher", because we are hard to define in a standardized world, has had to face. I do it, have successfully defeated threats of various kinds, not without pain and disappointments, because of my alignment to the spirit of Nichiren.

Twenty years ago was the year I bought Dale Bethel's book (the orange one) on Makiguchi and after reading it, with tears in my eyes, made a Vow that his life would not be lived in vain. I determined to teach and it was then that I set off on this path of being a contract art teacher, going to Culture Department FNCC conferences, meeting Stephanie and almost every two years, except for six years, challenging a new school situation with a new set of baggage. This remains where I am still today. I am deeply appreciative to "the Spirit of Nichiren" because although a rough road, it continues to spell learning and victory.

Thanks Suzane for your great input. The same spirit of Nichiren is thinking about the happiness for all humankind and this is what we've been learning from our three mentors. (Fatima de Oliveira)

It means all of the above and to include: being a "life long learner" filled with compassion towards all humanity.

4. Susan wrote about how she learned to teach like a Buddha despite the standardization of education. What are the most important two or three things you do to "teach like a Buddha" in today's educational environment?

The ways Soka educators develop themselves are: Chant to reach the heart of my students, be learning myself, forge my faith so that I get to my next step; as well as...

I think that to "teach like a Buddha" is to teach with compassion. As Susan said "chant to reach the heart of the students" is the key to bring out our compassion for the human being in front of us. In this way, we can find different ways to connect and then help them to engage in the learning process.

I agree that teaching like a Buddha is to reach the heart of each student and teach with compassion. At the same time I have seen that sometimes, some students are struck in ways that at first cause them to push back; they may not like having someone point out what they might need to do to be a better student or person. I am experiencing that in a surprising way now. I have a less traditional student from Ecuador right now. She is a older than the other students and a mother. She was late to every class. I called her on it knowing where she is from being precise on time is not as important. That is why I never said anything when she was late the term before. But the class this term necessitates being on time. This student, without my knowledge went to the bias board and said I am singling her out and I am biased againgst her culture. She has continually tried to twist anything done in the class as bias against her. I should add that in 12 years there has never been any complaint of this kind against me and I am on the International and Diversity committees. It has become apparent to all involved that she has other issues but it has caused me to chant about her and the situation. I am seeing that as a result I am helping her see that she is not treated any differently than any other student. Hopefully before the term is over she will see that I had concern for her is the basis of the way I have treated her. My colleagues and the administrators this student involved in the situation have now seen this to be true.

Gerrit writes: Thank you for your honest experience, Fatima. I'm also happy to learn that there are more teachers involved in teaching to groups with a cultural diversity. To be honest I also feel impelled to teach the most basic rules of our society, like beiing on time. It's often a confrontation, and was much criticised by the group. Afterwards I chanted a lot and dicided not to focus too much on these subjects, but simply see it as a challenge to make the quality of my lessons higher. I shifted the programme to give more responsibility in the lessons to themselves, like groupwork, for example make the schedules for a daytrip themselves, which implied beiing on time. I also had to overcome my own negativity to be able to continue having respect for the students. I'm inspired by
Dave Korenda who picked up the words of : Sensei stated "...I believe in you..." I think if our students feel that we believe in them, no matter what, we can be strict when necessary. (thank you Dave!)

From Kelly: The students I work with are involved in a very structured program that is suppose to provide them with the reading skills they are lacking based on a computer test they each took. This has been a struggle for some who have skills that the computer test did not recognize. Many of the students feel that the work is demeaning and are not engaged in the lessons. These are students who are performing under their grade level and I am concerned because they are not acquiring the skills of reading and writing. I started chanting that these students will get what they need to learn, in school and at home. As a teacher assistant I cannot make the decisions or take the actions to change the curriculum for the students. Through my prayer I have seen the teachers modifying the lessons so the students are more engaged, parents have been coming in and meeting with teachers and the teachers are making changes in the classroom structure. I try to support the teachers with positive feedback and my prayers at home. Has anyone seen the film, The Class"? It is a year of a class in Paris I believe. I was moved by the teacher's efforts to care for his class that became tangled up in miscommunication and cultural and age differences.