Interviews

Interview with ptec members: Kristina Eisenhower

It is the fourth post in our ‘Interview ptec Members’ series: you can read about Josette, Wilma and Mike in the previous ones.

This time I am excited to introduce Kristina Eisenhower: my friend, a teacher and teacher trainer (currently based in Japan), a ptec member and a very inspiring person.

Kristina and I were chatting about Professional Development and its role in our lives as trainers, teachers, and human beings, and this was one of the questions ‘in the air’: What other (non-teaching/non-Professional Development) activities do you do in your life that help you both personally and professionally?

In the end, it alone became the main theme for this post, which Kristina kindly wrote – and I am giving the floor to her.

Actually, I have never thought of myself as a teacher! Yes, that is my professional title, which is also something I balk at. I don’t like the word for a number of various reasons. We can discuss those later if you want.

For now, I want to say that I have always thought of myself as a student! In my opinion, I make a much better student than teacher, anyway. In fact, it is all I really ever want to be! I love studying and learning (unless it’s math related ). There is so much to learn in the world, and I have (as we all have) limited time in which to do so.  I like the wonder and freshness of learning something new.  There is a concept in Zen Buddhism that is called Shoshin which means “beginner’s mind”, and which describes me perfectly.  Basically, it refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would. So, with everything that I pursue, I pursue it with Shoshin.  At no time do I ever claim to be the “authority” on anything!  I realize that there will always be others out there that know more than I do, which is great because that means there’s still more for me to learn. However, what to do with all this “stuff” that I learn?  Well, let’s just say the “teacher” in me is really just an exuberant sharer of what I have learned, what I love, and what I live! So, yes I do have some experience. In fact, I am a self-proclaimed “consumer of experience”.  The more I get, the more I want…but in every aspect of life; not just my job.

With that being said, I guess you could say that my form of Professional Development is really Self-Development, which is all I have to offer anyone. That’s where my “teaching philosophy” of PASS I ON comes from. I take my ‘passion’ for learning and passion for life, and throw it into varied experiences in order to further develop myself, and I try to share as I go.

One of Kristina's classes on the first day of this semester

One of Kristina’s classes on the first day of this semester

So to answer your question, I will tell you about what I have been doing this semester with my classes that has proven to be highly rewarding for me (and hopefully the students, too). I’ll find out more about their response at the end of the term when I ask them to complete a questionnaire about it, but I have a pretty good idea of its impact so far based on the comments, questions and products I have seen from the students regarding it.  What “IT” is, is learning about mindfulness in order to become a more mindful learner.  In other words, I have been integrating, infusing, incorporating…somehow including lessons about mindfulness, activities with mindfulness, exercises in mindfulness and assignments / projects based on mindfulness research.  It all started last spring as I began to deepen my yoga practice with meditation. Because all of my yoga learning has been conducted in a language I don’t know (Japanese), I had to ‘teach’ myself, or rather, learn for myself anything I wanted to know about meditation and the spiritual aspect of the yoga practice.  However, through this Self Development, I found that mindfulness (which is not always the same thing as meditation) is something I was already doing in many different ways, and I could clearly see and feel its positive and truly transformative impact in my own life. Consequently, as the innate sharer in me surfaced, I immediately realized how beneficial and worthwhile this could be for students of all kinds!  So, I did more reading and research and learning about it throughout the summer, and decided that in my classes starting this Fall, I would try to “sprinkle in” some information or activities that might touch on the subject.

What actually happened has been astounding to me! That ‘sprinkling’ became a steady rain of new knowledge (lessons and experiences drenched in passion) pouring out of me; and that little bit of information became an ocean of ideas and exercises for us to swim and surf in, and ride the waves of trial and error; and those activities that I thought might touch on the subject, actually touched the core of the ‘subjects’– namely me and my students, and have kept us all buoyant, light and floating through the semester. From this PASSing I ON, I can say that I have had the clearest, richest, most satisfying semester of my professional life!

In fact, I am so passionate about this idea and approach to education that I am in the midst of preparing to present my class activities at a research forum being hosted here at my university in January. Additionally, I have requested to develop a seminar class in Mindfulness as part of my course load for next year. Once again, I must declare that I am not an authority on this subject. I do not have a certificate or license or any kind of formal training (yet), but I think I have something even better, and more immediate — the guts, the groundedness, and the ‘go for it’ attitude that keeps me “growing”…toward it, in it, with it!

Obviously, I could go on all night about this and soooooooo many other things that excite and delight me, but I think this might be more than sufficient to start the ball rolling.  I think you can see that I don’t really concentrate on any of the conventional things that most people think of as Professional Development.  Of course, I have done research and presented at conferences, and I am also a published author of various book chapters, the most recent of which will be published in early 2016. However, these “credentials or accolades” leave me flat for some reason. Probably because they were conditioned responses to initiatives set forth by the self-proclaimed authorities in my life at those times. In my life right now, I want to observe, consider and embrace every moment of my lived experience that might advance, enhance, and empower anyone I am fortunate enough to PASS It ON to.

 

Thank you very much Kristina for sharing your passion in this post – and looking forward to a great 2016, full of professional and self-development, passion, mindfulness and learning!

posted by Zhenya

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