Approximately 30 years ago, I went to an interview for my first “real” teaching job. I did not have much experience teaching, and I had not really thought much about the blessing and responsibility of good teaching. The academic dean of this private girl’s school posed as his first question “What is your philosophy of teaching?” Well, I certainly couldn’t tell him that I had never entertained that question or that I was more concerned with the mechanics and techniques of teaching, as I was a novice. So I took a deep breath, realized that there was nothing in my brain in the way of an answer, and someone else (sounding remarkably like my voice) answered for me: “I think if teaching doesn’t result in living more compassionately, it has missed its mark.”
I still don’t know how that answer came from me three decades ago, but I do know that when I heard my response, I knew that it was what I truly believed about teaching. I believe that teaching to the whole person – body, mind, and spirit – results in a depth of understanding and connection that learning only with the mind never begins to uncover. I believe that we can “think” with our hearts, understand with our bodies, and intuit with our minds. I have seen the connections made in myself and in students that are the result of experiencing learning holistically, with every part of us engaged, vitally interested, and filled with the kind of joy and comprehension that comes from connecting all of our parts and processes in the act of learning. Learning that evolves in this way ignites a passion for continuing to uncover even deeper levels of knowledge. Learning that involves the heart brings to it the component of empowerment. I have noticed that not many of us get involved in creating change until our hearts are drawn into the task at hand.
In most places of learning, whether that is kindergarten or post-doctoral work, we are instructed in what that institution or setting wants us to learn. In humane education, however, we are all allowed and encouraged to learn what it takes for us personally to live a life of integrity, service, and fulfillment. Humane education allows us each to develop those unique gifts that bring to the world the solutions and vision of our individual wisdom. We are all teachers and learners every moment of every day. Any situation, conversation, event, or decision is an opportunity to “remember who we are”; a Buddhist concept that teaches us that when we act in ways that are harmful, destructive, unmindful and unskilled it is only because we have forgotten our innate perfection and possibility. Humane education is the real life opportunity that allows us to express our humanity, compassion, sense of justice and possibility for shifting into paradigms that honor, enliven, and instruct us at our deepest levels of consciousness. It is the kind of education that softens the heart and forges the will. I feel truly blessed to be able to examine the big questions and often illusive answers that will take us to the next level of awareness.
Lynne Westmoreland joined IHE’s staff in 2011 as part of the Online Course Faculty. She holds Bachelor of Music and Master of Arts degrees in piano performance and a Master of Education in Humane Education. Lynne has been a pianist, accompanist, and piano and music instructor for 30 years. While always having a great love for music and for her students, she has also always been concerned with issues of justice, compassion, and environmental responsibility and has been a lifelong student of human nature in all of its fascinating ambiguities. After exploring many paths as an encore career, she met Zoe Weil at a festival and immediately knew that humane education was exactly what she had been looking for. The journey through this degree work has been more transformative, engaging, and sacred than could have been imagined.
Lynne lives in the Finger Lakes area of New York with her partner, Linda, and their elderly dog Taz. Her free time is spent reading, walking, biking, dancing, cooking, working on local environmental issues, and spending as much time as possible with friends.