In a recent yoga class the instructor stressed the importance of detachment in the practice of yoga. She explained that because yoga depends so much upon the effort we are prepared to put into our practice, we need to find ways to constantly detach in order to move more freely into a pose and deeper into our breathing. While meditating, she went on to explain that we find we are happier when we live our lives with detachment because detachment is a state where a person withdraws from external experience and becomes unbiased. She ended the idea by saying that while attachment is natural, detachment is about being able to let go, reflect and move on. So, to sum up this idea: effort is needed for a good outcome, becoming attached is normal, but reflection is needed. This was starting to sound an awful lot like teaching to me, yet I did not quite understand where this idea of detachment fit in.

As my second year of teaching rushes to an end, and my to do list grows and grows, I struggle to find the time to breath, let alone plan effectively and reflect upon the year. For me, teaching forces me into the present moment more then anything I have ever experienced and I find that even when I prepare, something changes my plans because I am so invested in the present. I read once that the average classroom teacher will make more than 1500 decisions every school day, yet I still wonder why, by the time 2pm rolls around, I am so completely exhausted. I wonder if it’s perhaps because I have not fully learned how to detach, how to let go, reflect and move on.

For me, detaching is more then deciding to take that rare weekend off – not checking the school email, not grading and not lesson planning. Detaching for me is truly letting go of all those mistakes I made that day, all those comments I wish I hadn’t said, and all those lesson plans and grand ideas that completely and utterly fail. Yoga suggests that we detach from these feelings of failure and inadequateness associated with that, reflect upon the outcomes, and move on. But where do we find the time for all that, especially at the end of that year?

The most effective (and only) way I have found to really reflect is actually with my students and it’s always totally unplanned. For instance, a student in my honors class asked me what my favorite unit was this year and I can honestly say that that moment was the very first time I have had time to one, breath and two, really reflect on my second year of teaching. Her comment started a long and lively discussion of things I could do differently for the freshmen next year (make everything really hard for them was one suggestion) and comments on the things the kids loved and hated and their hopes for next year. This discussion had nothing to do with Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, which is what my plans were for, but in that moment, I found my self detaching from this year’s numerous mistakes, breathing in the moment, reflecting and hopefully letting go a little- and it felt good.

How do you detach?