CIPs Teaching Tips – Spring 2013 #7 “Hey Teacher Dude, are you in?”

Teaching is an art and a skill. For those of us who love teaching, it is also something we continue to learn more about almost every day, sometimes in the most unexpected places. *The Dude and the Zen Master, a recently published book written by Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman is one such place. Consider these two quotations and the impact they might have on your teaching practice:

Say I identify too much with the teacher part of me. If someone asks me for help, I may give her a lecture about Zen when what she really needs is some listening, money, or just a big hug. My conditioning to teach will limit my flexibility and responsiveness. (p. 92)

Many teachers have an extremely well-defined, personal connotation of what it means to be an instructor, teacher, or professor. It is good to be clear. It can also be extremely advantageous to be cognizant of who you are and who you want to be in the classroom. However, if you stick so strongly to your view, you might close yourself off from other possibilities. You might fail to see a teachable moment. You might hesitate to try something new that would work well for your students AND for you. You might let your connotation become antiquated in terms of who your students are and who you have become or are becoming. We should all hold fast to the tried and true aspects of our view of what a teacher is, but we should all also hold fast to the commitment to continue to try them to determine which ones still are true.

We freeze up because we expect a certain result or because we want things to be perfect. We can get so fixated that we can’t do anything. Goals are fine; what I don’t like is getting caught up in expectations or attachments to a final outcome. (p.16)

We hear quite a bit about outcomes in Education. Backwards design, a very useful and successful practice, suggests we first identify what we want our students to learn and then design learning experiences to help them get there. This has to be done, of course, with careful consideration of methods, transitions, synergy, and systems. Regardless, the goal is to start with (from) the outcomes, not to just end up there. But what if we get so focused on a particular version of those outcomes that we are unable to see that students have satisfied the intent of those outcomes in a different way? It the outcome itself becomes the ultimate goal we might end up with good results that we are simply unable, or perhaps unwilling, to recognize.

So what is the lesson here?

When it comes to teaching, make sure you are teaching in the moment. We ask our students to be open to changing their thinking and opinions when they encounter new information and experiences. We need to be willing to do the same.

Yours in teaching,


*Bridges, Jeff and Bernie Glassman. The Dude and the Zen Master. New York: Blue Rider Press, 2012.

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CIP, Center for Instructional Practice

Resources and support for every cycle of teaching…

Contact Director Cinse Bonino for a one-on-one CIP instructional design session:

Email: or Phone: 802 651 5965 Skype: cinse.cip


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