Being and Doing: A New Year’s Reflection
I have never been one for New Year’s Resolutions, probably because the majority of such resolutions do not have much staying power. This year, however, I did resolve to focus on something for the New Year. Amidst all of my other plans and ambitions for what I want to accomplish in the New Year, this focus will stand separate. My resolution involves focusing on my being, rather than my doing.
Once, a colleague came back from a conference and announced that he had learned from a presentation that you were either a “do-er” or a “be-er” and that it was important to figure out which one you were. Our society places great value in “doing,” and it can be tempting to juxtapose the image and goal of productivity against a sedentary image of “being.” This is not only a mistake, but it is a terribly unhealthy message to send, particularly to young people. Self-awareness and appreciation for life itself is the essence of “being” and gives meaning, direction, and fulfillment to anything that one does. And, what one does can positively or negatively impact one’s being. A person’s journey must include an awareness of the healthy dynamic of both “doing” and “being.” A thoughtful, caring school can be instrumental in this process for a young person on such a journey.
Clearly, there is a great deal of “doing” that goes on at Trinity-Pawling School. Teaching young people to value hard work and achievement is an important aspect of preparing them for college and for life. Helping our students learn how to define success in their achievement, though, is an inherent aspect of this process. The legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, challenged his players by saying, “Try your hardest in all ways and you are a success. Period. Do less than that and you have failed to one degree or another.” Praising and recognizing the importance of effort is integral to any focus on achievement. A work ethic that places focus on effort enhances resiliency and engages the role of “being” in the “doing.” By contrast, a work ethic that is focused entirely on outcome does little to prepare students for life’s inevitable setbacks. Effort, therefore, is integral to both “doing” and “being.”
I have been blessed to spend each of the 28 years of my career in two independent schools that dedicate a portion of the school day to worship. Spirituality is a key component of my “being.” As an educator, spirituality is also a key component to my understanding of enriched and effective teaching. While Trinity-Pawling School is dedicated to high academic achievement for each student, this dedication emanates from a commitment to each student’s growth in mind, body, and spirit. Its community is one dedicated toward mutual growth for students and faculty, imbued by a philosophy that affirms that each of its members is given dignity and self-worth by a loving God.
At Trinity-Pawling, a student’s “being” is an integral component of his “doing.” As educators, our goal is to ensure that the former gives meaning, direction, and fulfillment to the latter. The order of this relationship, moreover, is critically important. Too often, our society emphasizes that one’s “doing” should define one’s “being.” This message is particularly toxic for our children. Defining one’s self-worth based on grades, test scores, athletic prowess, or college acceptance letters places “doing” at the center of one’s “being.” It is essential that schools recognize that “doing” and “being” are different and that time is dedicated so that each student can work to strengthen their understanding of their “being.” Under the guidance of caring teachers, students have the opportunity to discover who they are as learners, citizens, friends, and human beings. In so doing, they can begin to explore the depths of the greatness that exists in each of them. Finding this greatness exists at the nexus between being and doing.
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