I have never met a teacher who enjoyed duty. Whether it is monitoring kids getting off the bus on a cold morning, ensuring nobody cuts in line in a loud cafeteria, or maintaining some sense of order during recess, teachers more often than not perform these duties unenthusiastically.
I remember literally counting the seconds until duty was over. I recall being bored, frustrated, and trying every mental trick I could think of to take my mind off of the crushing monotony of this involuntary task.
I won't pretend I ever learned to LOVE duty, but I did finally have a breakthrough that made it much more pleasant. It went like this:
One semester I was assigned duty outside during lunch. I was tasked with preventing students from entering our main building without a pass. This duty was pretty easy, but I had to regularly confront students who did not have passes. By the third or fourth student, it was easy to lose my patience. "No, you CANNOT go in the building unless you have a pass!"
Around that time I began reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. It dawned on me that I was never accepting the present moment while I was on duty. I was constantly wishing I were somewhere else. I was always internally stuggling against the moment. My mind was almost always in the past or future because it HATED the present. When a student forced me into the present moment, I became irritated because it took me out of the comfort of my inner world of thought, my "internal escape from the now mechanism."
So I decided to shift my approach to duty. I attempted to be present for the whole thing. I started by just noticing the sky, the interesting weeds growing in the grass, the bugs, birds and planes that flew around, the feeling of a cool breeze or the warmth of the sun, etc. I decided to stop fighting the present moment and realized the folly of my internal struggle. I was a TEACHER. I wanted to continue being a teacher. Part of being a teacher is performing duty. So duty was not an option, and there was simply no point in wishing things were different. I was causing my own suffering by the way I THOUGHT about duty. That awareness alone was the most important initial step. It took lots of effort, but over time I was able to spend more and more of my time on duty in the present. This made my interactions with students much easier. The frustration melted, and I was able to address almost every situation calmly.
The next semester I had duty outside where kids were eating. I had to monitor them and make sure they took their trays back to the cafeteria. Fortunately, I had a lunch break right before this duty. I began regularly practicing short meditations during my break so I could go into duty with my mind settled. I'm not sure I can honestly say I ENJOYED that duty, but I was in complete acceptance of it. There was very little inner struggle, unless it was a REALLY cold day. I enjoyed conversations with students and often felt a deep sense of tranquility as I sat outside and watched young people laugh, play ball, and enjoy their lunch.
Now that I work for CERRA, I no longer have to perform duty. I can't tell you that I miss it, but I have tried to apply the lessons I learned about duty to the other mundane situations in which I constantly find myself. Whether it is waiting in line at Walmart or getting caught in a traffic jam on Highway 501, I know the trick to remaining present. I know it, but often forget it. When I forget, I get agitated. When I remember, I am able to keep things in perspective and the irritation either subsides or is prevented altogether.
So here are some tips for learning to accept duty and make it a much more pleasant experience.
We give away far too many minutes, hours and days of our lives living in conflict with the present moment. If we are constantly wishing time would just hurry by, so we can get to a place where we can be happy, we will sacrifice a HUGE portion of our lives. The goal is to embrace every second we have on this planet. It's time to bring the battle with now to an end because now is all we will ever have.