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I teach. I am the instructor of record of three Algebra 2 classes as well as one College Algebra class at De De La Salle North Catholic High School in North Portland, Oregon. For the three years I’ve been teaching at DLSNC, I have told the students that I have three things to teach them:

1. Mathematics.
2. How to think critically.
3. Kindness.

As it is a Catholic school, I get to start each class with a prayer. Today’s was Rilke’s about being resigned and accepting of not having solutions for things about which we haven’t control.

The prayers are not from a tome, instead, I get to pick words that move me and ones that — I hope — move the 10-12 graders in my classroom. Last month I used as a prayer a Polish expression that I found on a Facebook page:

When confronted and asked to take on someone else’s craziness, simply say, Not my circus, not my monkeys

I see my job as that of an educator — the math gets done, but there is much more to education, thank God, than negative rational exponents. Since the start of the school year, I have taught (and tested) the kids about the five stages of learningas well as Aristotle’s four components of anger I have interrupted many lessons on mathematics to reach these kids and help them make sense of social dynamics, emotions, and what seems to be happening in this world they inhabit.

Today, before prayer, I told my 2nd period kids, that I was having a hard morning. (I like to model being an adult with real feelings.) And, then, we all looked at the is Rilke prayer projected on the whiteboard. As the kids were contemplating the prayer, I asked who could summarize it — a teaching technique to test for comprehension.

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

I challenged them and told them that I could capture the prayer in only two words. (I was thinking “have faith.”) Could they similarly encapsulate all of Rilke in a few words?

A student at the back — a kid who challenges dress-code and the system ways so subtle that I don’t think he is always aware of his impact — said, “Rabbi, I got this.”

“Mr. Glenn,” I said, “what is Rilke trying to say?”

“He’s saying, ‘not my monkeys.'”

Amen.

This week’s spiritual advice:
What ails you is not your monkey. God, the universe, the collective unconscious, and/or time might be able to resolve your unresolved questions.

With love,

rabbi_brian_name_written

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