Ecological Pedagogy, Buddhist Pedagogy, Hermeneutic Pedagogy

Experiments in a Curriculum for Miracles

by Jackie Seidel (Author) David W. Jardine (Author)
©2014 Textbook VIII, 210 Pages
Series: Counterpoints, Volume 452


This book explores three interrelated roots of scholarly work that have a supportive and elaborative affinity to authentic and engaging classroom inquiry: ecological consciousness, Buddhist epistemologies, philosophies and practices, and interpretive inquiry or «hermeneutics». Although these three roots originate outside of and extend far beyond most educational literature, understanding them can be of immense practical importance to the conduct of rich, rigorous, practicable, sustainable, and adventurous classroom work for students and teachers alike.
The authors collectively bring to these reflections decades of classroom experience in grades K–12 and the experience of supervising hundreds of student teachers in such settings as well as working regularly with schools and classroom teachers in their day-to-day work. The authors demonstrate, through several classroom examples, how ecology, Buddhism, and hermeneutics provide ways to re-invigorate the often-moribund discourse of education and bring a sense of beauty and rigorous joy to classroom life for teachers and students alike.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Dedication
  • Introduction: “We are Here, We are Here.”
  • Preamble
  • “So, Here We Are”
  • “The Aviator”
  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. A Curriculum for Miracles
  • Breath
  • Breath
  • Breath
  • Sorrow
  • Breath
  • Breath
  • Breath
  • Breath
  • Breath
  • 2. Wabi Sabi and the Pedagogical Countenance of Names
  • I
  • II
  • III
  • IV
  • V
  • VI
  • VII
  • VIII
  • IX
  • X
  • 3. On the Spring-Squall Arrival of a Pine Siskin (Carduelis Pinus)
  • First, A Sorrowful Dedication
  • I
  • II
  • III
  • IV
  • V
  • VI
  • VII
  • VIII
  • IX
  • X
  • XI
  • Postscript
  • 4. Reading the Stones
  • 5. Translating Water
  • I
  • II
  • III
  • IV
  • V
  • VI
  • VII
  • Final Pedagogical Reflection
  • 6. Field Trip Curriculum
  • Field Trip Curriculum I
  • Field Trip Curriculum II
  • Field Trip Curriculum III
  • 7. Story-Time Lessons From a Dog Named Fideles
  • A Brief Story to Begin With
  • A Second Story to Continue the Tale
  • A Familiar Story That Is Not Well-Known: “Time Is Always Running Out”
  • Story One: Empty Time and a Succession of Nows
  • Story Two: Industrial Production and the Efficiency of Schooling
  • Story Three: On Spelling Lists and Kings and Queens
  • “Time Is a Bringer of Gifts”
  • One Ending
  • …and Another
  • 8. Echolocations
  • The True Names of Birds
  • Breath
  • A Simple Snowstorm
  • Eternal Death
  • A Pocket of Darkness
  • Disposing of a Broken Clock
  • Time
  • 9. Hymn to the North Atlantic Right Whale
  • 10. Inquiry in Black and White: An Appreciation
  • Coda
  • 11. The Paperwhite’s Lesson Plan
  • Part 1—A Confession
  • Part 2—The Time of the Institution
  • Part 3—Teacher (Preparation) Education
  • Part 4—The Paperwhite’s Lesson (Plan)
  • Part 5—Coda
  • 12. The Memories Of Childhood Have No Order And No End”: Pedagogical Reflections On The Occasion Of The Release, On October 9th 2009, Of The Re-Mastered Version Of The Beatles’
  • Reminiscence I
  • Reminiscence II
  • Reminiscence III
  • A “Have No End”
  • 13. Losing Wonder: Thoughts on Nature, Mortality, Education
  • Beginnings
  • Meditation One: River Walk
  • Meditation Two: Re-Reading Crow Lake
  • Meditation Three: 2000 and None
  • Meditation Four: On (Human) Nature, Justice, Community
  • Creating Community
  • This Is the Turning Point
  • River Walk: Coda
  • 14. In Praise of Radiant Beings
  • A Preambling Couplet
  • “Even There”
  • Ah! Wabi Sabi
  • “Protodoxa (Urdoxa)”
  • “Break Open the Being of the Object”
  • “Every Word Breaks Forth”
  • “It Draws You into Its Path”
  • “Present in the Thing”
  • Post-Ambulatory Couplet
  • 15. Some Thoughts on Teaching as Contemplative Practice
  • August 31, 2005
  • September 22, 2005
  • September 9, 2005
  • September 30, 2005
  • October 4, 2005
  • October 12, 2005
  • October 15, 2005
  • October 10, 2005
  • October 10, 2005
  • October 19, 2005
  • September 20, 2005
  • September 25, 2005
  • October 28, 2005
  • 16. An Open Letter after a Tough Class and An Afterword to Readers
  • References
  • Index
  • Series Index



This book is dedicated to David G. Smith. Words fail us, again and again, in describing the intimate difference one being can make in the life of another when one lives in the presence of such a boundless heart. We dedicate whatever meager merit may have accrued around us from knowing and loving him to the great and irremediable suffering of all beings, especially those in schools. This book is our thanksgiving.

This book is also dedicated to Peter Rilstone for all the years he has taught us. ← vii | 1 →



“We are Here, We are Here.”

Jackie Seidel & David W. Jardine


In the coulee a pocket of darkness.
Marbled pairs of reflected light,
briefly glow, then shimmer and fade out.
Alone now, they wind through tangles, relentless,
and re-emerge into one.
Call up to the creators; we are here, we are here.
                              from Judson Innes, “A Pocket Full of Darkness”

We begin with this passage from a poem by Judson Innes (see Chapter 8) because it contains a summoning, a calling, similar in tone to the way that Geshe Lhundub Sopa begins his enormous, multi-volume commentary on Tsong-kha-pa’s The great treatise on the stages of the path to enlightenment (2000, 2002, 2004).

At the very beginning of the 1720 pages of three volumes published thus far (2004, 2005, 2008), Geshe Sopa (2004, p. 1) starts thus:

“So, here we are. Right now, you have a life that is precious and valuable.”

So many teachers and students that we have worked with over many years have done beautiful work that calls out, over and over, “we are here, we are here.” So many have suffered enormously in the confines of schooling and its bluntings, fears, and shams. It is in recognition of these teachers and these students—our teachers, our students—that we undertake this book.

Again from Geshe Sopa (2004, p. 15), in an early Prologue section entitled “A Pledge to Compose this Work”: “now, why does an author have to make a promise to write? Someone can compose a text without making ← 1 | 2 → promise to do so. Here, this pledge has a special purpose: to publically proclaim, ‘I will do this.’” Our pledge, one that slowly emerged as this text itself emerged, adds this: this beautiful work between students and teachers, inside and outside of the confines of schooling, exists, sometimes in silence and isolation, sometimes in enclaves of refuge and support. Not only, then, “I will do this,” but also “this has been done,” “this can be done.” This is why we saw fit in some of our recent graduate classes to call these gatherings “refuges.” This is why we ate together, talked and read and listened and fell silent together. Up against the too often pronounced exhaustion and desperation and despair of “this sort of thing is not possible in my school/with my sort of students/in this part of town/at this grade level/with this school administration/in this school board/in this subject area/with these parents/under these economic conditions,” and so, on and on, we offer an old and pointed response of our late colleague, teacher and friend, Patricia Clifford: “if it actually exists, it must be possible.”

So, then, here we are. We will do this.

“So, Here We Are”

The central motivating factor of this book is to elaborate beautiful classroom work that we have witnessed, over and over again, in every grade and every sort of school circumstance, over the past several years. To do this, we explore three interrelated roots of scholarly work that have a supportive and elaborative affinity to authentic and engaging classroom inquiry: ecological consciousness; Buddhist epistemologies; philosophies and practices; and interpretive inquiry or “hermeneutics.” Although these three roots originate outside of and extend far beyond most educational literature, understanding them can be of immense practical importance to the conduct of rich, rigorous, practicable, sustainable and adventurous classroom work for students and teachers alike. They can help break the spell of educational discourse that has become moribund and stuck, and, worse, yet, dangerous.

Consider the words of David G. Smith (1999, pp. 135–6), one great teacher and refuge for us:

“Education is suffering from narration-sickness,” says Paulo Freire. It speaks out of a story which was once full of enthusiasm, but now shows itself incapable of a surprise ending. The nausea of narration-sickness comes from having heard enough, of hearing many variations on a theme but no new theme. A narrative which is sick may claim to speak for all, yet has no aporia, no possibility of meeting a stranger because the text is complete already. Such narratives may be passed ← 2 | 3 → as excellent by those who certify clarity and for whom ambiguity is a disease to be excoriated. But the literalism of such narratives (speeches, lectures, stories) inevitably produces a pedagogy which, while it passes as being “for the good of children,” does not recognize the violence against children inherent in its own claim. Because without an acknowledgement and positive appreciation of the full polysemic possibility which can explode forth from within any occasion when adult and child genuinely meet together: a possibility which resides precisely in the difference of every child, every person, a difference about which one can presume nothing despite the massive research literature (e.g., about children) available to us, and despite the fact that our children come from us, are our flesh and blood. Without an appreciation of the radical mystery which confronts us in the face of every other person, our theorizing must inexorably become stuck, for then we are no longer available for that which comes to meet us from beyond ourselves, having determined in advance the conditions under which any new thing will be acceptable, and thereby foreclosing on the possibility of our own transformation. This radical difference of every child, every other person, renders our pedagogical narratives ambiguous but at the same time hopeful, because the immanent ambiguity held within them opens a space for genuine speaking, holding out the promise that something new can be said from out of the mists of the oracle of our own flesh.

These three disciplines of ecology, Buddhism and hermeneutics, each in their own way, knows something of this oracularity of the flesh, of the opening, in the concert between teacher and student, of “free spaces” (Gadamer 1986, p. 59) in intimate pedagogical acts of “responding and summoning” (Gadamer 1989, p. 458). Each allows insight into our frail human circumstance and offers ways to embrace and cultivate the wisdom of such frailty without balk or panic or denial.

Each of these three disciplines has cultivated, in its own way, a dual insight. First, each has carefully detailed ways to decode something of our contemporary lot in education: the wide-spread dominance of models of industrial assembly as befitting teaching and learning, the fragmentation of the living fields of knowledge, and the consequent acceleration and proliferation of demands on the lives and attention of teachers and students alike. Each speaks of distraction, of the leveling of experience and insight commonplace to everyday life.

In addition to such critiques, all three offer concrete, practicable alternatives to this fix we have inherited. They offer vivid ways of understanding issues of identity and diversity; they provide images of stillness and a slowing of time and attention linked to the pursuit of wisdom; they elaborate a sense of lineage, ancestry, or intergenerationality and the difficult comforts to be found in such elaborations; they detail ideas of living fields full of relations of dependent co-arising that can be explored, cared for, and understood; they confront head-on ideas of finitude and impermanence that are inevitably ← 3 | 4 → linked to the generative and ongoing character of knowledge and its pursuit. All three, therefore, offer a pedagogy that both decodes our current circumstances and provides what we suggest is vivid, rigorous, practical and scholarly alternatives to those circumstances.

We have witnessed in numerous classrooms how these matters actually work themselves out in the day-to-day life of classrooms dedicated to rich, engaging, deliberate work, and our book will draw upon and detail many real-world examples from our field work.

Hence our subtitle. Right in the midst of the often-debilitating contemporary circumstances of schools, we have witnessed the near-miraculous appearance of beautiful and engaging work across a wide array of classroom settings.

It has happened. Therefore, it must be possible.

“The Aviator”

The cover illustration is of a lovely painting by an Alberta artist, Connie Geerts (www.conniegeerts.com) entitled “The Aviator.” In local lore, the Magpie is known as a smart thief. Connie’s permission to use her work for our book summoned up the quiet demand of such a beautiful work—to remain with it, to look again and again, to become, slowly and surely, able to experience what is there and has been there all along. We’re reminded of Hans-Georg Gadamer’s (2007a, p. 131) recognition of the “joyous and frightening shock” that comes when the true message of a beautiful work starts to hit home: “You must change your life.”

We have found something of this sense of aesthetic repose in the work we have done, over the past year, with a group of classroom teachers and administrators (some of whom co-wrote our Chapter 8), where examples of classroom work, or small and ordinary events, took on the character and repose needed to stop each of us in our tracks and tell us that the promises and presumptions that heretofore carried us through the days and hours of school would no longer do. This is the great and pleasurable work of hermeneutics, of ecology, of Buddhism, that we must, over and over again, face ourselves and our limited afflictions and, with each other’s grace and aid, we can find a sustainable and joyous refuge in an every expanding sense of our “selves” as housed in a reality far beyond the meager panics we often are asked to take, in education, for “the real world.”

For this wee little gift, we are most grateful, and the promise to write this book, now fulfilled, will hopefully provide a wee gift to those who read it and a wee sense of engaging readers, then, in an unspoken promise of their own with such reading. ← 4 | 5 →

After all, as a wise woman once insisted, don’t tell me it’s not possible. If it actually exists, it must be possible.

So, here we are.


We wish to acknowledge the permissions we have been given to reproduce previous published work:

CHAPTER 1: A Curriculum for Miracles by Jackie Seidel was previously published in Chambers, C.M., Hasebe-Ludt, E., Leggo, C., & Sinner, A. eds. A Heart of Wisdom: Life Writing as Empathetic Inquiry (2012). New York: Peter Lang, pp. 273–280.

CHAPTER 2: Wabi Sabi and the Pedagogical Countenance of Names by Jackie Seidel and David W. Jardine was previously published in N. Ng-A-Fook & J. Rottman, eds. Reconsidering Canadian Curriculum Studies: Provoking Historical, Present, and Future Perspectives. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 175–190.


VIII, 210
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2013 (September)
educational literature beauty joy scholarly work
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. VIII, 210 pp.

Biographical notes

Jackie Seidel (Author) David W. Jardine (Author)

Jackie Seidel is Assistant Professor in the in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary. She received her PhD from the University of Alberta. David W. Jardine is Full Professor of Education in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto and is the author of the recently published book Pedagogy Left in Peace.


Title: Ecological Pedagogy, Buddhist Pedagogy, Hermeneutic Pedagogy