Toward Recovery


Well, here we are, the day after – time to lick our wounds, hug our neighbors and get a move on.  I, for one, just put on my cowboy boots.

So, here’s my question:  How do we begin to move beyond the divisive politics, language and hurt so evident in our beloved country?

While the standard view of reality is that events influence how we feel, the truth is, how we feel creates reality.  This simple yet profound idea is the core basis of an articulated spirituality.  Identity politics misses this truth in a BIG way.  It is not just the angry white man — it is also the anxiety fueled elite, the cynical millennials, the frustrated yogi’s, the victimized, the lonely, the sad, the bullied, the egotists, etc. who influenced this result.  Our twisted emotional life led to this moment of collective responsibility.

If you feel lousy this morning, you need to take a good hard look at yourself.  It’s not Hillary’s fault or Donald’s.  It’s not your neighbors, your employers, your teachers or your friends’ responsibility.   

Taking responsibility for the way you feel this morning is the first step toward recovery.

One of the many things I have been reflecting on this morning is the philosophical underpinnings of our constitution.  To be exact, I have been thinking about the connection between “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”.  Three lofty goals eloquently expressed by our founding fathers.  Freedom envisioned as a derivative of our willingness to participate in the government of affairs.  Individual happiness is the result of the exercise of that personal freedom.  That idealism rested on the premise of collective responsibility for the care and nurturance of our rights, institutions and our own sense of personal well-being.  Seriously, hear me out, this is importantthe American brand of happiness is literally founded on the principle of engagement. 

So, what happened?  Well, I would argue we all got pretty darn wrapped up in ourselves, we lost touch with each other and we failed to articulate common goals for a fair and just society.  As Robert Bellah argues in his book, Habits of the Heart:  “We have committed what to the founders of our nation was the cardinal sin:  we have put our own good, as individuals, as groups, as a nation, ahead of the common good.”  The American dream became a private dream of personal satisfaction.  The ironic consequence of the pursuit of this dream is the empty feeling of loneliness our “success” actually manifests.  In the end, pursuing individual goals without respect to the common good leaves many of us feeling detached, isolated and unhappy. 

The irony, of course, is that we live in a vastly more interrelated and integrated world – economically, technically, functionally – and yet, most of us do not seem to know how to articulate why our lives are morally related to others. We do not think about how our words echo and our actions sting.  Importantly, we do not take responsibility for the way our feelings reverberate throughout the atmosphere. 

Our behavior is a direct reflection of how we feel.  The better we feel, the better we act.  The better we act, the better our world becomes.  As participating co-creators of reality, we ourselves must take responsibility for ourselves and others by behaving out of a space of well-being and contentment.  Shaping new frameworks for thinking, compassion and kindness will take time.

How do we begin to feel better?  We meditate.  Meditation brings back to us coordination of mind and heart.  It is in the transcendent that we unite all the fragmented pieces of ourselves into something whole.  We come out of meditation feeling reinvigorated, grounded and full of being.  Our rested minds feel less emotionally turbulent.  Our behavior reflects this serenity.  Ultimately, unity in our country will be enhanced when supported by clear, unencumbered minds. 

In the end, perhaps, our future will depend not so much on solitary leadership but collective commitment to ourselves and each other.  Regaining our footing will require reaching out to each other with trust and a renewed sense of responsibility.  We must heal our own hearts.  In doing so, we will grow the energy and courage to reach out to others.  We will expand our compassion and relinquish our stubborn detachment from others. Finally, our collective healing will return us to the roots of our philosophical ambitions and allow us to “live” the truth of our constitutional rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

I, for one, am ready for the challenge.  Today is beginning to feel less like a disaster and more like an opportunity.  Let’s all get some much needed rest.  As Scarlet O’Hara famously proclaimed, “After all, tomorrow is another day!”

~ Molly Beauregard

The Labyrinth


The ancient symbol of a labyrinth relates to the concept of wholeness. By combining the imagery of a circle with a spiral, traditional labyrinths offer a meandering path with purposeful meaning. Walking the labyrinth offers a journey to the center of the maze and back out again. It is not meant to confuse or frustrate the walker. Rather, the gift of the labyrinth is to soothe, to comfort, to offer insight and reflection.

Perhaps, the most famous labyrinth is preserved within the nave of Chartres Cathedral in France. Built around 1200, it was intended to be walked as a pilgrimage in order to become closer to God. Labyrinths have been found all over the world — some dating back 4,000 years. All too often their origins lost in the mists of time.

The philosophical idea that if we had eyes powerful enough to see exactly what is happening, we would realize that even the most stable thing in the universe is actually changing all the time, is mirrored in the construction of a labyrinth.  The structure of the labyrinth reminds us to trust in the flow of the universe. Walking the path reminds us to trust our intuition, stay on the path — essentially to walk the walk.

This weekend my husband built a labyrinth. It was a pretty inspired move. For us, the labyrinth served as a ceremonial finish to our long awaited apple harvest. The back story on the harvest includes two smallish granny smith apple trees that had previously yielded one or two squirrel nibbled offerings each season. This year with some timely nurturance and delicate care the trees produced 28 big, fat apple gems.

The truth is it can be tough to infuse our daily life with meaning and reverence. An apple harvest is as good an excuse as any for reminding us to slow down and celebrate the abundance of life. Walking the labyrinth this weekend, I found myself reminded that we are all exactly where we are meant to be right now. Just like those sweet little trees, we all blossom at the perfect moment to shine our absolute brightest.

Molly Beauregard

Classical Labyrinths: Construction Manual


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Moving Beyond the Grading Rubric


The directive to “know thyself” permeates much of the American university experience. As professors and mentors, advisors and guidance counselors, we frequently tell our students to follow their passions and ambitions—to act upon what they “know” those inner strivings to be—and yet we too often ignore the role of reflection in the classroom. We ask our students to trust and follow their intuitions without teaching them to tap into intuition in the first place. We assume our students’ self-knowledge even as we eliminate the pursuit of it at almost every turn.

The truth is that all reference to the “spiritual” in the college classroom has been eradicated—a process that’s taken place over the course of many generations. As far back as one hundred years ago, the advent of the modern industrial age demanded an increased emphasis on science, technology, evaluation and rational inquiry. Even the so-called softer fields—fields like sociology, psychology and philosophy—have strived to discourage students from too much introspection.

But what happens when we give individual students the experience of sharing their innermost truth with others? When we tie the rigor of scientific inquiry to the open-ended messiness of self-inquiry? In my opinion, we nourish not just the mind, but the heart. Shifting the focus from “What do I want to do?’ to “Who do I want to be?” reconnects students with their truest passions, jump-starting the process of true learning. In short, encouraging a search for meaning in the classroom also promotes life-long learning and curiosity. The search for meaning, unlike the search for “answers” demands that our students see their educations as dynamic and ongoing—not constricted by the fixed timelines of a particular course or a four-year degree.

Every semester I tell my students that the goal of my class is to have them leave the semester knowing less. This confuses them terribly. But I believe a college education should provide more than job training. It should offer students opportunities to see knowledge as unlimited. It should show them that true learning is grounded in the deeper experiences of the spirit. It should open their eyes to the fact that when intellectual life is supported by a deep intuition and contentment, scholarly and professional pursuits then become creative, fruitful, and significant instead of barren, ineffective, and meaningless.

Consciousness, as a field of study, can be best understood by the student through his or her own personal experience of meditation. Meditation and silence encourage reflection, validate inner knowingness and offer glimpses of transcendence. The truth is everyone experiences momentary glimpse of transcendence in daily life – getting lost in thought while walking in the woods, being swept up in the joy of playing the piano, forgetting oneself while engaged in driving. We live for these moments of inner peace and awareness where the stresses of daily life simply fall away and our experience of deep connection to the world around us feels complete. But can you imagine the impact of training individuals to systematically seek these moments of transcendence? How would the cumulative layers of such peace on a day-to-day basis transform individual lives?

These are the questions I ask of my students. In their papers and assignments, they struggle with the answers. In their own meditation practice, they grapple with their own silence and reflection. Consciousness based education programs gently push students to move from concrete to abstract values, thus expanding personal awareness while simultaneously enhancing intellectual understanding. It is the goal of the Tuning the Student Mind foundation to help teachers move beyond the grading rubric through the use of consciousness based educational programs.

Molly Beauregard

To Be Seen


I have been told that my finest quality is my boundless enthusiasm.  Sometimes, however, this eager openness gets me in a bit of trouble.

Several years ago a photography student asked me if I would participate in her photo series for senior studio.  Complimented to be asked, I immediately agreed.  For years, I have worn bright red lipstick in the hopes of being discovered like Lana Turner at the corner drugstore.  On the appointed day of the “shoot”, I packed a bag of potential outfits, blew out my hair and painted on my lips.

As soon as I arrived Jen invited me to look at some of the images she had already completed for her thesis project.  The first image was of her father.  He was seated on an unmade bed with his colostomy bag exposed. The second was of a young man collapsed in an overstuffed chair – his tie loosened, his face grim, Las Vegas glittering through the glass window behind him.  And, so it went – an overweight woman with candy circling her head, a video gamer hidden in the basement.  You get the gist.

I have been teaching sociology for fifteen years.  Or, at least that’s my cover.  In truth, teaching is a rather selfish act for me as I love to listen to myself share what I know. It bubbles up on an enthusiastic wave of love eager to move through me to get to the hearts of others.  As a former student once proclaimed, “She just dumps her guts!”

Back to the photo shoot.  Looking at the series of pictures, my panic slowly set in. I suddenly felt confused as to how or why Jen thought I belonged with this rag tag group of individuals sharing their raw vulnerability.  Not wanting to offend her, I figured I’d put on my most slimming black dress and let her take a few pictures just to humor her.  Prior to taking the picture, she asked me to jot down a thought on my greatest fear.  I spontaneously wrote:  “Sometimes, I wonder if there is anything left that is worth saying, while words may echo, it is feeling that resonates.”

Jen ended up winning “student select” for her project.  Her blown up photos graced the entry way to the senior show.  Despite their prominent position at the show and my attendance, not one single person recognized me.  Even my husband looked dismissively away at first glance.  Jen had captured a moment of deep feeling.  Even my carefully applied makeup, slimming dress and good cover story could not hide my true vulnerability.  In asking me to reveal my fear, Jen had set an intention.  Her talent and patient eye unearthed the truth of my being.

Reflecting on my participation in Jen’s project, I blush just a bit at initially desiring a “glamour” shot.  In the end, I feel a certain pride at being a member of this brave group of individuals willing to share and embrace their true vulnerability.

It has taken me two years to look honestly at that photo – to see my truth exposed.  I am writing this blog as a belated thank you note to my sweet former student.  Jen, you were my teacher on that grey April day.  I am abundantly grateful to you for allowing me to see in myself what you so clearly saw in me.  My own desire to be seen for who I am. 

Molly Beauregard

Innocence of Love


I recently unearthed a video of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi speaking in 1972. It is a sweet video of the giggling guru explaining why he came out of the Himalayas to teach meditation. “Teaching is a natural profession”, he explains, “Anyone with real knowledge can not rest until that knowledge has been shared! I could no longer rest in the Himalayas.”

A few weeks ago my Foundation, Tuning the Student Mind, had the honor of sponsoring 20 students and 8 teachers to learn Primordial Sound Meditation. During the final morning of the course, we explained to the children that it was important that their mantras’ be kept private. Mantras are precious and personal seeds meant to enliven consciousness. It is thought that keeping them private maintains their purity. Upon hearing this instruction one of the young boys got big crocodile tears in his eyes and raised his hand, “Miss Molly”, he exclaimed, “I already shared my word with my mom. But . . . she’s really really nice!  And, she needs the help too.”  New knowledge just aches to be shared. Ah, the sweet innocence of love – it flows where it must.

Molly Beauregard

The Diminishing Value of Childhood

Could I climb to the highest place in Athens, I would lift my voice and proclaim, “Fellow citizens, why do you turn and scrape every stone to gather wealth and take so little care of your children to whom one day you must relinquish it all?” — Socrates

A few years ago while shopping in the children’s department at an unnamed location (think Big box retailer), I came across a size 6x “Hello Kitty” thong. I am still haunted by the sighting. For me, the sight of those teeny tiny panties confirmed my worst fears about the diminishing value of childhood in our culture.

Throughout history, the concept of childhood has remained malleable. Numerous scholars have confirmed that as a society experiences shifts in predominate values or norms, concepts of childhood are routinely affected. Despite the popular perception that childhood is a natural state of existence, science has confirmed that childhood is not biologically defined or distinctly uniform. In fact, it is a byproduct of culture. In reality, childhood functions as a manifestation of one’s social world and as such it is uniquely experienced by individual children.

As Max Weber wrote “culture is a finite segment of the meaningless infinity of the world process, a segment on which human beings confer meaning and significance.” The child of history serves not only as a mirror of our cultural values but also a creator of culture in his own right. Children behave to the expectations of our collective mind – acting out with precision our hopes, our fears and our beliefs about the nature of childhood itself.

We know that the role of the child in society has been reinterpreted continually throughout history. The behavior of children changes naturally as a result of these evolving ideologies. There is a natural intersection between what the people believe to be true and the outgrowth of finite behavior. Thus, we understand the example of a “Hello Kitty” thong for a six year old as representing both the growing trend toward the sexualization of children and giving the kids what they want.

I had a very insightful student write the following lines in a paper this fall: “. . . . .I shouldn’t have worried about fitting in so much. There was no point to rushing into a personality that wasn’t natural. At that point, I was only learning how to play the many roles of personality that I subconsciously play today. I needed much more practice back then.” As the great sage Winnie the Pooh once said, “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday.”

All too often we push ourselves and our children to develop in a way that is not aligned with our natural selves. I believe that it is of utmost importance for parents, educators and the elders of community to ensure that children are brought up with both love and discipline. It is the collective responsibility of all of us to teach our children right from wrong, to keep them safe and to remind them daily of their own internal goodness.

Is childhood a social artifact worth saving? If we believe that it is then we must act responsibly to create a world worth living in. We must behave decently to one another. We must work to establish a language of values that supports and protects our children. We must create images that reflect our truest desires rather than our deepest fears. We must see the world as a beautiful sanctuary and our children as our most fragile flowers. Finally, we must feel our own inner goodness, innocence and fragility in a way that reconnects us with the most vulnerable in our midst.

All of my experience as an educator and parent leads me to conclude that a sense of reverence is necessary for the health of our children. If a culture is devoid of reverence, we deny ourselves inspiration. The entire experience of childhood should be about the art of awakening the natural curiosity of innocence. The preciousness of childhood should be savored. It would be a tragedy of untold consequence to allow the slow disappearance of this most human social artifact.

Molly Beauregard



Magic in the World

“The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the power of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.”

 Albert Einstein

Several years ago while on vacation in Amsterdam, my husband bought me a ring. It was a thin ring encrusted with seed diamonds to be worn stacked with my engagement ring and wedding band. One day shortly after he gave it to me, it accidentally slipped off my finger. After spending several days retracing my steps, cleaning out my car and calling all the spots I had visited, I accepted the fact that it was probably gone for good.

About a week later, I had the oddest dream. In fact, it was so strange it woke me out of a deep deep sleep and left me buzzing with curiosity. In the dream a man was painting the interior walls of my house. He was a colorful character, essentially dancing through my home swinging his arms in an elegant fashion. The images he produced were totally entrancing. The most amazing aspect, however, was that he did not have a paint brush. Everywhere he went beautiful imagery just flowed out of his being. It was as if he had entered my dreamscape to remind me of the magic in the world.

The next morning was one of those crisp, cold, Michigan blue sky days. My husband and son were out in the yard raking leaves. I was at the kitchen washing the breakfast dishes. Suddenly, I heard Mike yell, “Molly, come quick!” When I walked outside, he pointed to my ring sitting innocently on the post rail of our side porch. It looked as if it had been gently placed there by invisible hands. It was missing one diamond.

Ever since that morning I have worn that ring snuggly between my wedding band and my engagement ring. I have never replaced the missing diamond. I wear it as a constant reminder of my belief that to all things visible there is also the invisible.

For most people “real” is what they interact with everyday. It is what they think about, what they “know” and what they can trust. And yet there have always been people in every culture who possess the ability to cross invisible thresholds into the unseen. In fact, I think most of us operate with this gnawing sense at the edge of our awareness that what we “see” is only part of the story.

This morning while driving to the bagel shop, I drove through a beautiful storm of swirling dogwood petals. It was, of course, the grace of the wind that gave rise to the spring show. Every day and in so many ways we are offered evidence of the underpinnings of the invisible — the wind, our intuition, every abstract idea we have ever pondered. And, yet, so often we deny the magic.

Too often, we seek to understand the world only through science, through evidence, through what we believe to be immutable facts. In my mind an adherence to accepting only the concrete vision of what one can see, hear, touch, feel or understand limits one’s ability to grow in wisdom. A “figure it out”, evaluative mentality limits our imagination. It is impossible for the finite mind to begin to understand the complexities of the universe.

I like to imagine that my missing diamond is in the pocket of my dreamscape painter. Perhaps, he took it in exchange for the “magic” return of my ring. As Carl Jung wrote, “Nights through dreams tell the myths forgotten by the day.” It is my strong belief that mystery is what compels us forward. My ring is all the evidence I need. I wear it with gratitude.

Molly Beauregard

The Empowerment Plan

“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.”

― Rumi, The Essential Rumi

If there is one thing that I am a stickler on, it is class attendance. A few years ago, a former student, signed up to take a second class with me. When she missed the first two weeks, I was surprised. A good student, Veronika, knew about my “skipping class” pet peeve. Toward the end of the second week of the semester, I received a rather breathless apology email from a very obviously busy young woman. Veronika, it seems, had been otherwise occupied. She had been invited to speak at the UN regarding her burgeoning non-profit “The Empowerment Plan”.

The Empowerment Plan is a Detroit based organization dedicated to serving the homeless community. They hire homeless women from local shelters to become full time seamstresses making coats that transform into sleeping bags. Veronika designed the sleeping bag coat while a student at College for Creative Studies. Her coats are distributed free of cost to homeless individuals.

Prior to founding the Empowerment Plan, Veronika was enrolled in a freshman seminar I taught. In her final paper, she wrote about her own metamorphosis and her awakening to the many realities of life. I remember the assignment specifically because she bound her paper between two pieces of wood. There was a hand drawn vine running between the front and back cover of the “book”. On it were a series of illustrated butterflies. It was beautiful.

I have occasionally thought about that paper while watching Veronika’s meteoritic success from the sidelines. I believe that for every situation in our lives, there is a thought pattern that fuels our actions and maintains our focus. It’s as if that final paper served as a blueprint for her future success. As a young woman just breaking free from a challenging childhood, she had a strong desire to be seen as “worthy”. By giving worth to others, she ultimately imposed worth back upon herself.

In 2011, Veronika won an IDEA Gold Award from the Industrial Design Society of America. She is also the youngest recipient to be awarded the prestigious JFK New Frontier Award from the John F. Kennedy Foundation. In addition, she has spoken at various conferences and colleges, has a Ted talk circulating and has been featured in numerous magazines, new shows and newspapers around the world.

While it may seem like individuals have very little ability to shift cultural patterns, Veronika’s success proves that individuals are the only ones who can do the work. It is through transforming our own lives that we create and construct new realities for both ourselves and others whose lives we touch. “We” are creativity in action and where our personal action meets social issues we are able to produce new ways of seeing the world.

It has been a joy to watch Veronika’s journey unfold. Having recently enjoyed a coffee date with Veronika, I can attest to the fact that she remains grounded, sincere and committed to meaningful social change. She is a powerful game changer.

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The Label Lecture

It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”

W.C. Fields

Each semester in my “Consciousness, Creativity and Identity” class, we spend one week exploring “labeling theory”. Labeling theory is a sociological method for understanding deviant and criminal behavior. The idea essentially is that to understand the nature of deviance itself, we must first understand why some people are labeled deviant and others are not. Theorists working in this field are interested in how labels affect long term behavior. One consequence of labeling is that labels often stick, marking an individual as inadequate for life.

One of the frustrations of giving the “label” lecture and the discussion that typically follows is that it leaves all of us feeling pretty low. The associated literature paints a picture of a chaotic criminal justice system plagued by almost insurmountable problems and populated by overworked individuals doing their best in an environment of increasing crime and violence. Thinking outside this box may require an act of bravery – especially for people in power who are dependent on election cycles.

Enter: Judge Frank Syzmanski. Judge Frank is a member of the Wayne County Probate Court and a personal friend of mine. I invited him to come to class last week to talk about working with kids in the juvenile court system here in Detroit. For once, the labeling lecture ended on a high note rather than a sigh of resignation.

Judge Frank is aware of the power of labels. His goal is to undermine the forces that help them to stick. His in-class presentation focused almost exclusively on ways to encourage healthy identity development. “When I think of all limiting, divisive, small world attitudes that so many people live with, it makes me want to shout out ‘Enough, There’s a Better Way’! Seeing the changes kids make in my court in spite of their challenges is a regular source of inspiration for me.”

True change always starts with individuals caring about the well-being of others. According to Judge Frank, compassionate attention is the key to shifting the behavior of the young people he sees in his court every day. In addition to building a program that brings yoga and meditation to young offenders, Judge Frank is the founder of the Youth Deterrent Program. His enlightened approach to sentencing offers young people an opportunity for transformational change.

Thanks for the inspiration, Judge Frank! It was a pleasure to have you visit our class.

Video produced and directed by TTSM friend, Alan Sedghi. You can see more of his work at

Getting Off My Notes

“Approved attributes and their relation to face make every man his own jailer;
this is a fundamental social constraint even though each man may like his cell.”
Erving Goffman

Chelsea promises there will be a blooper section at the end of the Tuning the Student Mind movie dedicated to my constant whine regarding “my notes”. Listen, I come by my hatred of notes quite honestly.

My first teaching assignment at College for Creative Studies was a required Humanities course. I was issued a mandated text book that outlined in some detail every important cultural/historical event of the 20th century. Oh, the responsibility! Each week I would set myself up at my kitchen table surrounded by books, notes, pens and paper. Scribbling furiously, committed to covering everything, I was intent on insuring that I transmitted all the important facts to my young charges.

Armed with papers, stockpiled notes and slides, I would arrive in class each week ready to lecture. Typically, I would start class with a line like this: “Karl Marx’s eight hundred pages of Das Kapital are, in a sense, quite Hegelian.” Honestly, I am blushing with embarrassment as I recount this unfortunate story.

One day, well into the semester, I looked up and noticed that many of my students had fallen asleep. Not the head bobbing trying to stay awake dozing but the head back drooling kind of sincere sleep. Rather than feel the shame of the situation, I laughed and said, “I’m not very good, am I.” They smiled and together we laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation.

In his book, “Presentation of Self in Everyday Life”, Erving Goffman writes about the impact of face to face interaction on identity development. Goffmans work was the first to establish the validity of researching human behavior in social situations. It was Goffman who originally wrote about the “belief” in the part that one is playing as the strongest aspect of identity development. In other words, our own commitment to our “perceived” character is the result of our own total immersion in the part that we are playing at any given moment. Goffman writes, “And to the degree that the individual maintains a show before others that he himself does not believe, he can come to experience a special kind of alienation from self and a special kind of wariness of others.” Oh, Erving, the shame of it all!

And what, you may be asking yourself, does this “Goffman” interlude have to do with “getting off my notes”? Truth is my failure that first semester came as a result of my dedication to playing out the role of teacher. As Goffman suggests, I was guilty of putting on a show!! The implications of this reality are profound. You see, I was so taken by the responsibility of being a good teacher that I had forgotten to bring my WHOLE self to the act of teaching. My concentration on “performing” led to a narrowness of interaction, an inability to connect with my students and a deep seeded insecurity. As Goffman suggests, I became a prisoner of a cage of my own making. So taken with my own performance, my “notes” became a necessary prop to insure my professionalism, identity and confidence.

Getting off my notes has been a scary process. While my attachment to them hindered my development as a teacher, releasing them required that I learn to teach in the moment, learn how to connect with my students and count on my ability to share what I know in an organic way. While I am still a work in progress (thus, the blooper section of the movie), I have made progress. Less motivated by professional desires, I act as a more natural force in the classroom.

Most importantly, getting off my notes released me from my commitment to role playing. It expanded my perception of myself and reminded me that the very nature of “notes” is to bind the teaching experience. The freedom that comes with acting as myself rather than my role is like no other freedom I have ever known.

Molly Beauregard

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