Staying Young by Staying Open to New Ideas and Possibilities


Dear Reader:

I emailed Anne yesterday and told her that the story in the blog today centered around the central theme of hot tea and its symbolism to learning… Would she mind letting me use one of her teacup paintings for the title picture?

Instead Anne sent me this little note about her obsession with hot tea, photographs, and paintings. She feels about hot tea like I do about light…a moth drawn to it.

“Well, you’re in luck since one of my “special-teas” is TEA! HA!  Empty cups, full cups, glass, china, reflected, steaming… you name it.  Painting, photographing and drinking tea just does something for me. I guess it’s just in my DNA? Here are four painted and four photographed “tea-sers” for you…”


Keep Your Mind Open…a Story” (Bob and Fran



A long time ago, there was a wise Japanese Zen master…people would come from far and wide to seek his wisdom and advice. Most pilgrims wanted to be taught and enlightened.

One day, an university professor showed up at his door. He came off as aloof, arrogant, opinionated, and used to dominating intellectual conversations.

“I am a highly educated person and have come to see if you can teach me the way to enlightenment,” he asked in a curt tone.

The Zen master simply smiled and said he would like to have this discussion over hot tea. As soon as the tea was hot the master poured his visitor a cup.


He poured and then poured some more as the tea got closer to the rim. But still he didn’t stop. He kept pouring until it began to spill over on the table.

Finally the visitor could not restrain himself any longer and shouted,  “Enough! You are spilling the tea all over everything. Can’t you see the cup is full and will hold no more?”


The master stopped pouring and looked at his guest. “You are like this tea cup, so full that nothing more can be added. Come back to me when the cup is empty. Come back to me with an empty mind.”

What an important lesson and reminder to us. We don’t “know it all.” (Jeopardy reminds me of this every night) In fact the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. This story did remind me of a true incident I witnessed at a conference meeting one year while working at the district office.

Soon after “standards” entered the public schools with assessments becoming the major emphasis on learning recognition (sadly)…Dottie Connelly, Kathy Kinary, and I went to Tampa, Florida for a standards conference.

At one of the workshops…the presenter warned the teacher/educator participants not to try to force-feed too much information, too soon, to their students…just to be able to check it off as having been “covered.

She then went and got an empty glass and a water pitcher. She said that too many times she had seen teachers trying to “cover” a certain number of standards within a regular classroom period. After awhile glazed eyes were staring back at her as the clock ticked down to the bell.

The whole time the presenter was speaking she demonstrated what was happening by continuing to pour water from the pitcher (symbolizing the amount of standards that needed to be covered during that class time) into a drinking glass. (symbolized by the student)

Like the Zen Master…the water soon began pouring over. It reminded me of the little boy who asked to use the bathroom because his head was ‘running over‘ and he needed to empty some of it.

The presenter then asked us…how can educators get all the water from the pitcher into the glass…the light came on in all our eyes…the teacher would have to stop at intervals, check to see if her students were understanding a particular thought or standard, then let them drink it in, (work with the knowledge presented)thus providing space for more water…more learning.

I later demonstrated that same thought back at one of our district office meetings. “To cover” put something over something else to hide it. By having to cover so much in so little time…were there too many “hidden” problems lurking underneath the cover of standards in student learning?

These days it is so wonderful to have time to actually pause, ponder, and yes, assess, information in my own mind…before looking forward to learning something else new. I think most teachers do become “lifetime learners”…and we always hope we instilled this our own children and students.

So until tomorrow…

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

I found these three little (series) of books on GuidePost (The Tearoom Mysteries)…they are very light reading but the scenario reminds of the new owners of our own tearoom…from Maine, cousins and a history tied in with their grandmother’s teachings and historical teacups.


I love my pansy hanging basket by the glass bottles…such beautiful colors…I can hardly wait for another sunny day to see the sun light streaming through the bottles onto the pansies…cloudy today.

But our newest addition to the family always brings a ray of sunshine to everyone…no matter the weather. Mollie sent this picture yesterday. Tomorrow I am going over to keep her while Mollie and Walsh get out and take care of some errands and other things they need to do…a great break for both..

Eloise is our little cup of tea!





About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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4 Responses to Staying Young by Staying Open to New Ideas and Possibilities

  1. bcparkison says:

    Your friend Anne does tea cups very well The white one almost looks like very fine “see through”china. If only I could do that, but it is just a dream. Love on baby Eloise for the rest of us grandmas.


  2. Jo Dufford says:

    Although your topic today is about being open to new things and ideas, and the tea cup story was a great example of that, the educator at the conference with the pitcher and glass touched a nerve in me. I have always thought that knowledge is sequential and without understanding before adding more information, you are simply overfilling the glass. Too much at once is simply wasted water. I have honestly experienced this myself when one of my well-meaning family members shows me how simple so many things are on my computer , or all one has to do is this, and this etc on that smart phone (which, by the way, isn’t so smart in the hands of the wrong person). Apparently, I like my tea in a china cup (one of Anne’s would be great) and just a small amount at a time please.


    • Becky Dingle says:

      Same with me…I have to see it, hear it, and feel it…then I can learn….anything else and my cup overflows too…not with blessings but frustrations. We cup drinkers must ban together!


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