Saturday, June 8, 2013

5 Things I am learning from 44 Teachers

note: I originally wrote this as a tongue-in-cheek response to the ways in which my new job was causing me to change. I wasn't sure I was happy with all the attitudes and mannerisms teaching seemed to be asking me to adopt.

What I am learning from 44 tiny teachers:

Everyday I am faced with 44 tiny mirrors. They reflect back to me exactly what I am projecting. My frustration, my feelings of hopeless chaos, or my enthusiasm. These little mirrors are my teachers. They are my 44 First Grade students. As they establish their place in this seemingly difficult to decipher world, they unwittingly offer me insights into my own being. Given that they constantly force me into a place of introspection, here are a few of the take aways that, like it or not, I have developed:

  1. How to be bossy (How to speak confidently)
Normally in life, being bossy is considered a bad thing. No one likes to be bossed around. But First Graders need to be told what to do. Give explicit direction and demand compliance. They like it. 
Speak with conviction and believe what you say. If even for a second your voice falters, prepare to be disregarded.

     2. How to fake emotions to get what I want (and how to become detached from my emotions)

Excitement: Sometimes, in order to get my students invested in a lesson, I talk in a really excited voice and say ‘how awesome!’ something is. So maybe it isn’t always that awesome, but if they believe it is awesome they will enjoy it - and learning, as well as life, should be fun, no? Believe in what you are doing, believe it is awesome, and enjoy yourself doing it.

Anger: Other times, it is necessary to pretend that I am angry or displeased in order to teach what behavior is appropriate or acceptable. The trick is to not embody that anger. Anger makes your body tense, it causes inflammation in your tissues, and wrinkles to form on your face. It is best avoided. So you learn to fake it. You smile on the inside (bless their little heart) and give that stoney faced stare on the outside, hoping the gaze will penetrate their foggy cerebrum and land like a post-it on the inside of their skull (note to self: Don’t hit my friends).

     3. How to be a broken record (How to have patience)

The old adage “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” often proves true when asking a child to do something. Say it once. Say it twice. Then keep repeating yourself because it will either eventually click, they will realize you were actually serious, or they will simply get sick of hearing you. 
And yes, with patience in life, you will find that although not everything is scheduled to run according to your personal timeline, waiting allows the fruits of life to be delivered when they are ripe. 

     4. How to give love freely

I have talked about this one before when I mention “hit and run hugs,” but this take away has been huge for me. My little teachers show me each and every day how easy it is to offer love freely with no expectation of it being returned. Hugs and compliments are never in short supply.

     5. How to spot untruths as nonsense (And to be discerning with what you believe) 

Young people believe what they hear. As we age we tend to become increasingly skeptical, we learn a little bit more about ourselves, who we are, and what sorts of truths serve our model of the world. If you are 6 years old and someone tells you that you are stupid, ugly, or a ‘bubblehead’, you are going to believe it. Then tears begin to burn wet and hot behind your eyes at this unfortunate news, and a raincloud descends dark and heavy upon your day. The words of another person have no meaning as they stand alone, suspended in space -you are the one to decipher what significance they will carry for you. Contemplate them, but be discerning and decide for yourself what rings true. 

Grab that which resonates, carry it around, and utilize it right up until it ceases to serve your experience. Conversely, see the nonsense for what it is, and allow it to roll off your slippery and resilient backside.