Friday, May 3, 2013

Year 3: Week 30 - Being A Teacher For Ourselves

Sometimes I'm nicer to my students then I am to myself.

When a student is upset and working through an emotion I make a point to not minimize their feelings at their moment. Yes, often what they are feeling is based on a misunderstanding or an insignificant event (in the long run) but in that moment that student is feeling something very real and very strong.

Our first instinct is to try to solve the problem or try to get the student to feel differently, but that can come across to the student as making feel them that what they are feeling is wrong or that their experience is not significant.

This is a difficult thing to do as adult because so often the things that they get upset over are seem silly and completely lack perspective. It's really not a big deal as an adult if your friend from third grade decided to play with someone else during recess, but when it happens to a third grader, it can take over their whole world.

The process I've learned is to first validate their feeling, then let them experience the feelings, give them space to be sad, angry or frustrated and finally when they are ready to move on, help them along. When I say "validate" their feelings, I'm not saying that you tell them that their irrationality is appropriate, but the emotion itself, what is being manifested is something we can all understand and once that connection is made then you can unpack the reasons behind what is happening.

Lately I haven't been allowing myself to feel angry or frustrated about things in my life. I've been skipping over to, "well, this isn't a big deal, it will work out for the best." In doing this, I'm forcing myself to move passed emotions as opposed to allowing myself to work through them.

I’ve always felt as a teacher that in order to be effective you need to be genuine. If you preach things to your students that you don’t honestly believe or practice, your students will realize this and not go along with what you say. This forces teachers to not only act the part, but also to live it. While this is challenging, it transforms teaching from a job to a motivating factor for self-improvement.

Maybe a similar thing needs to apply to the way we treat ourselves. What does it say about us when we treat our students with more patience and understanding than we treat ourselves with? This reflects our feelings of self-worth.

If we don’t think as carefully about the way that we disregard self-talk that we don’t agree with or push away emotions that seem illogical, the same thing will happen to us that happens to our students when we do this. We feel lost and alone.

We must practice what we preach beyond explicit actions. I don’t know if students can get a sense that we are disingenuous when we treat them better then we treat ourselves. What I do know is that we deserve the best of ourselves more than our students. For us to be the best that we can for others, we have to be the best that we can for ourselves.

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