Life with a three-year-old is never dull – to say the least. She is always watching and thus I’m always “on”. She is learning from me and those around her about what is acceptable and not acceptable. She is learning about the big things in life like fairness, justice, integrity and consequences.
Like every other parent out there, I worry that in the process of learning right from wrong and good from bad, that she will lose her spark and devalue her uniqueness. In the process of training her to be conscious of her actions and their consequences (conscious of her “self”), I am afraid of her becoming self-conscious.
In this world, we each have to learn to walk that tightrope – and for many of us it’s a constant struggle.
This is a paradox we all (including our students) have to face at some time: to value our ‘selves’ while navigating sociocultural norms. We have competing thoughts like, “I have to comply generally with society, but I don’t want to be compliant to the point where I lose my voice.” “I want to fit in but I want to embrace my uniqueness.” “I should ‘behave‘, but I want to express myself.”
We all begin as children with a spark, spunk, exuberance and freedom from inhibitions. But during the process of domestication (a term I’m borrowing from Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements”), we begin to learn what is socially acceptable and begin to feel insecure and self-conscious – we dull our spark, hide our inner flame and simply conform.
In this process we also start to believe certain things about ourselves: “I’m clumsy” “I’m an airhead” “I’m no good in math” “I’m not very crafty or creative” “I don’t have much patience” “I’m not as beautiful as others” “I’m ugly” “I’m fat” “I’m stupid” “I’m not enough” “I’m worthless”.
Okay – I know those last ones listed seem extreme. But are they? Do we tell ourselves those things deep down in our soul? If I’m being honest – those are all things I’ve said to myself. Sad. But I know I’m not alone.
The truth is that none of us are immune to negative thoughts running through our minds. The question is – do you agree with those thoughts?
For example, I may think “boy, I’m struggling with this student with special needs. I’m not a very good teacher of students with special needs.” This is where you agree with those negative thoughts (albeit subconsciously). The next time you interact with a student with special needs and aren’t immediately successful, you agree again, “See, I knew I wasn’t good with students with special needs.” And the agreement is solidified.
Reframing Negative Thoughts as a Teacher:
What agreements have you consciously or subconsciously made that are limiting your potential? Your students potential? Or your ability to be happy?
Could you choose today to let that agreement go and replace it with a better agreement for your life?
The book, “The Four Agreements” (referenced above), by Don Miguel Ruiz, explains this concept further saying,
We need a great deal of courage to challenge our own beliefs. Because even if we know we didn’t choose all these beliefs, it is also true that we agreed to all of them. The agreement is so strong that even if we understand the concept of it not being true, we feel the blame, the guilt, and the shame that occur if we go agains those rules.”
Perhaps the new agreement you need to make with yourself today is this: “I agree that I am a great teacher and can teach any student who walks through my classroom doors.” Or maybe it’s this simple one: “I am enough.”
- What is one new agreement you can make today?
- How will making this agreement and repeating it to yourself often change your mindset? Your outlook? Your teaching? Your relationships with students and colleagues? How will it change your life?
My challenge to you is to ‘try on’ one new agreement for the next week and to see how it impact the rest of your life. Let me know how it goes for you!
~Alison, A Teacher’s Best Friend
To check out the book, The Four Agreements, click below: