“When you’re at peace with your life and in a state of tranquility, you actually send out a vibration of energy that impacts all living creatures.” Wayne Dyer
There is no denying that these are tough times. Many of us feel, if not in this particular moment, that we are a bit “untethered” as we process world events. Now imagine that you are facing a room full of children in a week or two, children who will bring their hopes, fears, and complications with them as they look up into our eyes.
In addition, children respond to their worries in all kinds of ways, some direct and some requiring a treasure map of sorts as we dig through their behavior to help us all make sense of things. They push, they fight, they avoid work, and more. Is this a recipe for disaster or can all of this help us be “at peace with…” our lives?
I don’t have an easy answer for this dilemma. I’ll admit it is a tough one. I have taught children through wars, riots, and personal tragedies. But one thing I know for sure: a teacher does not have to have all the answers to be a beacon of light for children–or ourselves. We can create one moment at a time in the lives of children that can matter greatly. And this is where we begin.
First, we find a way to anchor ourselves. One year I found myself in a classroom in a school with very little support for teachers. Each morning, I rose, got my family going, and then proceeded to pray, alone in my car. I prayed each moment until my hand reached the door to my classroom, “God, give me peace and the ability to gently go through this day.” In one sense it was a terrible year for me. I often felt deep frustration and a feeling of failure.
But there were many moments of inspiration, even in this difficult situation. Each day I reached within me to find creative solutions to problems, and each day provided at least one terrifically joyful moment.
On one particular day, I was told I did not have to follow the lesson plans for reading in our basal for the next two weeks. Liberated, I found a key to the now defunct library in the school and went treasure-hunting for books! Deep among the boxes, I found a classroom set of The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson. Score!
It was baseball season, and I had my two-week lesson plan! I also dug through boxes in the teachers room, borrowed from friends and came up with enough watercolors (you know the kind…little metal containers with colorful squares…) for my class of 30 5th graders. When I walked through the door and set the box on the table, my students peered inside. “Real books!!” the children exclaimed. Thus began two weeks I will never forget.We read, we talked about baseball, and racial discrimination, we painted scenes from the book, and we enjoyed literature!
Although I remember the year as the worst teaching year of my life, if I am honest I must say that within the daily challenges were some of the most wonderful moments, too. So, as a retired teacher and principal, what advice do I give?
- Love yourself. Really. No matter how frustrated you may become, you chose teaching because you have gifts to give.
- Find a ritual for yourself that provides peace. It may be prayer or meditation. It may be a quiet cup of coffee. It might be singing your heart out on your way to work. But trust me, just do it.
- Know that your view of the world is always different from what others see. Those little faces want to love you. Be there for them in whatever way you can be.
- Take each day, each moment, one at a time.
- Breathe. Deeply. Whenever you remember!
- Reach out to others. Find at least one person who can be your smile during the day.
- And if you are one of the lucky ones who has found the way to happiness, please look for the one who is struggling. We all hold the light for each other.
- You got this!