My entire life, I felt bursts of emotion at key junctures of my development as a person; as a child and a student, these emotional bursts occurred when I was asked to do something that, for whatever the reason, felt like it was a compromise to my well-being, my passion, my truth.
Since the majority of my time was spent in school, I often felt this pain in my chest, this roll in my belly in relation to something school wanted from me. Don’t get me wrong; I was an awesome student. I still am.
The adults in my life continuously affirmed for me that what I was feeling was “inappropriate,” “too emotional,” “poorly timed,” or just flat out “incorrect,” that to express distress as being compromised by another’s expectation of me, or to be judged on something that I did not understand was silly, so I stuffed it.
Repeatedly, I stuffed my emotions, and as a result, I discovered that I was really quite flexible, malleable even. More than that, I discovered that I was a chameleon; I could literally change myself to look, act, and be whomever was needed as the moment called for it. Because I stuffed my emotions, I forced myself to ignore my essence, to “sell my soul,” to fit into the system.
For years, I lost myself in the system, being someone who was “convenient,” battling physical, emotional, spiritual illness in exchange for the off chance that I was acceptable to society’s expectations.
When I became a teacher, I saw this process occur again; only this time, I witnessed it twofold: within my students, as they came face to face with an educational system whose primary goal was simply: to render people who could perform within the confines of a system, that- let’s face it, folks, is broken, damaged or, to put it nicely, in dire need of a make-over- and then again, within myself, as I was confronted with the task to enforce these expectations upon my students.
For years, being a teacher in New York City, I felt my heart break, as I listened to students plough through the systematic stripping away of their individuality, their emotions, their unique perspective on the universe, in exchange for a grade, or a recognition that, when asked, they were not certain they even desired or why it was important.
I came in direct confrontation with this feeling again today with a student of mine, one I hold very near and dear to my heart. Do I allow him to sell his soul, his passion, and his truth in exchange for an increase in recognition by his teacher, in a class that, he honestly does not give a hoot about? Do I force him to do something that is character building, but in all honesty, there are infinite ways to build an individual’s character that are far less damaging emotionally- in fact, that might even- GOD FORBID- invite personal development and constructive growth?
And, not to make it about me, but I’m a Leo, so I’ll bite: what about my morals? How can I support the philosophy and belief system that I want everyone to follow their path and be true to who and what they are and still condone this type of acadamic programming that forces a student to choose between their essence and knowledge?
Last time I checked, knowledge and one’s truth were not mutually exclusive.
How can I watch my student become burdened with the very same emotions that I have devoted my life’s mission to dispelling, when it is within my power as the teacher to take action and do something about it?
“What should I do? What should I do? What should I do?” This question was on repeat for the majority of my childhood, adolescence, and adulthood; in fact, until about two minutes ago, I was asking myself this question.
Then I changed my angle.
I ask, “What do I want to do?”
What I want to do is to tell my student that he always has a choice; in fact, he always has infinite choices available to him- even the ones that he is not aware of yet, he has, and when he makes a single choice, he still has infinite choices. What I want to do is to invite my student self to examine what I learned from all the years of selling my soul in order to do what I should.
All the years of doing what I should do, showed me what I want.
I want people to be brave in their learning.
I want people to understand that who they are and what they have to offer is precisely what makes them powerful, and that school- education of any kind- demonstrates certain skill-sets, based on what you want to do.
I want to remind parents that it is their choice how they assist their children in remembering their purpose and mission and that no choice is irreversible.
I want to remind teachers that it is their choice who they become when they instruct their students.
I want to share the possibilities of learning and teaching with you here in this blog and beyond.
I want us to help each other remember and manifest our fullest potential without sacrificing our soul’s true essence.
I am ready. Are you?