Be kind to yourself and the rest will follow

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Teaching young people is a dynamic process.  It involves every part of who we are.  This is true for parents and teachers alike.  Sometimes caring for young people will pull parts of ourselves out of hiding, parts that we might have hidden away out of shame or fear of being judged.  This is one of the most precious gifts that teaching and parenting has to offer us.  These sacred roles allow us to become more of who we are.

One of my students has a propensity for making us all laugh.  Although she is only nine, she has the soul of an adult.  Her words cross lines that offer me and my staff an opportunity to decide if we are going to act as rigid authoritarians or loving guides for her.  The things that she says often challenge our sense of authority without even trying to do so.  Rather than shut her down or shame her for being herself, my staff and I have decided to appreciate her and use this as a learning experience. 

In our classroom, when this young person speaks to another adult as if they are the same age, we allow ourselves to smile and appreciate the sincerity she brings.  At the same time, we offer clear direction regarding how to speak with different people based on their relationship to us.  All of our students benefit from these learning moments and this student gets to receive praise for being a valued member of our learning community.  Together, we are setting the table for a world that includes respect for self and others.

As teachers, we must speak two languages at the same time.  We must speak the language of our students and the language of the world of possibilities that we explore together.  Doing this requires a spirit of adventure as well as kindness and understanding.  We must be willing to make mistakes and encourage our students to do the same thing.  In this way, we demonstrate that mistakes are a gold mine for those of us willing to be vulnerable enough to admit that we make them and celebrate what we learn as a result.

Perhaps you are too quick to shut parts of yourself down that have upset others or landed you in trouble in the past.  A great way to start embracing more of who you are is to make a list of all the parts of yourself that you judge as bad or seem to be getting in the way of your success.  Reflect on how these same aspects of your personality benefit you or have benefitted you in the past.  Forgive yourself for judging these parts of yourself harshly.  Often, all it takes is a simple exercise like this to help you see that you are perfect just the way you are.