“Truth is such a rare thing, it is delighted to tell it.” – Emily Dickinson
I was heading in to the middle school to start a lunch group when my colleague, Jeff Mendoza, stopped me to let me know how much he enjoyed one of my articles. He pointed out that he could really feel what I was saying in the piece. I felt honored and very appreciative of his kind words. He also helped me to see just how important it is to bring feeling to whatever it is that I do. More often than not, the people in my life are responding to the feeling I am carrying more than the words I am saying. In fact, when I am being authentic with others, it does not really matter what I say. The fact that others can relate to what I am saying is what counts.
I taught middle school for several years in Los Angeles Unified School District, before joining the staff at Culver City Unified School District. While I was there I learned some valuable lessons about teaching. My assignment, like many teaching jobs, was full of challenges. Many of the students had difficult situations at home, and came to school undernourished and upset. On top of that, there was often a lack of core academic skills, which created a constant need to modify and accommodate my lessons in ways that would reach my students. The most difficult thing for me was remaining enthusiastic about what I was doing. It was easy to get caught up in worry and complaining and lose touch with that inspired feeling that brought me to teaching in the first place.
I have searched far and wide to learn strategies for maintaining a positive state of mind. I have discovered that this does not mean that I have to hide my emotions when they are not happy and flowing. What it means is that I must be true to myself and share the truth of my experience. I can let my students know how I really feel, without blaming them. Taking responsibility for my emotional well-being has been the most challenging, and most effective tool I have found for living a satisfying and successful life.
This past week I was running a lunch group that was getting out of hand. It is a group of fourth grade boys that are full of exuberance. When we have a good time together, we have a really good time. When that same energy gets derailed, it can get equally chaotic. In this case, the volume was getting louder and the lads were starting to treat each other like a scene from a saloon in an old western movie. I was not sure what to do because I was feeling overwhelmed. In that moment, I did the simplest thing possible. I told the students that I was starting to feel an insecure feeling down in my gut and that my adult mind was starting to feel threatened. I then told them that I was not sure what I would say if they continued to act the way they were acting. I did not say this in a threatening manner. I used a neutral, observational tone. Then I told them what I expected of them. I was surprised when, within a minute, they were relatively quiet and cooperative. It was amazing.
I believe it was my emotional honesty that made my words so effective. It was also my willingness to own the way I was feeling without blaming or threatening them that gave them an opportunity to make a better choice. Once I had their attention, it was easy to redirect them. What seemed to be going badly, turned into a great session and a wonderful lesson for me about emotional honesty and the importance of remaining conscious of how I am feeling. My ability and willingness to express my uncomfortable feelings turned into a positive outcome. It feels good to realize that I can be so vulnerable, even with fourth grade students. My openness brought out the best in them.
You do not have to have it all figured out before you can be successful in life. In fact, if you are willing to step forward boldly, and be vulnerable with the people in your life, you will be surprised by the results. If you are having difficulty feeling heard, or you are not getting the responses you desire in certain areas of your life, think about the way you feel in those situations. Are you being honest with yourself and others about your feelings? It is something that I have to practice on a regular basis. Remember that it is about taking responsibility for your feelings, not about dumping them on others. While the difference may seem subtle, the outcomes are vastly different. So go ahead and share your feelings, you are worthy of love and respect no matter what is going on inside.
Edward Biagiotti is the Inclusion Specialist for Culver City Unified School District. He is also co-host of the popular radio show, Funniest Thing! with Darrell and Ed, live each week, Wednesdays at 3 p.m. on www.UnityOnlineRadio.org. Visit www.TappingIntoGenius.com for more articles and a free, inspirational parenting download.