This I Believe

Kathleen - Marina del Rey, California
Entered on October 8, 2006

“I Believe in Accepting My Humanness”

This I believe…I believe in accepting my humanness. I make mistakes. I don’t know everything. I’m a woman on a spiritual journey with alternative ways of running my classroom. Last year I began a type of “group therapy” for my 4th graders. It’s called “Sharing Circle.” This helps my students get real and understand their fellow classmates and teacher. My students are now the “BIG KIDS,” with more expectations, and much more responsibility. This is my third year teaching and I have a challenging class. They’re great kids, however we just have difficult days once in a while. I became so exhausted with the quarrelling among my students last year. One day the kids are friends and then no sooner after they finish their chicken nuggets at lunch, they are no longer friends. Instead of being miserable all year with hearing my students tattle and argue, this year I took an alternative approach to help my class and I discuss our feelings. Now, we get together twice a month and share about our feelings. I read a prompt about a specific topic and then we share about it. Topics are about things like friendship, family, and teasing. Many of my students don’t grow up in homes where talking about their feelings is encouraged or accepted and I have discovered a way to engage my students in a healthy discussion that they enjoy. When I announce that we will have “Sharing Circle” everyone cheers! They cheer about sharing their feelings and listening to one another while embracing their own humanness. They don’t even realize this is happening. This makes me one delighted teacher.

I believe in assisting my students in the process of accepting their humanness. A few months ago, when I announced to the class that we were going to have Sharing Circle, I heard cheers, smiles, and chatter. Then we slowly created a circle inside of our class – Room 9. I slid my chair into the circle and one student grabbed the Koosh ball (used as a talking stick or “conch”) and tossed the ball over to me. I opened up the book to a page with the new topic. The topic I chose was “What do you do when you’re angry? What should you do instead?” Some of my students had been taking their anger out on other students on the playground or talking about one another behind their backs. The discussion began and my students were being honest and some were going deep inside their little souls. Well, when it became my turn I realized that I was about to “stretch the truth” in order to sound good and perfect. I learned as a child that the teacher and pretty much any adult should be perfect. The funny thing is…my students have witnessed my anger in the past…my face gets red, I’ll raise my voice, and once I even had to leave the room and asked another teacher to take over; this was a very humbling experience. So, with Koosh ball in hand I began to speak. “Well…do you guys know what I do when I am angry?” They giggled a little and I heard a few students loudly exclaimed, “Yes!” Then I told them what I thought I should do instead and I spoke my truth. I allowed them see me as a human who makes mistakes. I told them “instead of getting angry and raising my voice, I need to breathe first and count to 10.” I also added that it’s always a good idea to make an apology; I do this too. It’s not easy to go back to a class of nine and ten year-olds and say “Sorry for making a mistake.” I want to be the pillar of strength and perfection. However, as humans we do make mistakes. We get angry. We can even apologize and learn from our experiences on this earth. I believe, as I embrace my humanness, life becomes more enjoyable and I become less of a victim. I’m participant in my classroom rather than the dictator. I’m a teacher, not a saint.

I believe that humbling myself makes me a better teacher, woman, and human. Over the past few years I have been giving my students advice on ways to deal with their feelings. I never realized when I was put in their discussion, I was being taught about their lives, their feelings, and their humanness. My students are kids having human experiences. That’s it! I finally got it! Teaching my students that it’s okay to express feelings is a gift. It’s a learning experience that I could never have if I was putting on a show of perfection in order to “look good.” I don’t teach perfectly! Every lesson does not come out exactly as I had planned. A science experiment may go wrong. An art project may not come out the way I think it should. A student may catch a few of my mistakes as my principal observes me. I‘m not perfect! What a relief! I believe, that the only way to survive my first few years of teaching is to remain teachable and embrace the perfectly imperfect person that I am. This I believe.