Oh, how important it is to know oneself. How important it is to truly understand why we behave the way we do, why we feel the way we feel, and why we make the choices we make.
I have always felt that my life pursuit as teacher has intensified my journey to self-awareness. Reflecting on my methods and style of teaching is essential to my growth as an educator. However, reflecting on who I am as a person is an act of deep respect for my students. An individual who is self-aware is better able to understand others, to provide room for their mistakes, and to interact with them in a more successful manner (John D. Mayer, 2014). Only through knowing myself first may I pursue my goals to understand my students; to provide room for their growth, which naturally involves mistakes; and to interact with them in a way that demonstrates that I “get” them (or at least, I’m trying very hard to so). I hope that my journey to self-awareness makes my classroom a safer, more caring, and more joyful place for my students.
Learning more about myself always comes after a great period of confusion. Usually, it is a feeling of being unsettled and a pursuit to understand this feeling which leads to further self-awareness. For years I have been experiencing an intermittent feeling of being unsettled. I had a general idea of why certain experiences were unsettling to me, but I had not yet been able to pinpoint the underlying reason. This feeling of being unsettled has become impossible to ignore in the past months. Recent events have caused it to bubble to the surface where I can no longer push it back down and say, “Later. I’ll figure you out later.” I finally took the time for myself. I took the time to reflect and to ponder the various situations that surrounded me. In this blank space, it hit me. I fight to teach from the heart, with heart, and to the heart. When I encounter circumstances that do not align with this strongly held belief of mine, it is like I am a droplet of water that has been placed into a vat of oil. I’m floating among it, but I’m not able to meld with it. I want out.
As professionals who work within the constructs of a system and among diverse communities, we will always encounter situations that do not align with our beliefs. In our personal lives we can choose to surround ourselves with people who reflect who we want to be and how we want to feel. However, in our professional lives, we must learn to work within these constructs and to be respectful of and collaborative with individuals who may not share our beliefs. At the same time, we need to guard our hearts carefully in order to not lose sight of ourselves and our goals.
Becoming self-aware and identifying what it is that I am trying to guard is my first step. Nurturing this particular belief of mine and recognizing its value has been easy, thanks to organizations like The Dalai Lama Center for Peace & Education.
I will continue my pursuit to teach from the heart, with heart, and to the heart.