In my other life, I teach Psychology to college students on a part time basis. At this time of year, I mark another set of mock exams and hope beyond hope that the students will achieve their potential I know they are capable of. I keep my fingers crossed that that will prepare for their exam and break through those self imposed barriers that they put in place because they don’t believe they are good enough.
One of the most frustrating things as a teacher is to listen to the negative opinions some students have about themselves and their abilities and the constant challenge to get them to see that they are good enough. Unfortunately, it seems easier to put ourselves down than it is to acknowledge our strengths. I was no different at their age and still have my moments! There are so many things that I wish I had know, believed or been taught when I was that age, that would have saved me from a lot of worry and fear. It got me thinking, what would I say to myself at that age? Here is my answer…
I know life feels like a struggle at times, like there’s a lot of people who don’t take the time to listen or that you find hard to understand. Some day in the future, the things that scare you now will become second nature to you but don’t forget the experiences or feelings that you have now because they will be invaluable in the future. Here’s a few things you will learn along the way…
1. Teachers are not perfect and their opinions are not the be all and end all. Teachers are, at the end of the day, human. They come with their own baggage, prejudices and personality. When these experiences are used positively, this experience can be what makes a great teacher but unfortunately that’s not always the case. Those teachers that seem to take an instant dislike to you, those teachers that make you feel like you can do nothing right, that teacher that acts surprised when you exceed their low expectations of you – their opinions of you do not define you and don’t give them the power to make them true.
2. You are capable of anything you put your mind to. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something – even if they are coming from a place of love. Don’t miss out on opportunities because you are scared to fail. You may try something and fail but you did it, you experienced it and you will learn from it.
3. You have choices. This is an important one! You can make decisions and choices for yourself and when you do, you will say goodbye to those feelings of dread. That twisty knot in your stomach and feeling of sadness that you feel when you agree to something or do something you don’t want to do will magically disappear. NB. It doesn’t happen overnight! Making your own choices comes with it’s own challenges it takes time to practice, you have to own up to your mistakes, you have to accept responsibility but it’s totally worth it – especially when you no longer have to take everyone’s opinions, thoughts, and behaviour on board and let it control how you feel. There will always be people who put you down but you have a choice whether to believe it or not.
4. Creativity comes in many forms. Yes, there is value in learning from the art of the past but creativity and art can be spontaneous. They beauty of creative pursuits is there doesn’t have to be any rules. If you have an idea, if you want to create something – a drawing, a ceramic pot or painting… DO IT! Not everyone will like it. YOU might not like it but…you may love it. Regardless, you will learn so much from it. You will improve because of it.
5. You will never be perfect. Stop tying yourself in knots trying to be. Everyone makes mistakes, its how we learn. Take comfort in the fact that you will become wiser, stronger and happier because of the fact that you aren’t perfect.
6. No matter what life throws at you, make time for fun. Do not forget what makes you smile. There will be days when tears seem never-ending and those days when it all seems too hard – in those times, do something that will bring a smile to your face, however small. You will get through whatever life throws at you. Things may happen that will change your perspective, that will scar you but do not forget how to smile and see the good things life has to offer.
I won’t tell you want to expect or avoid because, well, where’s the fun in that?!
….So there you have it. I may have written it but in all honesty, I can’t say I would have read it. Actually, that’s a lie. I would have read it just because I’m so nosy but I doubt I would have took anything on board. I would have ripped it up probably with scorn on my face and thought ‘What the hell do you know?’ It pains me to see the same stubborn, determined streak in my girls and I dread to think what I’m in for as they get older!
Maybe if I had listened maybe I would have become a completely different person, I would have learned different lessons and who knows who I would have become? There are times when I wonder what role I will play in the lives of my students – the teacher they disliked, the teacher they were sooo bored by, maybe the teacher they forget. There are students who won’t listen to a word I have to say but I have a choice. I can sit back and become a teacher who doesn’t care about anything but their paycheque or I can encourage my students. Even if no one listens to my words of encouragement, I will be able to sleep at night knowing I’ve done my best, I have treated my students how I wish I had been treated and how I hope my daughters will be treated. When all’s said and done, there is more to education that passing an exam.