Being a teacher and interacting with my students helped me be positive and deal with my demons.
We live in a world where the only color palette that seems to exist ranges from black to white with grey shades somewhere in the middle. And an individual donning rose tinted glasses is looked upon with scorn or awe, depending on the perceiver and of course the colors they carry within themselves as spectators.
I live in a world that seeks to constantly pull you down and tear you apart and make you believe that cynicism exists for a reason and optimism has no place. Yet I choose to stand firm focusing on peace of mind which for me is automatically equivalent to happiness.
I spent this Sunday in a way that I haven’t in quite a long time. I read newspapers, steaming cup of coffee beside me, caught up on my reading list, watched a couple of fantastic movies and indulged in comfort food aka home cooked.
Not so long ago I had been caught in a downward spiral, similar to the feeling of drowning. Once at the beach when I swam too far and high tide was about to creep up on me, I remember feeling breathless, panicked and a sharp piercing pain that ran through my entire body and mind at the same time. Life does that too. I have had a few trying times in my life so far where I have been pulled into the dark and finding my way back to the light took every ounce of my energy and strength, as it does for each of us no matter what our personal struggles.
I have witnessed the power of verbal praise and appreciation and feel this adds to one being optimistic or developing optimism as a way of thought and life. Having been in the education sector for a number of years, I have been fortunate to have the chance to appreciate and feel appreciated. I never pictured myself teaching, Even though my childhood did consist of me lining up my toys ever so neatly and informing them that school is in session, did I imagine that as an adult way of life? I don’t think so. The field of psychology drew me into the academic world early into my career and the age range I covered has been 16-18.
During my first job, fresh out of college and just a few years older than them I found that so much has changed from the time I was a teenager to now. The challenges faced, multiple distractions, peer issues and competition is more so now than ever before. Add to this the boom in technology and social media plus a plethora of opportunities available to teens today.
I developed a bond and connect with students purely on principles I set for myself as an academic guide. I thought back to the teachers who helped raise me up and added confidence to my self-concept. I remembered times I felt bad because of mere words addressed to me as a means of inculcating discipline (according to them!). And I thought to present time, where it is not enough to tell adolescent children what are the facts or what to do but to be honest, whether you know the answer or not.
Adolescents are far more perceptive, and sharper than we give them credit for. They pick up on body language and facial expressions better than most adults. And perhaps my demeanour with students by ensuring honesty, genuineness and unconditional acceptance in my style as a facilitator made me receive appreciation from them and their parents which I find surprising till date. The aim for me has always been that students enjoy learning and are welcomed with a smile and never about their personal perception of me.
There are days when I haven’t felt like getting out of bed but knowing I would be in a classroom educating young minds and learning from them as well made me get my feet off the bed when they truly felt like lead. Knowing that I would generate a discussion and come into awareness of all their perspectives was enough to make me drive to work every single day. There have been times when the only good thing in my day was when all else was forgotten with them in class.
I have received emails, texts and verbal messages from students telling me of the value of my presence in their life as a teacher and as an individual.
I recall a time when I was going through a personal struggle and a student sent me a long mail about his views about me as a facilitator. I fell crying to the floor reading that, because of how much we despair as human beings to feel loved and appreciated in our lives, and it finds us at the most unexpected time from the most surprising source. Here was a young boy in his late teens who was extremely confident and would engage in a dialogue even with an authority figure if he disagreed, and he wrote to tell me about my impact on his life through teaching of a subject in his high school years.
I have been fortunate to have had many episodes of this nature – receiving appreciation from parents and students alike. What I cherish and always will are the words spoken by my students. Age, seniority, designation and the linear relationship has nothing to do with appreciation. It must flow freely from the heart. Why are we quick to judge and criticize yet think twice before complimenting someone? I have complimented strangers randomly for instance appreciating the shoes I saw a lady wearing while we were in the elevator, and it’s beautiful to see someone’s face light up.
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne talks about the message we send out into the universe. With news and images of a gory and heart-breaking nature circulated constantly around the globe, it is important now more than ever to spread joy. That compliment, praise or appreciation we direct towards someone may have just saved a life. We don’t know what the other may be going through in their life but perhaps that statement was the only good thing that happened for them in that moment or in weeks probably.
If your neighbour is looking smart or well groomed, compliment them while you meet on your way out of the building, praise your colleague when you like a strategy or skill they displayed, appreciate nature and things in the environment, say thank you to your parents on the smallest household chore or moment, appreciate your partner for their help, praise your child for how they perform in any area or merely on their talents or interests. We need to generate and foster positive words and what better place to start than with our world and the people in it.
And of course take time out daily to appreciate yourself for all the good that resides within you and the sunshine you add to the universe. Love yourself for what you bring to the lives of others, to animals, to nature and the passions you hold close to your heart whether its reading, cooking, sports etc.
No matter what lies ahead of me in my journey I would be forever thankful for the appreciation I have received in my various roles – daughter, sibling, friend, partner, colleague etc. It saved me more times than I can pen down here. But then that’s the power of words. It can change a life and heal wounds faster than time (as is originally claimed!)
Life, as we are often reminded, is short. So appreciate others and appreciate what you have. Don’t take your life and the people in it for granted. For perhaps someone out there is praying for what you don’t remember to appreciate. That’s the thing. Don’t hold the words in. Just as the blood flows freely through the veins so should words of love and praise.
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