Heart Work

Wow, not only is this teaching full time thing HARD work, it is also heart work. I have been letting this post develop and write itself in my mind since Saturday around midnight and I’m happy that it’s finally Wednesday so I can pour out my heart on this blog tonight. This past weekend I encountered some amazing experiences that really made me dig deep and open up to vulnerability. I’m an emotional person and I cry easily. I think I’ve cried every single day since Saturday – not because I’m sad, but because my spirit is currently on this epic roller coaster ride. I kind of like it…a lot. Are you ready for some deep, heartfelt sharing? If yes, brace yourself and if not, I’d sign off now if I were you. Consider yourself warned 🙂

Last year around this time I was completing my yoga teacher training certification. My Friday nights and weekends (for eight weeks) were spent sprawled out on the studio floor learning, practicing yoga, chanting in Sanskrit (crazy huh?) and connecting with 19 other beautiful souls. My heart and spirit went through an overhaul last year and it impacted my classroom teaching tremendously (in a good way, I think). At one point in my YTT I wrote down in my journal, “I will no longer be afraid of good things happening and I will choose to fully enjoy life”. You see, up until a year ago I held close to the belief that when good things happened to me, and I celebrated those good things, bad things would follow and rob me of my joy. I didn’t want to be too excited about the good things, so I didn’t let myself immerse in the complete joy I should have been experiencing. Scary stuff. As soon as I promised myself I would fully engage and be joyful it felt as if a heavy cloak was removed from my body. My spirit and soul felt fully able to engage with life. As soon as I wrote that down my life started clicking into place in an amazing way…everything sort of just happened for me and my husband. We noticed it big time, and people in our lives noticed it too…over the past year several people have said to me, “Wow – life is just happening for you right now, isn’t it?!” This isn’t to say bad, scary things didn’t happen last year, because they did. My grandma was really sick for two months and no doctor could solve her mysterious health issues. My mother in law suffers from post-brain surgery seizures and memory loss and those health struggles were happening throughout last year as well (and are still happening).

This past weekend this phrase came to me in a song: “Say no to fear and say yes to love”. I was absolutely rocked to my core when I heard this line and I sat down and cried for about twenty minutes. I truly thought my spirit and soul were in a good place right now, but I clearly needed this confirmation, “say no to fear and say yes to love”, to make the past year of my life come full circle. Since Saturday night I’ve done some deep thinking, praying, meditating, talking in my head…whatever you want to call it. And then I started applying this heart work to my teaching practice…

I made this little card and put it up on a cork board near my desk at school.

I made this little card and put it up on a cork board near my desk at school.

On Monday I was at Learning Initiatives and it was a hard day in my classroom (says my TOC). During LI I came to the realization that I am fearful my class will not learn anything this year because we are not functioning as a community right now. I am not proud to admit this, but some of my students currently yell at each other to shut up. They loudly tell each other that they’re stupid. They tell me they’re joking when they say these things, but my response to them is that there is a kinder way to say these things and language such as this brings us down a notch every time “shut up” or “stupid” is uttered. This issue with language has been on my radar since day one, and it is a constant battle (one I have chosen to take on). I shared my fearful realization with some close teacher friends and they helped me talk it over and through. FEAR also came up at LI on Monday. One teacher questioned how we can erase the fear from our lessons so that our students will engage and learn with an open mind. I hadn’t really considered fear as an issue before, but as I thought more about my weekend experiences (“say no to fear, say yes to love”) I realized…fear can freeze us in our steps if we don’t feel safe. I realized fear was probably what was grasping and binding many of my students right now. Monday night saw Joel (bless this husband of mine, seriously) and I planning a classroom meeting for the next day.

Rough draft of the classroom meeting Joel and I planned together.

Rough draft of the classroom meeting Joel and I planned together.

Enter Tuesday. Tuesday morning I went in to school fully inspired and ready to set an amazing peaceful and love-filled tone in my classroom. I arrived at school around 7.30am and turned on my favourite song of the moment (“We Will Wait” by Amanda Falk) and sang my way through my classroom as I got prepared for our day. I felt we really needed to come together as a class and talk about community, so that’s exactly what we did. I explained to my class my fear that we would not learn anything if we didn’t start to build community in our space. The meeting didn’t go as well as I had planned, but I ended it by stating these three points to my students:

1) I will not leave you this year (to which one student replied, “Yes you will”, and I responded, “I will not leave you this year”).

2) I will not let you go through this year alone.

3) I cannot create community on my own…I need your positive input when you walk through that door every morning. We will continue to talk about community every single day of this school year.

(I know the statements I made begin with “I will not…” or “I cannot” and they aren’t the most positively worded phrases, but by this point in our meeting I was off of my “script” and just talking with my class – this is just how the points I wanted to make came out).

This brings us to today, Wednesday. We had an up and down kind of day again today. I know my students and I are still getting to know each another and I know this is going to a loooong haul (probably an entire year’s worth of hauling, actually). However, after all my personal heart work I did on the weekend (and am still continuing to work through and probably will be working through for quiet some time) I feel more spiritually and soulfully grounded and ready to take on the challenge of helping my students to let go of their fear, say yes to love and, in turn, create community with one another. One teacher pointed out to me today that I “looked very tired”. Yes, I am very tired right now. My mind, body and soul are literally on overdrive, but during my drive to work today I saw the sunrise and I thought…it is a new day.



4 thoughts on “Heart Work

  1. very nice insights. Teaching is truly a heart teaching because students can read into your fears, tone, and enthusiasm and they are really good at knowing when something is wrong or you are not feeling well. Those of us that do some heart teaching on a daily basis are truly devoted to our students, their learning and their welfare. Even years down the road, students will always remember their teachers that truly where in for the love of learning and those that remember their name and cared about them.

  2. Beautiful! Children do not learn well unless they feel safe and loved. Teaching is more about letting the kids know how much you love them than about getting across content. Laugh, keep your sense of humour and open yourself up for the students to see – the good, bad, and ugly, your fears, hopes, failures, diappointments, successes. Be vulnerable. When you are an open book, they will be more willing to open themselves up as well.

  3. Pingback: Community, Curriculum…Grade 8 Good Times | Tale of Two Teachers

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