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One of the greatest moments of humility and grace is realising when you are not the perfect fit for a student.
As I continue grow into myself and my teaching, I see more examples of this within the classes I teach. The students that are angular and pokey around me, that value and respect my teaching, and me as a person, but I will never be their best champion, or their perfect mentor.
The younger version of me would have worked with pig-headed determination to flex and contort myself into the perfect fit. What did I need to be? Harder, warmer, softer? More dictatorial? Colder? I tried to bend in ways that I never should have. And in doing so, was being dishonest to myself and doing my students a disservice.
Now, in simple grace and confidence, I can identify students for whom I’m not a perfect fit, and I can joyfully and wholeheartedly direct them to other staff members and mentors who might inspire them more fully than I am able. I encourage them to listen and look closely around them for kindred spirits, people who are older and wiser than them who have the unique combination of experiences and talents which resonate with them.
I ask them to be open and engaged with me, and that I will always love and teach them with my greatest self, and to the best of my ability. But in my heart of hearts, I say silently to them:
I am not so vain as to think I can be everything to everyone. I am not the perfect fit for you. I will teach you, care for you, encourage you, guide you, and support you, but you need to find that adult or mentor who IS someone you completely aspire to be like, even in part, and connect with them. You need to have a champion, and a North Star, and it’s not me.
So, look hard, and look well. Find someone who resonates with you, who makes your spirit catch alight, and learn.
This is such a gift of courage, humility, grace, and love.
To know that I have the courage and grace to set certain students free, so that I can love them more.
The thing is, if you want a child to become more confident, you cannot say, “Just be more confident!” Yet how many of us as teachers are completely guilty of this? I find myself saying this to my students despite myself, with ill-founded best intentions to support and build them up in confidence.
So what do you do?
You make eye contact with them.
You catch them in a moment where they are doing the right thing and you celebrate it.
Use their name, and not just in vain. Because you are glad to see them.
Thank them for the times they have done something to the best of their ability.
You are playful with them.
You see and acknowledge things about them that they did not even realise themselves.
And you love them and value them for who they are, not what they will become, even if it’s your duty of care to pull them forward and draw this out of them. You love them exactly as they are.
And then their confidence will grow, sure and steady, and the tiniest thing will take, and spark, and flourish.
Day 24: San Francisco to Vancouver
I’ve had 2 moments of “sassing” recently that I’m low-key proud of.
1. The Monks at Golden Gate Bridge.
While crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, there were a whole heap of monks milling about the foot of the walkway. One serenely approached me, offered me a blessing and then gently tied a string of prayer beads around my wrist. With a beatific smile on his face, he told me his brothers were building a temple, would I please make a donation? Then I NOTICED; the sneakers, the overly-crumpled yellow monk’s cloak, the glimpse of jeans under the cloak.
Old me would have paid the $5.00 donation and then been pissed off for the rest of the day.
Current me smiled a matching beatific smile right back, took the prayer beads off my wrist, said “Thank you SO much, I wish you all the best for the temple, but I’m really sorry, I’m not into prayer beads!”, and strolled off with a grin.
While on my success strut, I noticed another couple getting a similar treatment. I walked up, said hello to everyone and told them, “Hey guys, you’re getting fleeced. There’s a whole heap of them!”
“Oh, wow! Thanks so much!”
And to the “monk”, “Sorry dude, nice try. We’re done here!”
2. The Drama Queen at Bloomingdales
An AMAZING colourful striped dress caught my eye in Bloomingdales, and I went to go have a look. From behind me, in the most overly-dramatic, drama-queenly exasperated exclamation rang out, “WHY do people ALWAYS have to go for the things on the RACK?!”
I think he thought I had no English and wouldn’t understand, but it put the fire in my belly!
I used that teacher voice which is the deadly combination of “overly-sweet-but-don’t-you-DARE-eff-with-me” and just kept taking AT this rude man: “Well, it’s SUCH a totally GORGEOUS DRESS, and I LOVE colours. I’m travelling from Australia, and this is my last week abroad, and I was really looking to splurge on something beautiful to take home. I’m SO SORRY that I inconvenienced you by looking at something on the rack, but it just absolutely caught my eye, and it’s even the right size as well! But I’d better not inconvenience you by asking to try it on, so thank you SO MUCH for making me feel so WELCOME!”
Dazed, he pulled himself together and stammered, “Are you sure you don’t want to try it on?”
Me: “OH. NO. THANK. YOU!”
Strutting that strut OUT!
It is said that we’re all a little bit fluent in flight, fight, or fanciful pleasing. I have fire in the belly that manifests itself as acerbic and arch responses that can cut, and I have a stare-down that could melt snow. I’m 5 foot nothing, but I’ve been told I grow in times of battle. I can also rush to wipe clean my slate of any wrong-doing, going completely and ridiculously overboard to show how invaluable and essentially good I am. I could give a whole nation diabetes with my over-dosing sweetness.
But my go-to, my modus operandi of all MO’s, is F L I G H T. I’m an introvert at heart, so that comes as no surprise. I do the intimidating stare-down, I say my piece with icy force (or what I think is quiet compassion, but really it’s just resting bitch-face), and then I get the hell out. I cocoon and pad myself up with time, space, and quiet like pro. I protect and insulate like no other. When I am under serious threat, I am unbelievably Telfon-coated. Iodised. What was that?! I can’t hear you through all the protective layers.
And it’s served me well over the years as it gives me time to process and think. I am not so juvenile as to stay there forever, just long enough to figure out how to stand my ground in the “real” world. While in the cocoon, I ask my inner circle advice; the people who love me when I’m vulnerable and in pieces. I am proud of how I always venture back out with a recalibrated moral compass, ready to interact with life again.
But in having quiet to reflect these holidays, I realise that I don’t give myself enough credit. I think that I am not strong enough to withstand adversity; that I have to protect myself through dozens of layers to escape pain. But the thing is, it doesn’t make it go away. You have to walk through it anyway, and by cocooning myself I give myself time + space, but not necessarily an easier ride.
I realise I can have faith in myself; that I am stronger and more grounded than I give think. During 2017, I saw myself weather more storms than I knew was possible and every time, I had no idea what I was walking into until I was right in the middle of it all. There was no time to duck and cover, I had to stand and stretch, bend and move, with the intense storms around me.
I am more supple than I realise.
So let me have faith, than I can inch forward, with quiet, intensely unmistakable confidence, whatever hurricanes are around me, and bend in adversity far more capably than I think.
Total boss lady.
And she had her own queendom that she could rock whatever headwear she pleased!
Stand your own sacred ground…no one can be exactly all that you are.
No one is here for the same reason as you.
No one has the exact same words, formed by the exact breath.
No one has the same momentum as you.
So celebrate all that you are…you are here, in all your uniqueness + individuality, for a reason.
Stand, with quiet, resonating courage + purpose, on your own sacred ground.