Updated: Mar 13, 2020
It's the first day of school, my bus is late and I have to run right into the classroom as soon as I arrive. I rush into the room unprepared, yet something takes over me. I walk up to the front of the room and sink into a natural flow state. I'm high off the energy of the kids and before I know it, the bell rings.
No this is not a dream I had, it is the real story of my first day at work. While it was not an ideal way to kick off the school year, this situation taught me to let go of my expectations and accept the situations as they are.
The last few years of my life have been spent teaching English to children in Asia. I would say that in this time, I've learned just as much as I've taught. The best part of my job is the kids I teach. They are intelligent, intuitive and so loving. They challenge me daily and teach me so much in the process.
Children are intuitive and possess wisdom that, as adults, we seem to have lost. Our knowledge of certain things increases, but there are other things we forget. It takes being around kids (and being challenged by them) to relearn these things.
Their view of the world is much simpler, why do we feel the need to complicate it? Perhaps it's due to the growing influence of our ego. As the ego's influence becomes stronger we create all kinds of ways to protect it. We develop fears and insecurities which drive so much of our actions.
Children don't yet have this and still maintain a fresh and positive outlook of the world. When we experience the world through their eyes, we can gain some clarity that we lost and begin to transcend the ego and live from the heart.
Here are some beautiful and valuable lessons I've learned from my students.
Notice the Small Things
Kids notice everything…I mean everything! Even if I don't want them to. If I am wearing something new, whether it's as small as a ring or bracelet, my students notice it. Even my tattoo (which I go through great lengths to hide), nothing seems to escape their attention. They notice every small thing and remember it.
Last week we were doing an exercise where they had to look at a photo I had taken and think of a sentence to say about it. Each photo was of a different animal, which is what I thought they would talk about. But they were noticing such small things in the background of the photos, things I had never seen myself. It was a really beautiful thing to see these photos again through their eyes and appreciate the small details.
We can apply this attention to detail in our everyday life as well. By putting the phone down, clearing our mind and just being present, life's nuances will stand out to us. Maybe it's a beautiful tree on the drive home from work that you've never noticed. Or maybe you can better sense the energy of those around you and notice when someone needs a hug or a word of encouragement.
Taking in the small details makes the world richer and more vibrant. Our relationships with others will deepen. It is our presence and attention that is the most beautiful gift we can share with the people around us.
Sure there are some kids that are more reserved but, as a whole, I would say that children are fearless. They don't care what other people think of them or if they make a mistake. This is probably one big reason why young kids are so good at learning languages; they aren't afraid to speak and make a mistake.
At what point do we begin to feel self-conscious? Perhaps it's when the voice of the ego becomes louder and we develop ways to protect it. Self-consciousness develops because we want to protect ourselves from criticisms and ridicule. Or maybe it's after being teased or told we're not good at something.
This is when fears and insecurities develop. As I've talked about in a previous post, fear can manifest itself in a lot of different ways and completely rule our lives if we allow it to.
This is where we need to take a page from the kindergartener's playbook. Try everything, no matter what. Before you decide that you aren't going to be good at something, try it without fear of failure.
This might seem counterintuitive in a classroom full of kids, but I've found that it's through letting go that I can actually gain more control over the situation. Every class I go into with a lesson plan and about 99% of the time, I venture off that lesson plan. Sometimes an activity doesn't work how I thought it would and I have to change something. By letting go of my plan, I can adapt, change and create a better class for the kids.
In some way, we all have a "lesson plan" for our lives. Maybe it's our plan for major life events, like what career we will have or when we will start a family. Trying to maintain control over the narrative of our life and experiencing disappointment when things don't go according to plan will only lead to more disappointment. Because the truth is, you just can't plan for everything in life. Life is unpredictable. But, this is a beautiful thing because it opens you up to opportunities and experiences that you might have never dreamed up on your own.
It all begins with me…
Each morning I start my day with a short meditation. It sets the tone for my day and gets me in the right mindset to teach my classes. There are days though when I sleep in or miss my meditation for some reason. Often this leaves me a bit scattered and out of sorts and there is a noticeable difference in my classes these days. The students are also scattered and out of sorts as if they are reading my energy and responding to it. That’s when I realized…it all begins with me!
I need to step back and ask myself, "How will I respond to challenges today? Will I be reactive?" I have found this only escalates a situation. If I were to raise my voice, the students will just shout even louder. Pretty soon the volume of the room is unbearable. Maintaining a calm demeanor, even in the midst of mass chaos, has an incredible effect on the others.
This concept can be applied to so many other situations. Taking into consideration the fact that it all starts within you, you can control your reaction to situations and, in turn, affect the outcome as well.
We can learn so much from the children in our lives. Simply by being around them, observing them and seeing things as they do, we can strip away our jaded adult exterior and experience the world in a new and beautiful way.