Earlier this week, I stood in front of one of my classes ready to start the lesson when one of the students snapped loudly ‘What’s up with your outfit? You look like a flight attendant!’ Surprised by her remark, I stood there some seconds trying to figure out how this made me feel and what I should reply. I don’t really care if my students approve of how I dress or not, but I did feel uncomfortable with a student making such remarks. I decided to reply that I wasn’t sure how to take her remark, and moved my attention towards the rest of the class.
The same evening, as I walked home from work, my mind brought me back to this incident. My first thought was ‘I did not sign up for this when I became a teacher’, followed by ‘And what did you sign up for?’ ‘What did you expect?’ I realised that at some point in life, I have thought the same about most of the roles I play in life.
What do we expect when we choose a profession? What do we expect when we choose a partner? In a friendship? We don’t choose our family, but we do expect quite a lot from them, and our friends and even our neighbours.
Many of the choices we make in life, we make when we are quite young. I know that when I chose a career and a partner, I had very little understanding of who I was. I chose to have children because most of the people around me were having children and because it felt right, but I didn’t really reflect much on the implications, on why I wanted so badly to become a mum.
I don’t say that any of this is ‘wrong’, but as time has passed, I have sometimes been quite dissatisfied with certain aspects of my life and I believe it is because unreflected, almost unconscious expectations started to grow in my mind of how things should be. How I should feel, how people should make me feel, how things shouldn’t be.
One problem that I see with this is that when I go around with lack of clarity of what my role is and what the purpose of engaging in something is, the expectations I have tend to change almost with the wind surprising sometimes even myself. Furthermore, I am putting the responsibility of how I feel in the hands of other people or the circumstances.
I believe more and more that the less we expect from the external world, the more peaceful life we can live. This is easier said than done. Everyday, in many situations, I catch myself getting annoyed or frustrated because of an expectation I have that is not met. I am trying to learn to catch myself before I react in situations when some unspoken, unfounded, unrealistic expectation is not met, but its taking time to make it a habit.
Going back to my initial thought, what did I sign up for when I decided to be a teacher? I could write a long essay about this, but I will spare you. I can honestly say that I had a certain vision when I decided to become a teacher, and this vision has obviously changed with age and experience. What I keep forgetting, is that in that role and any role I play, all I can do is have a clear and pure intention in every action I take, do my best and learn from the rest. Every class is different and every student is different. Og I could choose, I would of course love to have classes where students are eager and focused and motivated so I can share my passion for learning. But students come with their own background, experiences, expectations and preconceptions. Every moment is an invitation for me to create a space between behaviours and my reaction. To grasp the moment and turn situations into a learning experience both for them and for me. Now that I am in this role, for whatever reason I chose it, I can’t go around blaming big classes, noisy students, little time, lack of motivation and whatnot for how I feel in the classroom. I have to show up clear about what I want to achieve, and that should be something for the benefit of my students. I am not there to ‘get’ anything from them.
This said, it is also my role, I think, to prepare them to life beyond school and patient teachers. I need to lead with the example, be assertive, firm and sometimes maybe even stern, but for their learning and not to fulfil some kind of need in me.
Life is not easy especially because of human interactions, I feel. We all go around living life through our minds believing that the way we see things is the right one. Things don’t always go as we expect them to go, people don’t always behave as we wished they would. We can of course talk and try to understand each other, find compromises, but it isn’t always easy. Therefore, I believe that the way to a more peaceful life is to always go inwards. Always ask myself ‘why do I think like this?’, ‘what can I do?’, ‘what do I really want?’, ‘can I give myself what I am seeking out there?’, ‘is it realistic or even fair to have this expectation?’. This kind of reflections are helping me a lot.