MY BLOG POSTS, My Reflections

CONNECTIONS STILL MEAN EVERYTHING


The amazing legendary teacher Rita Pierson left this world in 2013. However, her lessons will continue to bring others into beautiful relationships that will change lives for the better through every teacher and every other human who has the fortune of reading about her or watching her TedTalks.
Positive relationships matter now, more than ever.

Prior to the pandemic, people knew that making connections with others are powerful. People often want to be known. Really known. While many are afraid of rejection over the parts they don’t like about themselves, we still crave connection and true, unconditional understanding. From the first time a baby comes into the world and reacts to a loving touch or look, we all keep looking for genuine relationships with others.

As a teacher, it’s been hard in many ways. We’ve been in remote, in hybrid and soon, in-person. Making connections with our students, for most of us, is one of the biggest joys of our careers. We love what we teach, but we love who we teach much more.

Making those genuine relationships that make our students shine and grow knowing they are safe, are understood and are able to grow in the environment of that teacher’s classroom is magical. As this school year approached, so many of us educators worried about how we might make true, deep connections in a world that had shifted dramatically, no matter what might come next.

I love getting to know others and making connections that are real, whether they are momentary moments with a stranger in a store or ones that last for decades. As a teacher, it is a huge part of how I learn about my students, earn their trust and help them through the rollercoaster rides of going through the middle school years.

I love being real with them, and in turn, they all reciprocate in so many wondrous ways.

For example, a student who I had last year, could barely speak to me. Extremely shy, I never witnessed them even talk to other students. It was so hard to build a relationship with this student and know if I was connecting. Then, this very student took my creative writing class again this year.

Guess what? The student has been talking to me!

After I shared how very thrilled I was to take my class again after not knowing if I had any sort of impact on him, the response was, “You did. You definitely did. You never gave up on me, even when I wanted to give up.” Not only has the talking continued, but this amazing person shares more and more of themself through the writing we do.

Whew! That’s the power of connection.

Whether in the classroom or with any positive connections you make with others, we grow and thrive.

Another student I have had the pleasure to know and teach this year, through one of my remote classes, was one with whom I have a great relationship. However, while trying to hide it, I saw subtle shifts lately. The work ethic didn’t change, but something was wrong.

When I saw that they had missed some days this week, which rarely happen, I sent an email to connect.

My Subject: EVERYTHING OK?

My simply message was, “I know you’ve missed classes this week. Is everything okay?”

Not only did a response arrive rather quickly, but it was followed by sharing all that caused the absences and what I probably noticed when in class this week. Then, at the end, “I will be at school tomorrow! I really appreciate you and everything you done for me!! I look forward to seeing you and thank you for trying to make that connection. It means a lot. ”

In remote, during a pandemic, this student has still thrived in huge ways and is even entering my student leadership training program. Relationships are not just maintained when we are with each other but also when we are not able to be together. What we do through the harder moments often speaks far greater to another’s heart, when they need it most.

While all humans can learn and have successful lives, they can become their best selves so much quicker when they know they are valued.

Over my twenty years of teaching, I have seen a huge rise in mental health issues among more and more of our young people. For anyone to trust and share about this, it can be extremely difficult and sometimes, tragic.

Year after year, these students often confide in me verbally, through their assignments or in emails. While I always do what I need to do to make sure they get the help needed, from the right people, it is those connections that helps them to still become their best selves in the midst of their middle school years. More importantly, having those connections mean they are seen, heard, understood and they still matter.

That’s everything.

One of the biggest examples with a student who doesn’t see much worth in school, but is extremely intelligent and capable, happened today. While yes, my job is to help my students learn. Yet, as a human who knows that together we are better, we must look to help one another whenever possible.

Rita Pierson’s words say it all. Little did she know how much more it would mean after 2020 arrived.

I squatted down next to this student and simply asked, “Are you okay? You haven’t looked happy in a while.” For the first time, this student was the most real I’ve ever seen. They shared what they were struggling with the assignment. My response was from what I have noticed about this student, so I used that to provide the help needed. Not only did that shift his countenance in a good way, but he asked me for additional help. This, from a human who clearly doesn’t like being vulnerable, became so and even thanked me as the class left.

Whether our positive, genuine connections with others is small or large, they matter.

Whether our positive, genuine connections with others is in person, through a phone, a computer, or other virtual way, they matter.

Whether our positive, genuine connections with others lead to long lasting relationships or the two parties never see one another again, they matter.

We don’t need to always see the impacts of these moments.

If we learn how to connect in ways that are true, honest, fair, pure and meant for the good of those we encounter within the journeys of our lives, that most definitely MATTERS.

Know that you matter! There are others who see you, hear you, understand you and want to embrace you. Better yet, these people want to help you become the best YOU.

Trust isn’t easy, but when earned, it is an extremely powerful force in this world . . . before the pandemic, during and always will be.

My Reflections

IT’S 2020: WHO WILL WE BE?


Many kids remember the times when we tried on a parent’s clothes, stepped into their shoes, or tried to do something to mimic the actions of a parent. Ever wonder why we do that? Of course, we all can easily say that it’s because we learn first by watching what those around us do, and at first that usually means our families.

In an article written by PsychCentral, written and published by Rick Nauert, PhD in 2019 stated that “scientists ‘have been finding this odd effect where children will copy everything that they see an adult demonstrate to them, even if there are clear or obvious reasons why those actions would be irrelevant,’ says psychologist Mark Nielsen, of the University of Queensland in Australia. ‘It’s something that we know that other primates don’t do.’ If a chimpanzee is shown an irrelevant action, they won’t copy it — they’ll skip right to the action that makes something happen.” Their findings, thus far, have found this to be true only in the Western part of our world.

Most people know or sense that the natural innateness of our desire to copy adults at those young stages of life are normal, but depending on what is imprinted on us, some or all of it can most definitely be detrimental to us. Fortunately for the human race, we also have free will, and as we learn other aspects of what may be right or wrong, we are able to change and not continue the mistakes or downright evil things we may have witnessed in our growing up years. Perspective is everything.

It has been proven that a growth mindset can change so much of who we are. As defined in Psychology Today, “A growth mindset is simply the belief that our basic abilities can be developed and improved through dedication and hard work. It’s not so much that this belief is some kind of magic. It’s just that without a growth mindset, we don’t exert the required effort and so we remain perpetually stuck. But with a growth mindset, we can break through the stuck-ness and achieve the results we desire, whether that be at work, in our relationships, or in other aspects of our lives.” So, there’s hope! We don’t have to remain fixed on what was modeled for us, unless what was modeled for us, is something that we choose to continue.

As a teacher, I have seen both sides of this modeling or pushing away from what was taught by parents, which is part of the maturation process. So, when preparing for this blog post and with permission from a former client of mine to share a photo of her child for illustrative purposes, here’s the backstory of its inclusion.

My photography business was hired to shoot a wedding from start to finish, and I was capturing moments with the bride and the bridal party at the early stages. At one point, the flower girl and daughter of the bride wanted to try on her mother’s wedding dress. I discussed it with the bride that if we made sure to not damage anything, it would make for a wonderful memory and photo in the years to come.

Flower girl/Daughter of the bride already envisioning herself as a bride, in her mother’s dress as she holds the bridal bouquet. CREDIT: Photos By Rachel

So without much knowledge of what a marital relationship is like or the process involved leading up to it, this sweet girl just knew she wanted to be as happy as her mother when she gets older. Clearly, this is a wonderful moment and a good reason to want to replicate, in her own way, what her mother would soon be experiencing on this important day of their lives.

As any human, this young girl will become an adult who may resemble her mother in many ways, but she is also very likely to choose certain aspects of her life that are very different from what she once learned and thought.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I believe this part is purposely put inside all of us to learn by what we see and hear and then choosing to hold onto or to change some or all of it. That comes from our very Creator. As the Bible tells us right from the first chapter, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27 NLT

Every human being that has ever lived, is living or will live is made in this way. It is why we have so much in common. At the same time, we also differ from one another in very amazing ways. Our differences are also part of God. We were never meant to be some sort of clones of one another or robots without individualism. So it stands to figure that our differences combined help us to better see who He really is and who He is in us.

Likewise, as many children grow and learn, we often feel a deep connection and even a sameness with our parental figures. We sense from early on that where we come from strongly impacts who we are. It is why it’s important to choose what we hold onto and what we choose to change from what we learned as we get older, for our beliefs and actions are huge parts of the adult versions of who we are to the world.

In 1 Corinthians 12:14-27 say, “Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, ‘I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,’ that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,’ would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’ The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you.’ In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”

It seems clear that we were never made to be carbon copies of any other human beings, but to treasure one another for our differences, support one another and to bring about change within ourselves to become more like the fullness of Christ, together. To this day, we are as little kids, putting on our parents’ clothes to see if they fit, while also knowing that some day they very well could.

Why not spend time understanding who God really is, whether you are already a follower of Christ or you don’t believe He even exists, and see for yourself? We are called to love one another and we can all learn more about our Creator and about who we should be.

When it comes down to it, 1 John 2:7 says it best: “Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before.”

Regardless of your personal beliefs, love is something that we can all wear and wear it well.

In becoming better versions of who we are meant to be, it will impact the lives of those around us as Hebrews 10:24 says, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Knowing that we learn from what we see, hear and do even as we get older, we can continue to grow into the clothing we were always meant to some day wear for ourselves. Likewise, just like we get rid of clothing that no longer fits us or we never should have worn in the first place, the right fit means everything.

I took a selfie of myself with one of my favorite quotes that Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Anyone who knows me well knows that I love to encourage and bring out the best in others.

As you saw the photo above, you may have noticed that while I wear this shirt to proclaim a very important statement, the shirt doesn’t completely fit exactly right. We must remember that we will always be flawed, but we still have room to change and be a part of the solutions needed in our world. To live our purpose. Just because we are not perfect and just because we may not fully have arrived to who we should be yet, doesn’t mean we can’t try.

May we always remember that we are each a piece of a beautiful mosaic, each with our tiny parts which when put together show the whole picture. Let’s value one another as members of humanity who together can do so much good for ourselves and for this world.

We have one life to live, and like it or not, our lives are all a part of history.

What part of the past will you choose to no longer “wear”?

What do you want your life to say?

In the grander scheme, what do you want the future to replicate from us?

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