Andrew’s hand wrapped tight around mine.
“Your internal dialogue is like a beehive tonight.”
I took rapid breaths in and focused on the pancakes in front of me.
“There is so much coming and going that you can’t sort through one thought before another comes flying in.”
I lifted my fork and buzzed at my best friend before drowning my meal in syrup.
Freshman year of college had pulled the rug from under me and I was scrambling to find any semblance of balance in my life. I reflected inward in hopes of sorting through what was defining me, and became tightly wound on the surface. I didn’t want interference with my emotional workings. Eventually, with a transfer of schools and some wonderful people, I stuck my head out of the rabbit hole to live with mindful presence for a while.
But I’ve returned to these moments throughout the past few years, and with more frequency in the past few months. I strive to be reflective of who I am, but that sometimes costs me the ability to be responsive to who I am with. Namely, my students who deserve both of those things from me.
I am in my second year of teaching, but it still feels like my first year in several ways. I’ve switched schools and grade levels, and I want so badly to do well. The more I reflect inward though, the more tightly wound I can feel myself becoming. I can recognize that it stunts the development of my presence in the classroom. My personality tends to lean toward more serious in its default mode. Without mindfulness, I miss moments that hold possibilities of the joy and laughter that makes a classroom a place where learning thrives.
The last few weeks I have had to remind myself to smile with some classes. It’s not them. I honestly just get caught up in my hive of thought. My thoughts build around their academic learning, and fail to lay groundwork for the emotional learning that cannot be separated from the academic. They need to be seen as people, and I need to see myself as a person with them.
I’ve read several articles about this. I know I’m not alone and that does give me comfort.
I suppose I am just looking forward to the coming year and being given the time to develop into the kind of teacher I want to be for my students. Or, truly, the kind of person I want to be for my life.
Lauren Petri is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa and a second year teacher at Dike-New Hartford High School. She is an avid reader of young adult literature and an excellent cook of all breakfast foods.