“Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes…” Paramahansa Yogananda
Does what you’re doing feed your soul?
Spring brings reflection and opportunities for change, particularly in the field of education. College students wonder about changing majors, changing schools. Teachers and professors wonder if they are in the right place, right grade level, right subject matter, on the right team. Leaders wonder if they are in the right organization, are they leading their teams well, have they empowered others to be their best?
“When do you sleep?” “You look so happy.” “You must love what you do.” “Are you going to quit?” “I feel in limbo.” “Should I really change majors?” “I was told I could make more money…”
There is a dichotomy to these questions and statements every one of which I’ve heard this past week. Each question, each statement allows for the same responses, “What is it about what you’re doing that feeds your soul?” “What is that you think will feed your soul about the change you are considering?” “What does success look like and feel like to you?” Success is not defined by what others think and feel about your decision. Success is defined by how you feel and think about your decisions when you lay down to fall asleep at night.
Ask yourself, “What my feeds my soul?”
Do what energizes you. Do what makes you smile. Do that which makes you feel vibrant and causes others to ask and comment, “Do you sleep? You look so happy.”
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through the experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambitioned inspired, and success achieved. Helen Keller
“Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up.” 1 Corinthians 13:7
As educators of faith, let us remember that, love never stops…
…being patient Help us to remember to be patient with our students who struggle, with colleague’s who we may not see eye to eye with, with parents whose support we don’t feel, and community members that we work in partnership with.
…believing Help us to remember that every child, every student, can grow and learn. Help us to remember that we do have the patience and the ability to support them. Help us to remember that everyone has the same goal of doing good work for children.
…hoping Help us to have the energy and enthusiasm to always bring our best, to know that we are making a difference in the lives of children and the direction of their futures.
Love never gives up. Help us to remember that through the challenges, You are by our side and the side of every student we serve. Help us to remember that when negativity comes our way, to stay true to the work of helping and teaching children, to supporting and accepting support from our colleagues, parents, and community. Help us to keep an open mind when listening to those who don’t agree. Help us to do work in the interest of all children unconditionally, to forgive, and give the gift of grace to ourselves and to others.
I was given the book The Time of Our Lives by Peggy Noonan by a community member with a note that read, “May this book bring you inspiration during times of trial.” Remember, sometimes doing the right thing is hard!”
The gift and the note were timely. I had just been on the receiving end of some strong criticism. I was challenged in a public a meeting with statements of, “I don’t care what the law says,” and “I don’t care if there isn’t money in the budget. Make it happen,” and finally, “So, what are you saying? We’re not going to get our way?”
This reminded me of a popular cartoon in education circles:
While satirical, the cartoon has become well known among educators because it is often how we feel things are. It was certainly how I felt as those comments were called out.
But, back to the book…
As I read the introduction, I was struck by the opening quote, from Laurens van der Post “We live not only in our lives, but, whether we know it or not, also the life of our time.”
Noonan writes of being a pioneer. Initially, as a part of the “first great wave of women” to enter the field of journalism during the 1970s, then as a female speechwriter for the President during the Reagan years, and finally as one of the first internet columnists for the Wall St. Journal. She writes of a society looking for a “shock to the system” in the last presidential election.
As I read her words, I was struck by the “shock to the system,” the changes in education have brought over the past ten years to what once seemed very standard and therefore safe. There was a perception that grandparents, parents, and children would ultimately have pretty similar school experiences and stories. It may not have been exciting, but it was safe.
The past ten years have brought significant changes to the standards that are taught, to the methods used to teach them, to the technology that is still being experimented with, to keeping children safe and emotionally regulated, to the classroom and furniture design, to the way schools are funded or underfunded. Our children’s classroom and play experiences no longer look like those so fondly remembered by past generations. To some this is exciting; to others this is frightening. When we become afraid or nervous about something it is because we sense danger. What is unfamiliar or unknown can bring forth strong reactions.
It can be scary to not understand a once familiar system. It can be scary to not understand the changes. Statements such as, “I don’t care what the law says,” and “I don’t care if there isn’t money in the budget. Make it happen,” and “So, what are you saying? We’re not going to get our way?” can come from a genuine place of seeking what one believes is in the best interest. It can bring genuine frustration that while the concerns are heard, they are not changing a course of action.
Changes to our education system, the way students learn inside and outside of classrooms are going to continue. We will either adapt or we will risk becoming irrelevant. It does not feel safe to move forward into the unknown, but it is clear that we must nevertheless move in that direction.
Even with this knowledge, these statements have continued to make me uneasy.
In a homily, given by Father Kelly Vanderhey at Mission San Luis Obispo, he stated, “Freedom against the law is freedom against humanity.”
“Freedom against the law is freedom against humanity,”
The sermon continued with the reflection that there are seven really difficult years in everyone’s life. Seven years of pain that we all struggle through. Those seven years are from the ages of 13-19. These are the years during which we most struggle for freedom. We struggle for freedom from our parents and from rules. We seek independence. Yet, we are not ready to accept the full responsibility and accountability for those freedoms. We also seek to avoid the consequences for not following the rules.
It seems we may be in the teenage years of transformation in education. We seek independence from a system we know wasn’t working for children. We struggle with the transition. We want the freedom to explore and experiment to truly meet the educational, social, and emotional needs of every child. We have to be strong because it can feel easy to give in to the pressure that is loud.
While laws, rules, policies, and regulations can be boring, it turns out that these are what ultimately do keep us safe during times of change, struggle, and disagreement.
In her book, Noonan also quotes Pope John XXIII:
Do not walk through time without leaving worthy evidence of your passage.
Continue to lead during times of trial for it is when we are out of our comfort zones that the magic will happen.
As I tried to leave work, one thing after another kept coming up that, moment by moment, began putting me behind schedule. I was heading to an ACSA Personnel Academy in the same town that my son attends college. My hope was to grab a quick Starbucks Frappuccino for some caffeine to help me get through what would end up being a 14 hour work day and to be able to stop by to get a quick hug from my son, while also getting to the Academy on time.
I finally got on the road. One slow vehicle after another kept getting in front of me. Driving along the 101 in California, there were several construction sites and thus rightfully slower zones. These had been planned for in the original departure time goal.
I pulled into the Starbucks drive-thru to discover the line was longer than expected. Orders were being filled slowly. Another car had pulled in behind me and I couldn’t back up and skip the stop. I started taking deep breaths and texted my son, “I’m running behind schedule. Not sure if I’ll be able to stop by.”
Back on the 101, the two cars ahead of me drove side by side at 55 mph in a 70 mph hour zone. I couldn’t pass either one of them and could feel myself getting frustrated. Yet, all of a sudden a very calm feeling came over me. The words, “I’m protecting you,” came into my mind. The calmness was so sudden and out of the blue. It really caught my attention. I took a deep breath and said a prayer, “God, thank you for slowing me down and protecting me from whatever it is that I may never know. I trust that You are taking care of me.”
Ten minutes later, I drove past a six-vehicle accident. Several volunteers had already pulled over to assist, but emergency personnel had not yet arrived.
Not only did I stop to get and give that hug to my son, but I took some extra time to buy him dinner and tell him the story. I ended up getting 5 incredible hugs during those twenty minutes, was able to hear some wonderful stories from him, and am now looking forward to a bonus Monday night dinner date with him.
Yes, I arrived late to the Academy. When I got there though, I found the session was just getting started.
I thank God for the gift of faith He has given me, for protecting me, and for helping me keep what is really important in perspective.