ONE PERSON CAN AND MUST ORIGINATE CHANGE, but that person needs to be in a strategic place.
I work at one of the toughest schools in NC. This is my sixth year as an ESL teacher (5 of them crying 1-5 times a week). I felt powerless in front of the bad manners and hatred students projected against me, and their low performance not because the scholars weren’t smart enough, but because they didn’t care or lacked the motivation. I started creating mental strategies for them not to get under my skin, but inevitably I usually ended up crying on my way home, overexercising, and screaming at the top of my lungs in Zumba class when there was a move that emulated a punch or a kick. That was my strategy. Survival.
Administrators kept adding to the emotional load. When I was hired we had a good principal; then we had one that… oh well, he simply wasn’t a people person (which is somehow important when you are working with… you guessed it, people). I felt trapped between rudeness and a bunch of deadlines.
Now, if you are a pet lover you know there are a great deal of things we learn from our pets. Compassion, being the most important one. But what I have noticed is that our own behavior sometimes resemble the one of our furry ones. We look puzzled, like them, when someone gets mad at us when we are caught in a “bad” behavior. Like when Boomer, my dog, pees on the carpet and I yell at him pointing out at his mess. He looks at me puzzled and concerned, kind of trying to figure out why I am so mad and waiting for me to stop my little “tantrum.” Likewise we might be mean not knowing we are hurting someone’s feelings. We might make fun of a friend’s “ugly” dress while getting high fives from others; but when our friend confronts us with tears on her cheeks we look at her puzzled thinking, “What I said was really that bad?” And when they finish their speech we hug and console each other because now we both have learned something. We are seeing beyond our own persona.
Going back to my students… They talk too much, they use profanity way too much, they also fight, and bully others. And when they are caught and confronted by my angry expression, they look puzzled, like Boomer, as if nobody had taught them respect and obedience. They inflict pain to others unknowingly, and the sad thing is they leave their number ones and twos all over the place.
I am a Christian woman and forgiveness should be my priority. However, I hadn’t been able to forgive the scholars for their behavior and the “suffering” they inflicted upon me unknowingly (Luke 23:34 They do not know what they are doing). Through the years I have been able to observe that if we receive hate and abuse, what comes out is hate and abuse, which is the same as saying “Hurt people hurt people.” I was an abused child, therefore I was a handful for my teachers, but I couldn’t find the connection before. It is only now that God has opened my eyes. Fortunately, there is a cure against this cancer, and you don’t have to spend a single penny on it. It’s called “love”. Quoting my yoga instructor, “Where there is love there is no fear, where there is no fear there is no anger” (1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love because fear has to do with punishment). The good news is if you are one of those stray dogs who hurt people you can learn new skills or behaviors to find inside peace which will reflect in the outside. I am talking to teachers and students specially.
I don’t have any power. I lost it. I lost the power to punish and walk away during hard situations. I lost the power to hurt and feel hurt. I think of everything God has done for me. How he has stopped my tears on the palm of His hand uncountable times. My dog’s face gives me encouragement as well. I don’t yell at him anymore. If he pees on the carpet it is surely my fault. If my students curse, fight, or bully, I don’t lash back at them and walk away. In my mind I caress them behind their ears, which softens my expression, and they come back to push their head under my hand.
A new school year has come and I am in the same place physically, but thank God, not emotionally. We have a new Principal, Dr. Barnes-Jones. I feel overwhelmed with all the meetings and information received; however I can say with a big grin on my face that I have hope. We are being trained to change through the No-Nonsense Nurturing Approach. We have a new set of rules that create a CONSISTENT, STRUCTURE, PREDICTABLE environment, and yeah, school already feels different ☺
I come from Bogota, Colombia, and it took one man, one crazy man with a vision to make us believe we could be better. The city and its inhabitants had the potential and the responsibility to be better. Like everything, it takes a leader to move a multitude. For us cachacos (the way they call people from Bogota), it was that crazy Major Antanas Mockus. It sounds funny now but he and Enrique Peñalosa, his sidekick, actually taught us to put the trash in the trash cans, to pick up our dogs mess, to obey the street signs, to be careful with our belongings, to stop jaywalking, to RESPECT our city and the people we shared it with.
It is said that happiness comes within. That is partially true. The environment (work, friends, co-workers) play an important part on your wellness. I used to feel miserable at work and be a whole different persona at home. I didn’t even wear make up and wore my less attractive clothes to come to school because “they didn’t deserve” to see my beautiful side. Now we have a new leader. Dr. Barnes-Jones is strong but soft, she likes to sing, she has shared her story with us, and through her I have been able to see myself. Beautiful. Confident. Strong. Determined. Committed. I found a purpose where I felt helplessness. God is my Shepperd, I will not fear.
Keep the faith. Every morning is only the beginning.
Yours honestly, truly, and lovingly,
Kurma Murrain ♥