Connecting With Myself

For eight years I have chased down all of the knowledge that I could about my chosen field: early childhood education. I have an impressive library of education themed books, some of which I haven’t even cracked open yet. I also have a huge Amazon wish list of even more books that I would like to own. To me, knowledge makes the difference between a good teacher and a great teacher. I have used my classroom as a way to try out ideas and find out what works and what doesn’t, and I have counted myself lucky that I have worked in environments that celebrated that rather than tried to stifle it. And I have used this blog as a place to chronicle the journey as I have gone through many different phases in my teaching career.

Through most of these years the pace I had set for myself was frantic: I was constantly stressed out and worried about doing well, learning enough. I even used my vacation a few years ago to go to a conference. I wouldn’t trade the experience of that conference for anything in the world, but as I sit here today and look at all of that hectic energy I have to ask myself, “How did I do all of that? And more importantly, why?” Because just in the past month my demeanor has become a lot calmer. I still have all of the books, and the desire for knowledge is still strong. But the frantic pace is gone. The desire for the frantic pace is gone. At least for now.

I remember when school would let out for the semester and I would try to dive back into the independent research that I had been doing. It never worked. It seemed like my mind needed a little bit of down-time from the craziness that was school before it could focus on anything else. I learned to take that time to catch up on some shows that I hadn’t seen in a while, or catch up on my house cleaning, or play some video games that I hadn’t had time for. After a month or so my brain would be ready to tackle the books and the theories and the blogging and the frantic out-of-school activities that I had for myself.

I haven’t been in school since May, and I left the job that was causing me all sorts of stress in September. In October I took the first real vacation that I’ve had in years – I didn’t do any work at all during that vacation. I had planned to do some work, but all I really needed was the down time. My long Thanksgiving weekend was spent playing some mindless singing monster game that my daughter wanted me to get into with her, along with some other video games. I read some books, but not the technical, early childhood based books that I have glutted myself on for so long. I’ve spent a lot of time connecting with myself. Teaching can leave you feeling so stressed out because you are constantly taking care of others. There have been some days when I have threatened to change my name because I have been so tired of hearing it when children need something from me! I have tried to reconnect with me and feel myself here. For so long I have felt like just a brain – that may sound funny, but when your primary purpose is to educate yourself and gain knowledge, it can feel like the only part of you that matters is your brain. You forget that you are a person and you have other needs and wants and hopes and dreams that may exist outside of the classroom or the books on your bookshelf.

I thought that when I got my degree things would change. I thought I would have a little more credibility in the field and be taken seriously as a teacher. I was wrong. The degree has turned out to be just another piece of paper, and that fact has made it hard for me to justify going back to school to get a higher degree. Especially since I have all of this knowledge built up from all of my own work that I have been doing. Credibility comes from action, not from a piece of paper. When I take myself seriously, I am taken seriously as a teacher. I have to recognize that the education that I received is for myself and not for everyone around me. And I will continue to educate myself, but because I am recognizing that my education is for me and not for everyone else I can choose what I want to educate myself about. I can take charge of my own education.

But enough about education and school. This post is about connecting with myself and recognizing that I am more than just the brain that I have been filling with knowledge. It is time for me to reconnect with myself first of all, and all of the things out there that I want to learn about. There is an entire world out there to explore, and only one life to explore it in.

In my last post I talked a lot about values and defining what your values are. The last time I sat down and defined my values it was for my classroom. I defined my purpose as Exploring Natural Curiosity, but that purpose wasn’t for me; it was for the children that I had in the class. I am naturally curious about a lot of things, and I think that we all are. Throughout our lives we tend to say, “I want to do x, y, and z,” but then we never actually go out and do it. We get caught up in jobs and life and that dream passes us by. And then we grow old and wish that we had done those things that we said that we wanted to do. It is time to reconnect with our selves and the passion that lives within us for life.

Connect With Your Values

Values are beliefs about life that people hold. These beliefs cause people to act certain ways consistently. The values that you hold affect your teaching style, as well as how you interact with students. Identifying your values can help you focus your energy and your passion. Creating focus can help you illuminate goals that you want to pursue for your classroom and get you on the right track to obtaining those goals. When I defined my core values several years ago I found that creativity and natural curiosity were very important to me. My mission became finding ways to bring creativity out and allow for the children to satisfy their natural curiosity in safe, productive ways. Identifying and defining these values opened up a whole new world when it came to communicating with children and providing them with unique, creative learning opportunities.

So how about you? What are the values that are important to you? How do you define them?

The first step to defining your values is to define who you are at your best, so take a moment and think about who you are when you are at your best.

Now think of someone that you deeply respect. What are three qualities that this person possesses that you admire the most?

Now you are going to define your values. It takes about five core values to create a foundation for a great teaching practice. Pick your five from the list below:

Authenticity Happiness Balance
Harmony Caring Enthusiasm
Joyfulness Justice Flexibility
Cooperation Courtesy Honor
Beauty Commitment Health
Compassion Honesty Humor
Integrity Courage Reliability
Love Orderliness Creativity
Empathy Kindness Knowledge
Excellence Loyalty Openness
Fairness Faith Perseverance
Respect Family Peacefulness
Truthfulness Self-Discipline Tolerance
Freedom Friendship Responsibility
Security Generosity Genuineness
Service. Serenity Self-care
Gratitude Patience Trust
Prayerfulness Reverence Mercy
Self-Expression Gentleness Bravery
Discovery Energy Community
Community Connection Practicality
Individuality Fearlessness Imagination
Control Depth Encouragement
Challenge Calmness Serenity
Playfulness Change Strength
Gratitude

After choosing five core values, can you identify the one that is the most important to you?

When you have decided which value is the most important to you, it is time to make it you yours – you need to own it! Explore this value and what it has to offer. Find out what the definition of the word is, and look up quotes from people who have talked about your value. Doing this will help bring this value into greater focus in your mind, and will help make your path clear. After you have done some research into your value, write down what your value means to you and why it is important to you. Really take the time to identify with this core value, because this will become the foundation for the next section in the R.E.S.P.E.C.T.ful Classroom Management series.