Connections bring joy

I am in awe of this simple truth, as Humans we need to connect.

Like everything in the mindfulness literature, this idea is so simple…and yet people walk around every day missing the point.

As teachers (if you are not a teacher keep reading because this type of connecting applies to all of humanity) we have this unique and amazing opportunity to truly connect with little beams of inspiration.

To really see our students.  To really hear our students.  To connect at a physiological level and to turn towards students rather than away… Each and every time we connect with students… we give joy and we get joy….

Ok so here is my story- I have always loved teaching and became a teacher to inspire and encourage students to succeed.  AND in my twenty years as a classroom teacher I have definitely connected with many students…some of the time.  Yes, I said it, I connected sometimes…if the day was right for me.  I missed endless opportunities to truly see my students…and now with mindfulness I am aware that there are many moments I missed that I will never again be privileged to experience.

I had an AHA moment recently which I recently shared with participants in a workshop I was presenting on mindfulness in education…. and I must share it here.

This all came to fruition after an experience I had as a mother this year.  My daughter Hallie (7th grade) was working on a poster for her class.  It was a competition of sorts and a group activity- but her job in the task was to create the poster.  She really wanted to win and poured her heart and mind into creating this poster.  It was filled with quotes and research, colorful, neat, glittered and modge podged.  She was so proud of her efforts and said at least ten times how she was so proud of her work and knew the teacher would be impressed.  So the day came for the big competition…and her group did not win although she did get an A on the poster.  She explained the bad news and the good news…and then I asked her what the teacher said… and the reply was that the teacher had not noticed.  I could see her little light fade right in front of me.  And at that moment I realized how many posters I had not noticed in my class.

This teacher that I am talking about is one of the best teachers I have ever known in my teaching career.  She is intelligent, kind, and loves teaching and is an inspirational role model to her students.  She connects with her students as is both of my childrens’ favorite teacher.  And she missed a vital moment to connect with my child.

This opened my eyes.  and this was my AHA moment….

Children want us to connect.  Children want us to engage.  Children just want to be seen.

I realized that there were endless opportunities to connect with my students and after this moment I could not look away.

So I tried it, I went to school and I connected.

From this day on I saw each and every student…and now I could not un-see.  It was not only easier than I anticipated it was the most beautiful shift in my classroom…. it was if each child in my class was a beautiful flower and I was their to tend to the garden’s needs.  I pulled weeds, I made sure they had sun shine and sometimes shelter from the storm.

This connection fills me.  The days I am stressed from things outside of the classroom were more challenging, but then on those days my worries faded away as I filled my attention and intention on the individual needs of my students.

Of course, I have always been an attentive teacher…but this is a beautiful depth of connection that was there all along.  Genuine support.  Genuine empathy, Genuine Joy.

This weekend I was watching Tony Robbins Not my Guru on Netflix.  There it was the example of the power of teacher connections.

This multi-millionaire, self-esteem coach had made millions of dollars inspiring people to live better more full lives.  About an hour or so into the movie, Robbins shares how it all began.  In his story Robbins tells about how he came from a tough life and was living day to day on a rough road….  then one day a teacher’s connection shifted his entire life path.  This teacher pulled Robbins aside and said something to the extent of, I see you Tony.  I get you.  He handed him a poem that spoke deeply to Robbins and then the teacher offered some advice on which way Robbins should go forward.  The story, below, brought tears to my eyes.  This whole, huge Tony Robbins movement started with a TEACHER CONNECTING to his student.

Connections with our entire nervous system means we are fully present.

When we are fully present we not only get joy but we give joy.

We as humans are biologically made to be social and to connect with each-other.

There are may different terms for this connection.

Daniel Siegel, in his book BRAINSTORM, writes about attunement.  He tells the readers that relationships can be defined as the sharing of information about the mind itself. He continues, “…when you are interested in what is going on within the sea inside your friend, you are attuning to her inner life.  That attunement is how you create a mindsight map of her inside you.  And that is the essential aspect of empathy.”

UCLA professor Matthew Lieberman in his book, “Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect tells readers that the Brain is designed, biologically to be social.

The research proves what we as humans know and we as teachers must never forget.  We are here to connect…and in those connections comes true joy.

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