We’re on February break here. It’s not my favorite vacation, honestly. It’s cold here without even a teaser of Spring because of that cold New England wind.  We have all just battled a wicked stomach bug and are now on to the sniffles. Still, it’s a good time to get things done, like taxes, and start some home improvement projects. We bought this condo last year and I have continued to break every venetian blind that came with it. So unless I really wanted to expose my family’s foibles to the neighbors, it was time for some window treatments. We also need a bigger fridge but that will have to wait. Only one big ticket item every few months around here.

It’s also an ideal time to set some intentions in teaching. This passage from this book I’m reading is especially sticking in my brain:

“Not knowing that thoughts are just thoughts can get us into trouble in virtually every aspect of our lives. Knowing it can help us stay out of the traps our own mind sets for us. This is especially true in parenting. For instance, if you have the thought, “Tom is lazy,” you will easily believe that this is true about Tom, rather than just your opinion. Then, every time you see Tom, you will tend to see him as lazy, and not see all the other aspects of who he is that are blocked or filtered out by your strong opinion, for which you may or may not have much evidence. As a consequence, you may only relate to him in a limited way, and his response to how you treat him may only confirm and reinforce your view.

In reality, you have made Tom lazy in your mind, and are not able to see Tom as Tom, for who he is as a whole being. Instead, you see just the one attribute that you are preoccupied with, which may only be true to a degree, if at all, or may change. And this may make it impossible for you to connect with him in any meaningful way because everything you say or do will be “loaded” in a away that he might feel and feel uncomfortable about, and that you might not even recognize as coming from you.”

Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn, Everyday Blessings; The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting

I hope the authors don’t mind me quoting them. I feel like I have a tendency to do develop strong opinions about my students because I work with them so intensely. I develop these opinions about my students and maybe don’t recognize enough that they can change. Especially in middle school, the kids change from day to day. I’d like to try to separate a bit from my opinions about my students and try to really see them. At this time of year, it’s easy to form these strong, often negative, opinions which get reinforced when venting with colleagues. I think the last sentence of the above quote is especially apt. That our strong opinions can make it difficult to connect in a meaningful way because the receiver of our strong opinions will feel uncomfortable but not even be able to name why he or she is feeling that way.

How hard is this though? To separate from our thoughts and opinions about people? Especially because middle school students are constantly trying to aggravate a reaction. But for the rest of this year, I’m going to try. I’m going to try not to form such opinions about my students. To be more open to who they truly are. I think this will refresh my teaching in a way. Make it more positive. It will be my challenge.

Do you have any intentions for your teaching? Or parenting?