Your inner growth is completely dependent upon the realization that the only way to find peace and contentment is to stop thinking about yourself. You’re ready to grow when you finally realize that the “I” who is always talking inside will never be content. It always has a problem with something. Honestly, when was the last time you really had nothing bothering you?
The bottom line is, you will never be free of problems until you are free from the part within that has so many problems.
TEACHERS & SELF-TALK
This quote is meant to help us to see that we have an “inner roommate” living in our minds. This inner roommate is the voice that is constantly talking to you. And I mean constantly….even all night long! Well, it’s time to take a look at what your inner roommate is saying to you because “they” say that 77% of our self-talk is negative (*interesting number, isn’t it). If you are not aware of what your thoughts are up to, they may be creating a lot of self-produced stress!
This is especially true for teachers at this phase of the school year. The New Teacher Center has even mapped out the ATTITUDINAL PHASES of new teachers– and even if you have been teaching for decades, perhaps you notice yourself moving through these phases each year….
Yep– there you are. Right in the thick of “survival” and “disillusionment.” This is where your thoughts, that inner roommate, starts to say very loudly: “I’m not getting anywhere.” “Am I doing this right?” “Did I choose the right profession?” “How can I realistically do all this?” “This is too much for me to handle.”
So this is where we pause and acknowledge the reality of things. You are okay. This is normal. Being a new teacher isn’t easy. You are actually doing a really good job. You are committed. You are dedicated. You are doing the very best you can.
Remember, self-talk isn’t by nature a bad thing. Our self-talk can be positive! (We’ll get to that next session). But more often than not, especially for new teachers at this stage in the game, the self-talk is stress producing. It is stress producing because we believe our negative self-talk. We don’t have to play that game– believing every thought that floats through our minds. Mindfulness helps us with this.
For now, we have to first recognize that if we are gonna talk about teacher stress, we need to talk about the role our self-talk plays in creating a lot (if not the majority) of our stress.
Set your phone timer for 2 minutes. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. When the mind wanders (*cause it will), just come back to feeling the breath. Do that until the timer goes off.
What did you notice your mind up to in that 2 minutes? It was up to something.
Slipping Below the Thoughts
Our September work was dedicated to helping you create space in your perhaps over-worked, over-scheduled, over-extended day to sit still with yourself so you can see that you are not your thoughts. You can slip below them, so to speak, and practice not reacting to them.
Once you sit still with yourself, something happens. You disengage with the thinking mind (which feels amazing), and you settle in to the place where you can WITNESS and OBSERVE the thoughts that come in and out of your consciousness.
Not only that, when you settle into your body through the calming force of your breath, you activate a higher dimension of consciousness. Your thoughts are no longer going 100 mph in a 35 mph zone. They start to slow down enough so that you can feel the space in between them. In that space is your conscious awareness– your PRESENCE! It is in this space that you feel and experience your “you-ness.” This is your greatest asset as a teacher!
Remember- one of the biggest myths to “meditation,” which is simply attempting to direct your attention on an object (we use the breath), is that you are supposed to STOP your thinking. Good luck with that. Not possible and not the point.
The point of our breath work is to slip below the thoughts, if just for a moment, to feel our calm and engage a bigger perspective of things that the constant stream of thinking distorts. The MOMENT you slip into your breath and body, and then notice when thoughts come and go and tug your attention away from the breath, that is the MOMENT you realize that you are NOT your thoughts but the conscious & aware observer of your thoughts.
You also come to experience our second fundamental truth of the mind:
Your Mind Has A Mind of It’s Own
The reason it was suggested that you start to play around with creating breath breaks while teaching, catching your breath when you feel stressed or anxious, or intentionally creating space to be still with yourself by using some cool mindfulness/ breathing apps is to train your brain to NOTICE and OBSERVE non judgmentally.
The more you practice (’cause it takes practice) the more you become aware that your mind has a mind of its own. When you don’t know what you are thinking, you can’t know what is stressing you out and impeding your capacity to be truly present for your students and their needs.
Keep practicing watching your inner roommate and all the talk, talk, talk that goes on. You may just find (like all of us do), that the most profound stress we experience is created in our own minds. Let’s take a look at how your mind stresses you out without you even knowing it!
Which one is your default mode of stress-producing self-talk? Mine is totally catastrophizing. And the more I do it, always unconsciously of course, the better I get at it! That’s why I have to wake up. That’s why I have to catch my breath when I notice the feeling of stress in my body so I can stop this negative thought cycle that I keep hardwiring every time I don’t catch myself.
Top 10 Stress Producing Irrational Beliefs Commonly Held by Teachers
Our unconscious, misguided beliefs can cause lots of havoc and stress in our minds and body. Below is a list of the most common stress-producing irrational beliefs of teachers that feed our negative self-talk.
This is taken from the book, Cultivating Teacher Renewal by Barbara Larrivee (2012), Chapter 7: Modifying Destructive Ways of Thinking (You will have a PDF of this chapter in your inbox awaiting you!)
1. I must have constant approval from students, other teachers, administrators, and parents.
2. Events in my classroom should always go exactly the way I want them to.
3. School should always be fair.
4. Students should not be frustrated.
5. Students who misbehave deserve punishment.
6. There should be no discomfort or frustration at school.
7. I must be in total control of my class at all times.
8. I must find the perfect solution to all problems.
9. I must be a perfect teacher and never make mistakes.
10. It’s easier to avoid problems at school than to face them.
Well, what do you think? Did you laugh out loud ’cause seeing these stated this way seemed so obviously ridiculous? I laughed out loud then thought, “Yeah…I totally think I believe all that on some level!” Yikes.
So NOW WHAT?
That might be what you are wondering at this point. First we start with acknowledging how awesome it is that we have self-awareness, the capacity to be conscious of our thinking mind, and the power to change our thought patterns and our perceptions of things!
It also helps to acknowledge these 4 Guiding Assumptions about our thoughts and self-talk:
NOW, we start to intentionally OBSERVE our thoughts in our teaching and our everyday life. It is like you are playing “I Spy” with your own thinking.
Here is what you are going to be SPYING– YOUR JUDGEMENTS. Why? Because our minds JUDGE all.the.time! And our judgments of things– as right or wrong, should be happening/ shouldn’t be happening– cause a lot of inner stress and mental turmoil.
Here’s the deal– mental turbulence, an agitated, stressed out mind is inefficient! So if you want more efficiency in your teaching, calm your mind.
If you want more presence and an increased ability to not get triggered by the behaviors of your students, notice your mind and your judgments. Chances are good that your reaction to student behavior is less about them and more about your judgment about their behavior. Your ability to positively influence student behavior starts with your own awareness of your behavior.
We start with self-awareness of our behaviors (and awareness of the thoughts that drive them) first so to better understand and respond to the behaviors of others. Remember, your students have inner roommates, too. Their inner roommates are influencing their thoughts and their behaviors.
It is not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling to do yourself.
OCTOBER Practice Tips
#1: Try this when you are teaching: Play “I Spy” with your JUDGMENTS
Our judgments in the classroom tend to be about ourselves, our students, or events. We tend to “should all over” ourselves, our students, and the events in our days.
Notice the body— your emotional (e.g., anger, agitation) or physical (e.g., getting hot, quicker heartbeat) reaction to a situation will be your first clue that you are judging something
Notice the BREATH— take a nice deep cleansing and detoxing breath.
Notice the thought/ judgment— after you notice the physical reaction, see if you can identify the thought/ judgment that triggered it
Our judgments are automatic reactions. You won’t necessarily be able to STOP them. That isn’t the point. The point is to NOTICE them. You will begin to see how in the noticing, they pop like a bubble, and you create the space to choose a less stressful response. Please know, this takes practice. You will never get perfect at it, but you will get so much better at shortening and decreasing the intensity of your reactions to things.
It helps to write down the judgments you notice. This act of jotting them down helps you to deepen your self-awareness and consciousness, but it also allows you to start to see some patterns in those stress-producing thoughts of yours. What we see, we can change.
This is the SPOTTING JUDGMENT handout you received in your inbox. Again- these are just invitations and suggestions to help you cultivate self-awareness.
#2: Try this in your personal life: The A, B, C’s of Letting Go of Judgment
The A, B, C’s of Letting Go of Judgments Meditation