In her book The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children, Dr. Shefali Tsabary states, “Only to the degree we as parents are attuned to our own being will we know how to help our children attune themselves to their unique essence.” In my book Enlightened Teaching: Elevating Through Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, the chapter "Conscious Teaching" relates how teaching and parenting are similar.
In her work, Dr. Tsabary posed several questions to parents that I asked myself during some of the most trying moments and challenging student behaviors during my teaching experience. Some of those questions include the following, which are excerpts from my books:
How can I parent (teach) with an awareness of what they truly need from me, and thus become the parent (teacher) they deserve to have?
How can I rise above my own fear of change and transform myself to meet the requirements of my child’s (students’) spirit?
Dare I go against the stream and parent (teach) from a place where the inner life is valued far more than the external?
Do I recognize every aspect of my parenting (teaching) as a call to my higher evolution?
Teaching, like parenting, is a calling the requires us to grow and show up every day in a new way. Another excerpt from the book, actually words of wisdom from Dr. Tsabary, always gave me something to ponder as a teacher and a parent, ".... children are masterminds, unknowingly to them, at evoking unconscious emotional wounds. Unconscious wounds are buried emotions adults need to be explore. Exploring those emotional wounds allow us to be effective in becoming our best possible selves to parent our children. The same holds true for teachers and those who work with developing our youth."
Conscious teaching requires teachers to go to a much higher place than teacher education programs prepare us for. This higher calling is an exchange between students and teachers that elevate both to a higher place of compassion and understanding. Students are masterminds at triggering emotions in us; some of those emotions include fear, love, hate, acceptance, unworthiness, belonging, and empowerment. Students are unaware of the fact their actions and/or words have as much power over us as they do. Moreover, those masterminds use those same ingenious moves to sabotage their academic achievement and our educational progress.
Being mindful of everything that is going on in the classroom puts us in a more proactive position versus a reactive position. When we become astute to the games children play on us and things that are triggers in them that trigger us, we give them power by reminding them of their gifts and talents that are being directed on a nonproductive task, i.e. classroom disruption or distraction. Complementing them on what they could be gaining and offering us by participating in our game plan ends many of the power struggles that disrupt learning environments.
Working with my children at home gave me a greater understanding of my students because they played the same games but in a different environment. I realized that whenever they did not want to complete a chore or get on the same page as I, they did or said something that was a trigger in me. Those triggers either evoked fear, grief, love, or longing in me. It took a few years for me to realize how I was being played at home and at school. Once I became more conscious of what was going on in my students and children, I began to be more mindful and proactive to share power with instead of power over.
Dr. Tsabary said, “While we believe we hold the power to raise our children, the reality is that our children hold the power to raise us into the parents they need us to become.” This statement was a truth that was constantly confronting me at work and at home. My students were raising me to be the teacher they needed and the parent my children needed; while at home, my children were raising me to be the parent they needed and the teacher my students needed.
A final excerpt from Enlightened Teaching: Elevating Through Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs are once again words of wisdom from Dr. Tsabary. "Dr. Tsabary says that challenging children come into the lives of adults to make them aware of how much growth the adult still needs to do. I found this was true for me as a teacher. I grew by leaps and bounds intellectually and spiritually over the past ten years of my teaching careers." I ended my teaching career with the same question I pondered for over a decade; exacting what is the main difference between being a teacher and being a parent? They both elevated me to become a better person for the children in my life.