Don’t React in the Classroom 

The next lesson in not reacting happened with a boy in my classroom.

 

A parent emailed me and told me that her son, we’ll call him Louis, was on an Individual Education Plan (an education plan specifically designed for a child by his education team) and struggled in cello class. She said that her son felt he was behind everyone else in my class and that he felt singled out by me. I guess he felt picked on. The parent said she didn’t know if this were true or not and that she was not there to see it. She also said that she and her husband had had enough of the crying fits that would go on the night before cello class. So she was returning the cello and thanked me for everything I had done for her son.

 

I took this in as blame. Again, I wanted to react. All of Juliet’s Codependency Patterns and Feelings as listed earlier were hard at work, hammering away at me.

 

Louis had come in for his group cello class earlier on the day that I received his mother’s email. He was upset and on edge when he walked in the room. He remained that way for the whole lesson, despite my efforts to appease him, praise him, and create a comfortable, positive environment. He left upset as well. I was upset by this and was doubly upset when I received his mother’s email.

 

Once again, the old Juliet wanted to email that parent, get in front of the student, get on my knees, and beg for forgiveness. But I didn’t do that. I took a time-out. I gave it to God and “seasoned” it overnight. Seasoning is a Quaker term that basically means to give the issue at hand over to God for a length of time to see what He wants to do about it. So that’s what I did.

 

Again, I started by chanting my mantras:

  • Time out!
  • I will not react.
  • I will wait for God’s guidance.

 

I repeated them over and over.

 

I went upstairs to my altar and contacted my inner child, inner teen, and Christ. In short, I gave the situation to my team (the child, teen, and Christ), and they told me what they wanted me to do. Then I spent time in prayer about it. I asked Christ to write the email for me. I prayed for Louis.

 

In the middle of the night, I woke up and realized that God was teaching me not to react. That was, once again, my lesson in all of this.

 

Once again I did not react. I did not respond to the email until Monday. I had received the parent’s email on a Friday afternoon. (I’ve noticed that I have been getting emails on Friday afternoons as tests and lessons in not reacting.)
When I did email the parent, it was a nice, balanced, truthful email. I have not heard from her.

 

I did not react. I passed the test.

 

 

Then I gave myself a pep talk:

  • I’m human.
  • I make mistakes
  • If I’m wrong, I promptly admit it.
  • I apologize.
  • I’m doing the best I can.
  • I have to let it go because I’m doing the best I can.
  • I’m not responsible for their feelings.
  • I have feelings too, I’m human.
  • I have to turn it over, every time.

 

The next Thursday, after I had responded to his mother’s email, I saw Louis in the hallway and made amends to him.

“I’m so sorry if you felt like I singled you out,” I told him. “I had no idea you felt that way and did not intend to do that. I think you were doing fine in class and were keeping up with everyone just fine. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay,” he said, looking in my eyes.

“Well, I just wanted to say I’m sorry and if you ever want to come back, you’re more than welcome.”

 

“Okay, thank you.”

 

He was looking into my eyes and I felt like he was really sincere.

 

These lessons are very, very painful. But they must be necessary or God wouldn’t keep giving them to me. Either I will pass the test or I won’t. I want to pass the test. I’m trying hard to pass the test. In fact, I’m sure God will keep giving me the test until I pass it.

 

Then I realized that I needed to go back to my mantras and processes for life that I outlined in my first book.

Using the process I described in my first book, I helped myself heal.
In Everything Is My Fault, this process is included in “Juliet’s Mantras,” in a bulleted list, and for this occasion, I will plug in some comments related to the situation with the student I am calling Louis (note: not all the mantras are listed here):

 

  • It’s not my fault.
  • This has nothing to do with me. This is about his process, not mine.
  • Go do something that makes you happy.
  • Work on your tunes.
  • I’m doing the best I can in this moment to nurture my career and myself.
  • When I’m feeling emotional, I can make an excuse and walk around the school, or at least leave the room and breathe in and out.
  • I am clear and upfront in my communication.
  • Be patient.
  • Take care of yourself.
  • Get out with your woman friends.
  • I do things because I want to make myself happy, not to gain approval from someone else.
  • I need boundaries with all folks, especially students and parents.
  • What is the karmic opportunity here? What can I learn from this?
    • I’m not in charge here.
    • Stay in the moment.
    • This is not my problem to fix.[1]

 

I then realized that the issue here may be the inner teen and what she’s going through with this. Then I did some inner teen work, similar to the work described in “The Inner Child and Doris” section of “Recovery and the Inner Child.”

 

Later that week I ran into a fellow teaching colleague from another district who gave me some much needed advice on getting the necessary information to meet the needs of all of the students in my classroom. She also gave me some helpful tips on contacting parents right away when things happen in the classroom, to circumvent the storytelling that can happen after the child gets home. This was great advice.

 

Then I wrote my gratitude poem that is in the front of this book. That is me taking my gratitude list one step further. That is me in recovery. Everything that happens is for my recovery.

 

Let’s plug Processes One and Two into my “Don’t React in the Classroom” Incident.

 

We’ll start with Process One:

 

  1. I consciously breathe in and out slowly. Breathing with awareness brings me back to the present moment. It gives me an automatic time-out.
  2. I become aware of what I’m doing.
  3. I ask myself, What’s going on in my body, feelings, and brain?

Body: Tense, heart-racing, sweating, starting to panic

Feelings: I am bad, I hurt someone, blaming myself, shame, hurt, panicked like I have to fix it

Brain: My brain says I am a bad teacher and I hurt this child. That it is my fault that he is quitting and I need to do better and be more perfect.

  1. If possible, I write down the information and journal about how I’m feeling.

I feel sad, like I’m bad, shame, I hurt, panicked like I have to fix it

  1. I pray for the willingness to accept the situation and information as it is. Dear God, help me to be willing to accept the situation with Louis as it is.
  2. I pray for acceptance of the situation. Dear God, help me to accept the situation with Louis as it is. Heal me, Lord.
  3. I admit powerlessness over said problem. Dear God, I am powerless over Louis and his future in my class.
  4. Then I become willing to feel my feelings. I feel sad, bad, shameful. I’m feeling panic too, like I have to go fix Louis and save him from hurting.
  5. I pray for God to help me with the pain I feel inside. Dear God, heal me from this pain I feel inside.
  6. I put a note in my God Box about it.
  7. Where can I put my mind that is not on this? I go do something else.
  8. The something else lately has been me playing music on my violin, viola, cello, and guitar when I feel despair coming on or am in the middle of the CoDA crazies. Playing music gets me relaxed, calm, breathing, and balanced. In the later section titled “Music for Recovery (The Healing Power of Music),” I discuss the genres of music I play in more detail.
  9. I have to remember that God doesn’t make junk. I am a beloved child of God just the way I am. I don’t have to do anything to be okay. I am okay just because I’m me. I must never forget that. I am a worthwhile person just because I exist.
  10. From now on, I will try and get the IEPs of my students ahead of time so I am better prepared to meet their needs. I will also wait before responding to parents and students. I will not react. I will pray and give it to God too. He will help.
  11. Even if I am not able get my hands on an IEP or by accident react to a student instead of waiting, I am still okay. I’m still a good person. I am a beloved child of God. I can always talk to God about it. He’ll help me.
  12. Take myself to Tanglewood: I take myself there in my mind. If I’m not near my Tanglewood picture, I use my cross ring as an anchor to remind myself to go to Tanglewood in my mind. It helps me relax.

 

 

After I go through Process One, I proceed to Process Two — Make a Plan:

 

  1. I recheck my anxiety level. How am I feeling? Better, less sad, less panicked, more relaxed
  2. I breathe big and deep.
  3. What is the information? Louis is quitting and his mother says he feels singled out.
  4. What are my choices? I can sit here and obsess and feel awful about myself, or I can realize I’ve done the best I can in all that I’ve done about the situation and let it go.
  5. I hold the outcome in the Light of God, give thanks, and visualize what I want. Dear God, I give you Louis and the situation with cello class to the highest good of all involved. Thank you God for taking this off my plate and fixing it for me. I imagine Louis happy and living his life.
  6. I take action in the direction of the choices I’ve made. If needed, I plan my additional steps. I’ve done all I can. I give this to God and let it go.
  7. I affirm my choice and accept it. I’ve done all I can. I give this to God and let it go.
  8. I give it to God by either placing my problem in an imaginary goblet and offering it up to God with arms outstretched or by getting on my hands and knees and giving it to Him. Dear God, here I give you Louis and cello class and his mother to the highest good of all involved. May your will be done.
  9. I ask myself, Where could I put my mind that’s not on this?
  10. I go play my instruments, write a song, work on my book, or do some painting.
  11. I thank God.

 

The critical first step that has helped me the most in recovering from being a reactionary is chanting my mantras:

 

  • Time out!
  • I will not react.
  • I will wait for God’s guidance.

 

Then I follow my processes. This works for me and I am recovering. Thank you God for these lessons and this progress.

 

[1] Wright, Juliet. Everything Is My Fault. Pownal, VT: Hidden Angel Publishing, page 286.

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