Making a commitment to freedom is not as easy or romantic as it sounds, because it requires a transforming type of integrity. To be truly free requires that we first become liberated from the captivity of our own compromise. When we accept lies, pretence, bad behaviour, double standards, and dishonesty from within, we short change our True Self. This pure, uncorrupted person inside us is where our freedom dwells, so letting this person shine requires us to lead ourselves as a hard-working, committed advocate. The pathway to freedom in our outer world can be followed only when we can rely on our inner selves to be true. Without this self respect we hold our Truest Self prisoner to a life that falls short of our natural brilliance.
Many of us get seem to away with letting ourselves down in concession and hypocrisy, but experience has shown me that teachers really can’t. One of the things that I love the most about teaching is that it demands a certain truth. There is no-one on earth who will learn from a liar, and no student that will yield to the influence of someone they don’t trust. Teaching has shown me very clearly that to connect with another in learning requires an absence of all doubt. Even the most fleeting moments of mistrust erode any hope of effectiveness as an educator.
Children can spot a fake a mile away, and that is the best bit for me! I am a terrible liar at the best of times, and I am convinced that in all things, the truth always comes out in the end. I believe that this love of integrity gave me an edge in working with young children, but it was something that I had to work at daily. My success in primary classrooms relied heavily on my taking responsibility to resolve any inconsistency that diluted my True Self, so that I could offer myself openly to the children.
Managing my voice was one area that I worked on diligently. I wanted so much to master the transparency that the kids needed to trust me and learn from me. But this meant actively dealing with the way I thought, spoke and behaved so that I was the sort of person that I was happy for them to see. I am ashamed to say that my volatile upbringing had left me with the ugly inheritance of a short fuse, which, on my worst days, came out in loud, frustrated rebukes and harsh, impatient commands. It was ugly and destructive. It made me stressed, it caused the kids to shut me out in fear and mistrust, and it made me retreat from transparency in shame. This bad angry behaviour was a double standard that I could not compromise on. It had to go. I needed to rewrite the script that directed me when my anger button was pressed. This is something we all need to do, but working with children meant there was no excuses. I needed to deal with this problem fast.
I had practiced renewing my responses in the past, so I had a core set of skills ready. I recognised my temper as a learned behaviour that could be changed. It was not a natural part of my True Self; rather it was masking my innate response of patience, understanding, and grace. My starting point was knowing my own power to change anything about myself, and of course, wanting that change badly enough that I would push through to implement it. Any change in life can only come when we choose to activate the power we have to control ourselves. As we are preparing ourselves for change, we must develop a steely resolve that we will press on as a living embodiment of that power, even when we come up short some days. Perfection is not the magic ingredient, it’s persistence.
With my personal power of self control at the ready, I then got busy altering my response by creating a new script for myself. Some of you will laugh when I say this, but my script for this particular season was reduced to one word: “Whoopsie”. Any time I found myself angry at the kids I would simply say “Whoopsie,” with a gentle lilt in my voice. At first, I needed to force that silly word and that gentle lilt out of my mouth, because my old reaction was so deeply ingrained. But with an expectation of persistence, and not perfection, I continued to try, and slowly my efforts paid off with increasing success.
This change was a really tough one for me because it shone a very humbling spotlight on my pride and my bad habits. However, the outcome has gifted me lasting benefits that I still enjoy to this day. I had managed to rewrite a new script of patience and grace, which allowed me to delete the old one of anger. It also meant that the effects of my anger were removed from those around me. It has been a resounding success. If you ever bump into me down the street and spill your coffee on me, I guarantee you I will look you in the eye and smile with complete understanding, and I will say “Whoopsie” with a gentle lilt in my voice.