This statement is true by defintion, even if it is just because I say so. Whatever I think or perceive about something drives how I react to it. You can tell me I am misinterpreting; you can try to get me to see it your way; you can call me silly, tell me I am overreacting; none of that matters. In fact, that is your perspective, and I won’t bother trying to change it.
While this might sound like a cop-out or a platitude, understanding this actually opens me up to being more calm and accepting of other people’s opinons on most topics (most, not all- I never claimed to be Gandhi-like). If someone truly, deeply believes what they think, then it will be nearly impossible to change their minds for them; especially if it is based on past experience or effects them emotionally. This is certainly evident when you read the news. It’s not always a good truth, and sometimes can lead to really bad things. That doesn’t change the facts. I am not saying people don’t change their perspectives in the face of new evidence or experiences. In fact, if you are “green and growing” then your ideas and opinions should change as you see or hear something new. I am saying that I can’t change your mind by talking at you, although maybe I can help you grow by showing you something. Maybe.
You might have figured out that I am somewhat of an opinionated person. I certainly am a thought-full person who is not shy about sharing her views. I try not to judge others based on my opinions; but again, no Gandhi complex here. I’m working on that. The way this plays out in my everyday life leads to some interesting conversations. It also leads to that social rule: “Do not discuss politics or baseball at a party.” Especially in New York.
Some things I believe (and don’t even waste energy trying to talk me out of them):
- Children do better when there is a routine they can rely on. They need boundaries to feel safe so they can focus on the business of learning about the world and of growing and becoming. When they drive you crazy breaking rules, they are really testing you to make sure you mean what you say. You do them no favors when you give in. In fact, you make them feel insecure and cause them anxiety. Discipline that calmly teaches kids how to live as part of a society while getting their needs met (not wants, needs) is our job as parents and teachers. I didn’t say it was easy, but they will thank us later.
- Almost everyone has a gift or talent that, if nurtured, will lead to a productive, constructive, important place in our world. The artist is as important as the firefighter or the small business owner or the stay-at-home parent. We each have a potential that needs guidance to blossom. But if this happens, look out! The result is a fully-actualized human being who shines in her or his chosen endeavors, which has a positive ripple effect on others. Believing this makes my job as a teacher both more challenging and more rewarding. The child who cannot sit still to successfully complete seatwork but demonstrates leadership qualities needs different coaching than the avid reader; the child who can solve any math problem I can throw at her needs something different than the artist who, at nine, can draw better than I ever could. The boy who just won’t stop drumming rhythmically on every surface is different than the boy who builds amazing constructs with Legos. This also leads to very interesting parent-teacher conferences.
- Traveling opens you up as a person. It leads to new experiences and allows you to gain new perspectives on everything. My brother-in-law is a good example of this. When we first met, he had never really been outside his part of the world, the American mid-west. We argued about anything and everything that was meaningful-politics, racism, women’s roles, religion. At times it really got ugly, and it went on for years. Then he got a job that required him to travel around the world. He met people with vastly different lives; he dealt with the red tape of vastly different governments; he lived under vastly different circumstances in each country. After a year or so of this, he came to me and apologized for having been so small-minded. I always knew there was potential there.
- Life is for learning. It is too short to waste spending time doing what other people tell you that you should do. As long as I am not hurting anyone, I can do what I want. Of course, I have to deal with the consequences of my choices. One of my daughters taught me this: “It is better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.” I like that.
I didn’t always know this about perspective, I am okay with admitting this. In fact I was in my thirties when, as I was in the middle of a passionate rage about teaching and children that I was venting on my superintendent, he slapped me in the face with this statement. It shut me up in mid-stream with its bald truth. Funny how a seemingly simple statement can do that.