The other morning was not so much different than most mornings.
As I was getting ready, one of my children barged through the door to tell me a story about how she had discovered the way her scarf could be used as a rope to close doors. Her story included multiple, "Mom, mom, mom...look!" On top of this, my son was yelling for me to help him find the right clothes to wear, shouting from upstairs that he couldn't find any pants (not that the five pairs in his drawer actually counted). I responded by turning my music up a little louder, pretending like I couldn't hear either of them, while I gently applied mascara.
Then, as we drove to our destination, one child yelled out, "Punch bug, blue" while the other one shouted back, "I already saw that one!" That conversation turned into, as it naturally does, one in which they begged me to answer for them one of their many "why?" questions, which I proceeded to turn back on them with, "Why do you think..." only to be interrupted with an exclamation of "What's that smell!?" Of course, we were going by the water sanitation plant, so the other shouted, "The poopy factory!"
So much noise!
The amazing part to me is that some days, I love these conversations with my children. While other days, I seriously want to crawl into a sound proof box where the only sound I can hear is my own breath. What's the difference? I know it is not my children. I love them, but they are always loud. It's just part of being seven and four.
Maybe the difference is me.
The same was true in my classroom. There were days where a student's joke was funny, and I found myself laughing alongside of my students. On other days, though, I would snap back with a quick, "Quit it! Focus!"
I wonder if the problem is not so much the external noise but the internal noise. Some days, I have a lot more internal space to really listen to others. While, other days, it all just sounds like noise.
So, how do we create more internal space? Well, one way is through the practice of Mindfulness. Yes, this hyper-popular, seemingly "fadish" word actually works. How do I know? Because I practice. On the days, like the other morning, when I feel that my internal space is full and I find myself throwing up my defenses against all outside noise, I take a few moments to breathe, to notice, and to release. I recognize the stress that is within; I acknowledge it. I allow myself moments to deal with the internal noise first. I'm not always perfect at it, which is why I use the word "practice."
As educators, we have so much noise coming at us–our students, our systems, our parents. We often times find ourselves with no more internal space, and then we find ourselves with very little ability to truly listen.
We have to stop this cycle. Our students are longing to be heard. By someone. Anyone.
We have to care for our internal space, so that we can listen to the needs of those around us with a little more clarity and compassion.
Let's stop the noise for just one moment and take a deep breath.