Today, as I was speaking to a good friend I began talking about my kids or my students. I told her about the young man with the vivacious personality who unexpectedly walked up to me and started talking to me about "coping mechanisms for stress" (his words!). The affable 13 year-old begins his statement with, "Ms. St. Jean, I notice you're stressed," and continues with the advice, "There are some things you can do for that, like prayer, yoga, meditation. You can exercise, go for a run, you know those are all good things to help you relax."
I told my friend about the student who unexpectedly told me, "Ms. St. Jean, when you're upset you blink a lot. That's how we know." As I spoke about my students, I noticed that they do not just notice, they truly see and perceive. They notice what I wear asking, "Do you not like pants? I notice you only wear dresses." "Yeah," chimes in another, "But we really like the way you dress." "Why don't you wear jeans," inquires another.
The string of questions and comments leads me to conclude that my students are teaching me how to do something I had long forgotten, to be present, to notice, to see the things that are not obvious. In noticing that I don't wear pants often they were activating a very logical and mathematical skill - they were recognizing a pattern and coming to a conclusion.
Middle schoolers pay attention. This may seem counterintuitive to what may appear to many to be the self-absorption of the pre-teen and teenage years. I have discovered in my students young men and women who are very present. Their insightful comments, which at times take me by surprise, their awareness of themselves, and my astonishment at their noticing of me, makes me cognizant of how as an adult I often forget to be present in the moment. It leads me to question, "When did tomorrow become more important than today," and "Am I paying attention to today, or to this moment, if I am so focused on tomorrow?" The answer is I am missing out on the joy and grandeur of today if I am always thinking about tomorrow or what comes next.
My students ability to be present, to feel everything, to see everything, and sometimes (to my chagrin) express everything serve as a reminder that today my job is to just focus on today. Tomorrow is waiting in a space that is not today, in a space that is not in the given moment. If I am not intentional, I will miss seeing and gathering the gifts that today hold. I will miss those magical moments where thoughts, and ideas are being communicated not only through words but actions. I will miss the learning that is taking place in the space of now. I will miss what the kids are teaching me.
Ms. St. Jean
Native New Yorker teaching and living the middle school life, using this site to keep it 100. My students are the embodiment of joy.