"Most people are so stuck in their egos that everything revolves around me, me, and more me. But if you want to be rich in the truest sense of the word, it can’t only be about you. It has to include adding value to other people’s lives."
~T. Harv Eker~
It's no secret to those who know me that I have always loved Oprah. Not Oprah herself, necessarily, but the lifework she has accomplished to help so many others in so many ways.
So when I watched the recent "Life Class" on webcast Monday evening via Facebook about the "ego," it made me think of how I should best approach parent/teacher conferences, both as a teacher and a parent.
First off, I have learned a lot in the past 20 years of being in education. It used to be important to me that my students' parents thought of me as a great teacher. Yes, it would still be nice for my parents to be assured that their child is getting a great teacher, but it's more important for me to focus on what I need to do to teach each and every student in my class.
I may be responsible for teaching content but the truth is, I teach children first and they have many different learning styles and needs. That is when ego cannot be an effective part of teaching. If I am too focused on how good I may look, I am then not focused on the heart of the matter, which is relinquishing the need to control or any fantasies of kudos on my back and focus instead on what teaching strategies best help each child understand and apply skills needed to learn.
Additionally, I'm not big on earning golden stars, stickers on charts, or raffle tickets for prizes for academic gains. It's not that I'm totally against incentives and positive reinforcement. For example, my students want a "class pet" so I am giving them an opportunity to earn that responsibility by showing responsibility (handing in homework on time and being ready to learn after a transition song.)
I worry about rewarding children for doing things I expect them to do, like behave in a respectful manner. I don't want to train students to perform for me. I want students to find that intrinsic motivation and desire to do well because it makes them feel good to be a part of a productive community.
Not an easy task all the time, but as Oprah's life class pointed out, we are a society addicted to what people think of us and are in great need of getting constant pats on our backs to move forward. So, in addition to teaching students academics, I hope to help them discover that ability to tune out others' opinions and increase self awareness and acceptance — listening to their own hearts and minds — while also learning to coexist and help each other in a way that is mutually beneficial.
Also as a teacher and parent (and partner and friend...) I need to listen more. With ego, someone must always win or lose. Be "on top of their game," or not. Although there is a place for competition and some like to compete, you don't always have to be there when trying to learn new things. My familiar saying in my classroom is you may not know something YET, to suggest that if you'd like to know, you have the ability to learn it, should you choose.
As a parent, I need to remember that - in turn - when I am hearing about my sons' progress (I have both a third grader and sophomore in high school) that I am hearing about their journey and their successes and needs for improvement - though both equally important - is their journey and not mine. It's finding that balance of parenting and helping your child discover whether they are making decisions because it's the most meaningful for them or to impress or please me?
Ego is not an easy thing to let go of. To deny it's existence is to deny your own existence. But it certainly has helped me navigate my feelings about conferences away from what I am doing and has helped me to focus on helping my students and my sons move forward in discovering their true potential.