Why This Work Matters: My Path to True North
Like every new graduate with a teaching degree, I left college excited to instill my wisdom and spread my enthusiasm for learning. I had this picture in my mind of a class full of children anxiously awaiting to absorb my knowledge and we would all eagerly share the same zest for challenges and bask in the glory of our resiliency and pat each others’ backs in admiration of our perseverance and learning would be everywhere. And learning was everywhere. But it looked much, much different than my illusion. Because life was happening. These kids were eager. They were challenged. And they were confused. They were sad, pleasing, mistrusting, loving, sensitive, and they were hurting. I started to realize that while I did like the instruction piece of teaching, forming relationships and serving as a sounding board for these kids and their voices that so desperately needed to be heard was an area in which I was really needed. Through these relationships and observations, I quickly understood that there were monumental barriers stubbornly standing in the way of the full academic vision with which educators so diligently surround their lessons.
But, back to the learning. Learning was everywhere. My students were locked in; engaged with such steadfast intensity that made teachers in my building incredibly envious. But it made me envious too. Because (sigh) it wasn’t my lessons or instruction that captivated them — it was the lessons from their news feeds, media consumption, and attitudes of peers and family in their immediate world. Lessons on what to do to feel included, how to look to feel loved, and what they needed to change about themselves to be considered. Centered around the most profitable industry (an industry that makes $40 billion a year and doesn’t waver in the midst of a recession) in our society, this curriculum really is a doozy. The media knows how to plan lessons – they know how to make. their. students. learn. And their “test results” reflect a high-proficiency level (as researched by TODAY/AOL Ideal to Real Body Image Survey, 2014):
- 78% of teen girls have negative thoughts about themselves weekly.
- 72% of teen girls say they worry about their appearance every day (56% of teen boys say they worry about their appearance regularly).
- One-half of teen girls think a negative thought about the way they look more often than they think a positive thought.
Underneath the exterior, teens and adolescents feel far less than adequate. Their insecurities are rooted deep in the core of their being, which spills out to all aspects of life — including the classroom.
- Adolescents aged 14-17 years who perceived themselves as overweight (not actual overweight) had a lower academic performance (Florin, Shults, & Stettler 2011).
- 31% of adolescents in the United Kingdom do not engage in classroom debate for fear of drawing attention to their appearance and 20% say they stay away from the class on days they lack confidence about their appearance (Lovegrove & Rumsey, 2004).
Growing up, I was the teen included in these statistics. As an adult, I was the teacher witnessing these statistics. And, recently, I am the parent terrified by these statistics.
It makes me think: does all of the time spent consumed by appearance, the body, and food make our lives more full? Do these preoccupations bring you closer to those in your life? Make you a better parent, employee, spouse, friend, sibling? After all of the energy used worrying and feeling guilty and feeling shameful, what energy is left to spend? What are those important to you hearing, watching, imitating? Finding your True North means alleviating the expectations society places on you, which you in turn place on yourself. Your North relieves you from the external noise and requires you to sit, stop, and learn from the best teacher there is — you.
If you are a parent, teacher, health care professional, or any adult who wants to learn more about True North and my work, please go to www.find-truenorth.com to check out available training and learning opportunities.
You are not your body,