One Sunflower

namaste

on June 2, 2010

This is a familiar greeting for those of you who practice yoga.  I don’t – although I probably should – it’s one of those things on my bucket list. 

A word from another country, culture, and spiritual practice beyond my personal experience and a word, like so many, that doesn’t translate perfectly into English – which is a loaded statement.   I like the translation that says something like – Namaste: a greeting,  the light within me honors the light within you.

I remember the first time I heard this word the speaker held their hands together as in prayer and bowed to me.  The whole experience left me feeling like an alien in a strange land and I was uncomfortable.  But after a few years of bumping into this word in a variety of settings and rolling it around on my tongue a few times, I have come to welcome it into my vocabulary – not my personal vernacular – yet – but I value the essence of what this word communicates.

I love it when I have relationships where I can truly say “Namaste” and mean it.  It is truly a pleasure when relationships produce this glow of recognizing a person’s value in my life and the value of their life in the world.  There are people I work with on a daily basis that consistently create a state of “namaste” for me and I feel honored by their gifts.

It is this experience of valuing a person that makes it possible for me to have meaningful, and sometimes difficult, conversations with the families of my students.  I think my own parents would be surprised to see me in these conversations because I was the kid that tried to ameliorate situations between my siblings, shied away from stress, and often capitulated to stubborn friends.  But two things happened to me that have made me stronger in challenging situations.  One, having my own children, especially my experience of having a child with special needs.  My experience with my son helped me realize that the parents of my students want as much information about their children as possible and often, I am a source of information.  The second experience that impacted me was doing some work with my church about communicating assertively. For me, this means communicating in a way that honors the other person for who they are and really paying attention.

In conferencing with the families of my students I often find myself face to face with situations that I could not have handled when I was a young teacher.  Conversations that come to mind are those where I’ve had to suggest to a family that their child needs further evaluation because he/she might have special needs, that a 5 year old may not be developmentally ready for kindergarten, that district boundaries mean a family living across the street from the boundary line isn’t going to be able to enroll their child in preschool, that a child needs counseling – and oh, by the way, are you getting counseling for yourself as well?

Every time  I’ve engaged in these challenging discussions, (except the one about district boundaries), I’ve experienced a sense of relief from the participants that I’ve addressed a fear or concern these people have and that I am willing and able to be a partner in their child’s welfare.  I think by modeling this willingness to be present in the messiness of life, I am really helping these people and creating an atmosphere of namaste. 

We are involved in the hardest work of our lives – raising children – and we’re only going to be able to do it by helping each other truly find our best selves in the process.

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4 responses to “namaste

  1. Juliann says:

    I remember those early years of teaching, before I had kids and then the ah ha moment years later when I was talking to a parent and realized that I understood their struggle because I had been there. I try very hard to walk alongside my teachers when they are engaged in these conversations with families, especially my younger teachers.

    • onesunflower says:

      Your teachers are lucky to have you. Our work with families is sometimes the hardest to support – there aren’t textbooks for developmentally appropriate conversations with parents!

  2. Ms Tracy says:

    What a beautiful commentary on a teacher’s relationship with the home families! It is sometimes very hard to find the words for those challenging conversations, isn’t it? But if we enter those moments with a child’s best interest at heart and with the intent to honor the adults across the table, true growth almost always follows.

    • onesunflower says:

      Thank you Ms. Tracy – and it was wonderful to find your blog. Why am I not surprised you teach in the south! I had a southern student once who added Ms. to my name.

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