The Truth of Who I Am

"Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free." -Eckhart Tolle

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

on April 9, 2013

I love some mirrors and I hate some mirrors. They are not all the same. I find, post babies….okay, okay even before the excuse of having had babies, that the extra curves in some not-so-desirable places, look different depending on the mirror. Lately, I find myself shopping more and buying more from the stores that know this little trick and install the mirrors that reflect back a more svelte, more cut me and somehow calms down or blurs the extra curves when I am trying on outfits – or even when I am in the vulnerable space between trying on outfits. I find myself looking a little longer and feeling more svelte and cut than when I walked into the fitting room. Really I do. And it doesn’t matter how lovely or comfortable or fancy your fitting room is, if it doesn’t reflect back a svelte  and cut me, furrgetaboutit. That store will not be getting my business. This is the response I want when I’m looking in the mirror:

vanity

It so happens that the stores with the “nice” mirrors that lie to you tend to also be the “nicer” stores with the bigger price tags. Don’t panic, friends who know me, I am a bargain shopper REGARDLESS. Compliment an outfit or pair of shoes or handbag and the first thing out of my mouth is the happy bargain price I paid for it. I have no shame in this. I actually take pride in it. Back to my point, though – mirrors matter. They can affect the lightness or heaviness of the steps I take – whether they are lying to me or not. They can even motivate me to get in a workout to maintain the svelte and cut self I saw in the mirror.

In many ways, we are also mirrors for each other. We are constantly, whether we like it or not, holding up mirrors that allow others to see themselves. And when we see ourselves in the mirrors held up for us, we live up to – or down to – the images we see in them. The mirrors we hold up for each other matter and we must be careful with them. Friends, strangers, family and loved ones alike hold up these mirrors daily. As a parent, I hold up mirrors for each of my children.  Teachers hold up mirrors. Aside from the mirrors that parents hold up for their children, there are few other places in which these mirrors matter more than when teachers hold them up for their students. The mirrors teachers hold up reflect the potential teachers see in their students and every teacher has a different mirror for each child they teach. This mirror that teachers hold up in front of each child is powerful beyond measure. And, as with any kind of great power, comes great responsibility.

You see, our school system reflects what society has decided is valued. School is where teachers are asked to look for those things we have decided are valuable to society – that gift or talent or genius or fast-track stuff that will advance us as a nation. Teachers are also told to look out for and measure these things so we can decide how much to invest in the little bodies holding said valuable items. Teachers develop their mirrors and hold them up to their students through the words and time and effort they put into each of their students. At the very beginning…no, even before the beginning of formal schooling, we begin this search for those valuable things in children. Teachers give tests and take anecdotal notes and refer children for various placements. We try to be really efficient with this because there are so many kids and so little time after all. The quicker we can identify who to invest in, the better it is for all of us. We can then get on with our investments and cut our losses. Right? Not right. See, there is a much longer list of valuable things that don’t make it to those mirrors and this is what I believe is at the core of our problems with the education system that is in place.

Girllookinginmirror

Teachers, imagine if you will, that very first day of school. Your classroom is ready. Freshly made name tags in place. Clean desks. Labels around the room. Brand new crayons and full, sharpened pencils in their tins. Your furniture is positioned just right and morning work is waiting to be completed. You are wearing a new outfit because it fits the newness of the school year and you are ready. Imagine that as you’re standing at the door greeting each child and welcoming them to their new class, there is a person standing next to you in a clean suit and a clipboard in her hand and she’s looking up the name of each child. She carries a special clipboard that tells you, not the potential that you might have imagined, but the reality of what each child will be some day. So as each child walks in, she looks up the name of the child and says things like:

“Can you see that tall girl who as poured out all the different blocks into one big unorganized pile and is building a tower? She’s going to one day design the most beautiful building that people around the world will want to see.”

“You see that little boy there with the curly hair and big smile making paper airplanes with his morning work? He’s going to one day fly airplanes full of people who are loved by many.”

“Do you see that soft-spoken little girl with the scribbly, messy handwriting? She’s going to be a neurosurgeon one day and change the lives of many people.”

You see that dirty little boy over there playing with the water colors and mixing them and making a mess? He’s going to find a cure for cancer some day.”

“And that funny-looking kid over in the reading corner? He will one day be an amazing father to four little girls.”

“And that little guy over there that no-one wants to talk with because his clothes smell a little? He’s going to say something so kind to a stranger that’s hurting that the stranger will change his mind about ending his life. One day.”

“And do you see this little girl who is talking up a storm and is surrounded by half the kids in the class? She’s going to lead a team of people to change some laws that will make the world a better place for women.”

You listen silently and take mental notes about each child. You are awed and increasingly more anxious about the responsibility you now have to lead them down the road intended for them. Their Purpose for being here. Each child has a Purpose. You know this to be true. You begin to form their mirrors.

If you knew these things about each of your students. If you had the magic of knowing exactly how amazing each child could be, would be, would you then, in the busy moments of your teaching day take just one extra moment to guide the hand of the child with the messy handwriting? Or ask some good questions of the boy making a mess with the watercolors? Or say a kind word to the quiet boy who is by himself? Or offer a cheering pat on the back of the chatty girl before asking her to get to her morning work? Would you do just a tiny bit more just because you KNOW. You KNOW exactly what to reflect in that mirror you hold up for each child. Would you shine up each mirror just a little more carefully because you wanted to be sure that you reflected just the right image of the amazing potential of each child with whom you have the honor of spending this school year?

Unfortunately, there is nobody there with you standing at the door on the first day of each school year. There is no magic clipboard to peek at. There really is no way of knowing each child’s Purpose. And what you see as each child’s potential rests on you.  On your knowledge about what you teach, your beliefs about people, your attitudes about the qualities people have, your biases, assumptions and expectations of the capabilities of people. You may create your mirrors based on what you know (or don’t know) about the family or race or language or social class or immigrant status or personality of the child. You have to explore what forms your lenses and perspectives and filters. How you create your mirrors and what you hold up for each child is important. You have some important work to do. They can change the world. They will change the world. You change the world.

BeachglassHeartMirror

What do they see when you hold up their mirrors?

My truth is that as a parent, I am vulnerable when I leave my child with you. I don’t know and I have little control over the mirrors you will create for my children. I do know this truth. I know that you will create those mirrors and you will hold them up everyday. And my children will look into their mirrors everyday and they will live up or down to what they see. My children are my most precious gifts I leave with you 180 days of the year. Please be thoughtful. Please be intentional. Please careful.

Truthfully yours,

Rhina

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7 responses to “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

  1. […] wear. It seems their main goal is to help the woman see what’s on the inside by holding up a magic mirror. And I love […]

  2. Anonymous says:

    Love, love, love…THIS is why I teach!

  3. It should come as no surprise that I appreciate the way you’re helping expand our understanding of mirrors and their power to empower. I loved reading this. I loved thinking about the way we can shine our mirrors for children – for our future. Beautiful.

  4. Kara says:

    Love your writing…beautifully said, thought-provoking, and inspiring. 🙂

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