Today I’d like to tell you a story of something that happened to me when I was teaching Year 10. It was around 3 months after I started learning this new appreciation of how we work. When it happened, the situation that I'm about to describe really confused me, but I'm going to tell it to you because it highlights of useful points regarding wellbeing and behaviour management.
This is the story of Eloise. All names have been changed to protect the people involved.
Eloise was attaining low marks in GCSE History. After 3 months of her scraping by, she was once again talking to her friend at the back of the class. After a number of warnings, I asked her to leave the room.
3 or 4 mins later, the class were busying themselves with a task that I had set them and I decided that I would go out and deliver the regular teacher telling off to Eloise before I let her back in the classroom.
I was pretty ready for a fight and I knew that she was.
However, the strangest thing happened when I opened the classroom door and stepped into the hallway. I had this feeling of peace and compassion wash over me. All the usual angry thinking that I had looked unreal and illusory. Consequently, I had a deep sense that telling her off or blaming her for her behaviour would only make the situation worse and I really wanted to stop the war that we had both engaged in.
When this happened, the feeling of my entire being changed in an instant. It softened. As I relaxed, I was safer, she felt less threatened, so she settled slightly.
As I started to speak, she immediately cut in and started telling me that she was sorry that she kept messing round in class, but she had some things on her mind that were bothering her and then she said, “and I hate History, I’m way too stupid to be doing it anyway!”
I stood their looking pretty dumbfounded as Eloise welled up, going to great lengths to prove to me that she was in fact, "stupid”. She told me that it wasn’t her fault, “my parents are stupid, so I’m stupid”. I’ve never been any good at school. She said that she had pretty much given up trying by Year 7.
After a minute or two, she pulled herself together and walked back in the room - leaving me standing there in a state of utter confusion. I didn’t understand what had just happened.
Eloise worked brilliantly for the rest of the lesson and I'd hardly said a word.
A couple of days later, I decided that I was going to take 15 Year 11’s that were struggling and give them a lunchtime workshop once a week. As you can imagine, they told me where to shove it. However, after a bit of pleading, bribing and cojolling, I managed to get them to agree.
Eloise was on the list and attended every week. By April, her understanding of the mind got very profound as she attended our lunchtime workshops. In her GCSE exams, she surpassed what she thought she was capable of and didn’t suffer nearly as much as she thought during the revision period.
Why did Eloise change?
When a situation is seen from an insecure state of mind, we create a problem. Take the insecure mindset away and what you have is a neutral situation.
Eloise was using her mind to create a reality that was full of invisible, made-up opinions, ideas and expectations that looked true and accurate to her. She used her mind, innocently and unknowingly, to create herself as a "stupid person" every time that she walked into a classroom. She used her mind to constantly compare and judge her attainment. She used her mind to create the experience of being a disappointment.
None of these experiences were true, but they looked true to her because human beings canstantly believe their reality is the "true" reality. However, this isn't the case, we all see life differently and our own sense of reality is constantly changing. The mind is in a constant state of change.
If human beings don't take low-mood, negative thinking too seriously, they don't stay down, or in depressed states for very long. However, when they unconsciously take their sense of reality in a low-mood as true and accurate, they keep remaking it. This locks people into a negative spiral which is really difficult to get out of if you don't have somebody show you what is going on.
In the lunchtime workshops that I conducted, Eloise and I got the opportunity to explore the concept of, “being stupid”. Here, she realised that “stupid” is a concept - it means completely different things to different people. It can’t be held, it’s not physical. It is simply a thought-created illusion that we get tricked by.
The more we recognise these mental illusions that we create with our mind, the less time we spend in negative experiences.
This is what occurred to me regarding Eloise's story. The realistion I had in the corridor made me deal with Eloise more effectively. We connected on a human level and she felt respected and supported by me - no judgement was coming from me. This meant that she was open to what I was presenting in the lunchtime classes. This allowed her to realise how life actually works and she got so much relief and headspace from this realisation that she lost lots of stress was able to engage and thrive in the classroom.
No techniques were employed and there were no changes to her environment. Happiness and fulfilment are possible for everyone once they stop adding misunderstanding into their reality.