In many of my jobs I taught the public about the importance and value of recognizing adolescent’s contributions to the world. My career included working for the hospital system in various capacities for over 20 years. As a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, teaching kids and parents is a daily occurrence. I was always a teacher!
I began my first year of formal teaching in a classroom of 22 10th graders. These students were chosen the previous year as the charter students of a new health academy. This would be a joint venture between a public high school and a teaching hospital system that was less than a mile down the road. The students were picked because they wanted to go into healthcare yet they had lower GPA levels.
Most of them had a 2.0 GPA so had less chance of receiving college admission or scholarships to continue their education. They would be in the Academy for 3 years and would come out with education to be a Certified Nursing Assistant, do Electrocardiograms and Phlebotomy (draw blood). They earned community college credits and they could obtain well paying jobs (as much as $15.00 per hour) immediately after high school graduation plus get financial assistance to go on to school if they wanted too. .
As I stood there with my new classroom full of students, I saw their fresh faces but they were arguing and bickering and the energy was chaotic. I had some ideas of how to begin the day but I quickly realized these kids needed some calming. The first thing I had them do was pair off with someone they didn’t know. They each had 3 minutes to interview their partner and find out as much about them as possible then they had to introduce their partner to the class.
I had been an energy healer for over 20 years, a hypnotherapist, aroma therapist, and worked in an integrative medicine practice+. I was a metaphysician and had completed three of four years on my path to becoming a minister. In 1984 I began to study Image Development and was trained to do “color analysis, wardrobe planning and makeovers. All of my experiences come together in a synchronistic fashion to create my business ME INSIDE AND OUT in 1986. I helped people realize that it doesn’t matter what you see on the outside, if it doesn’t feel good on the inside you will always be seeking something to make you happy. The ability to give and receive love was missing in so many people I worked with.
Once the students interviewed each other they started recognizing all of the similarities among us. They were amazed to find those they disliked had similar interests. Next I had them join hands in a big circle around the room. I told them this was a Circle of Love. I began with a “knowing of goodness for everyone” and had them look in each other’s eyes. I explained to them, this was not an environment of anger, fear, worry or competition.
This classroom was a different place where everyone is accepted and respected. They were teammates and they were here to learn how to become the best people they could be. Even though they were here to learn to become healthcare providers. My intention for them was to be their own “healthcare provider” and learn to take care of themselves emotionally and physically.
I invited them to imagine how their actions can help others and how their life could change if they were the best they could be, understanding they have the power to bring good to those around them. I asked them to look into the eyes of every single person in that circle and while looking in their eyes, they would send love and encouragement to each other.
At the end they had to bring all the love inside them. They would send it out through their right hand so that it would go around the circle, and through their left hand. They would receive the love they had sent and it would be compounded by the love of everyone in the group. Over the next week, I heard bits and pieces from other teachers about this experience and how the kids were telling other kids how cool this felt.
The students didn’t change immediately. But it did set a tone for my classroom. My expectations were respectful and compassionate behavior towards each other. We studied the behaviors of healthcare workers; honesty, patience, integrity, timeliness, organization, good hygiene, compassion, and a willingness to give and receive love. We frequently associated these behaviors to their real life experiences. This helped them to handle all kinds of situations in their lives. We talked about these experiences openly in the class.
I saw young people who were filled with anger, rage, depression, worry, guilt, and most of all fear slowly begins to change. My job as teacher was to help them become compassionate, accountable and accurate in the care they provided for their future patients but they needed to understand the importance of this. Not just to read it, take a test or have skills check off list. They needed to embody these traits. After all they might be taking care of you, me or someone we love in the future. Don’t we all deserve to be cared for by people who realize their actions could mean your life or your death?
Over the course of the year, I made time to teach "7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens" by Sean Covey, "The Inside Story" and many HeartMath ™ tools. If I saw students acting in ways that were not in alignment with the required Character Traits we had private or classroom discussions about it.
The arguments lessened, the “tudes” (attitudes) decreased and caring began to take place. The students began to care about each other. They worked in groups and they learned each others strengths and weaknesses, they realized they could accomplish things and not blame others when they didn’t.
We did multiple field trips to the hospital and they saw people in all situations and vulnerabilities. They provided screening healthcare and educational services to elementary school children. This made the students feel so important and needed. They grew as human beings. Many times throughout the year when tensions were high, I would put them in the Circle of Love to help them return to the feelings of Love. Then they could progress from that perception.
On the last day of school we were having a party to celebrate the end of the year. Everyone was excited to be out of school for the summer. They began to talk about how much they would miss each other. I asked for their opinions on how to teach the incoming group of 10 th graders. They immediately responded to include all of the non-traditional things we had done this year. They said they wanted me to continue these things for them the next year as well.
One of the students was moving away. She wrote a poem about her experiences in this class and everyone had tears in their eyes. They all stood up and joined hands making a big circle in the room and said it’s time for our Circle of Love because this will be the last time we are all together. They initiated it out of Love. This group of students dwindled over the three years. They found themselves and found they had strengths and passions in other areas of their lives.
Many of them received scholarships and the opportunity to attend college in their chosen fields. We did the Circle of Love throughout their 3 years and on the very last day before graduation they joined hands in a circle and sent their love to each other for the last time. Mature young adults full of the characteristics of good human beings; honesty, patience, integrity, compassion and a willingness to give and receive love. My heart was proud!
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Written by Jeane