I don’t remember when I came across The Four Agreements, but I use them as a tool for myself, as a self-check for what kind of person I want to be.
Why is it so damn hard? Sometimes, it is exhausting. I use to tell my students all of the time that with life, figure out your purpose and I meant it. You meet very few people on this planet that are truly free, but if people are working towards it, you can’t argue against that.
Part of my purpose is that I get to listen to adults reflect about their professional practices. I get the honor of being allowed into professional lives. Sometimes, people let me into their most personal stories about who they are, what has happened to them, or their hopes for their students.
The funny thing is that I learned a long time ago that what I have to do to allow this to happen is to sit with them with no agenda or musts. I use to think that was nothing, but to be fully present is probably the hardest act of a human. To sit there without interrupting, without distracting thoughts, without biases or assumptions or preconceived notions and to just be there, open for whatever is so freaking hard, but I know that is what I must do if the conversation is going to matter. I’ve learned that teaching is a very personal journey, that true learning is a vulnerable experience, and that adults need time. There is no better gift for an educator than real time to reflect. It has taken me a long time to get better at active presence, and sometimes, I feel like a complete failure. I sit there, and try to be as empathic and patient as possible. Deep down, I want them to improve because they work with our most prized possessions, our students, but I have learned that as much as I want everyone to improve, I understand that their improvement is up to them, and not me. Nothing I can say will make them want to get better because people have to want that for themselves. Even if I have goals in mind, that doesn’t matter because they have to figure out what is going to help them. My job is to give them the space to do so. Knowing that I will go into a conversation having zero control literally drives me to wonder why I love my job so much, but then something beautiful usually happens. It is astounding how that one act can lead to them walking out of the room with something they came in the room without. All I did was provide them the time and space to listen to themselves. When it truly comes from them, that is a win.
Deep down, I often wonder if I am enough. I let that internal voice creep in, wondering if I asked the right question, wondering if I seized the moment to catapult it to the best moment it could be? Simply, did I do my best? Did we get to a place that means something? Did they see my fear of how it might go? There are times when I let control win and I say too much or become the rescuer with an idea. They leave and I sit there reflecting again about how much better I will do with them next time, but I can’t help feel like I missed an opportunity that we can’t get back.
Then, I remember that is what the Four Agreements are all about. I do the best I can and when I catch myself being hard on myself, I remember the agreements, and how it feels hard because it’s real good stuff. It’s scary because it matters.