TRUST YOUR CHILD
IN THIS INTERVIEW:
OUR HUMAN NEED TO FEEL UNDERSTOOD
ANNIE VOSSINIOTI: So I have a little story to stay – my personal story. And that starts from the time I was very little.
As a child, I was feeling very intimidated, very easily.
So what others would think of me was extremely important, and this was causing me great anxiety. So I remember in class (that was my worst), if the teacher picked me and asked a question, I would be so stressed about what I was going to say, and if my answer was going to be the right one, the correct one (or not) that I would end up unable to say a word.
So I would freeze. I wouldn’t be able to open my mouth. And then I would feel so ashamed. I would have a complete blank; all of my knowledge would flow away.
Then I would go home, and I wouldn’t know what to tell my parents. I felt ashamed. I did not even feel worthy of their appreciation and love.
At times, my parents would go to school and talk with teachers to see what I would have to do about this. And the exams were similar. In the exams, I would forget the main terms.
The main terms, you know, the most important terms that I would have to use in the test, whatever that was. Whether that was History or Physics or Chemistry – or whatever it was – I would forget the main terminology. I would leave small blanks here and there.
And on the way home in the bus, all of the terms would come back, and I was so angry with myself.
What my teachers and my parents kept saying is, “Well she has the try more, she has to study harder”.
And the more I tried, the more stupid I felt, and brainless, and silly, and unintelligent, and all of that.
Really, what I wanted at the time (but then no one knew) is that I needed some understanding. That’s all I needed!
I needed someone to say, “Well, I understand that you’re stressed, and this is normal. And that’s okay. You feel stressed. So just relax”.
My little story goes on. Then of course I tried, and tried, and I grew up and I studied various things. I learned 4 languages – to speak, fluently. Then I went to university, and I studied Economics. I studied History and Archaeology. I became a Yoga Instructor, and all sorts of things, because nothing was enough, I was never happy.
I worked for 25 years as an IB teacher, and the first few years of my teaching were extremely stressful. I was working like mad. I was working a lot harder than the students.
I was trying to prepare the perfect lessons, and again they wouldn’t be good enough. And the problem was that, because I was putting so much effort (whenever the students did not perform up to my own standards, I would be mad at them), I would be really angry, and angry at me, at the same time.
HOW PERSONAL GROWTH INSPIRES PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Now, 2010 was a turning point, thank God! I started doing some personal growth work. I became a SHEN Emotional Therapist, so I got some more understanding of what is going on. So my perspective and approach to teaching changed completely.
From then on, communication, understanding and mutual trust became my motto.
In class, I started to become more of a mentor and a coach. Someone who shows how to do things and what is the way to knowledge, and not trying to give that knowledge. I was not anymore the walking encyclopedia, trying to take the knowledge out of my head and put it into the students’ head.
Then I started trusting the students, passing over a lot of work and responsibility to the students, and a lot of delegating of tasks to the students themselves.
The students loved it.
They started taking initiative, and their results started going up and up and up – I mean, skyrocketing. And year after year, for the following years. My classes started getting fuller and fuller, year after year, and the subject became very popular at school.
So that’s where my first point comes from, which is that first of all, we need to recognize that each one of us – first, each one of you, as a parent as a teacher, and each one of our students, as well and our children, our own children – they have very, very special skills. Each one. Each person has a very special skill, and a very particular and exclusive type of intelligence.
The second thing is that we need to remember that we need to feel trusted, and that we need to trust others, so that they trust it. Mutual trust is number one, whether that is in the family, or in the classroom.
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF FEELING ENOUGH
ELENI VARDAKI: And I know that your next point is about feeling enough, and you touched on that a bit in your story, as well.
ANNIE VOSSINIOTI: As you say, I said a little bit about this feeling enough. Well there’s this thing that I realized, its inherent in Human Nature, to feel insufficient.
So we need to recognize that this happens. This is a trick that our own mind plays on us.
Whatever we do, never mind how hard we try or how good we are, our own mind (who is the biggest judge of ourselves) would never be happy.
Now this feeling of not being enough creates fear.
The fear creates anger, and then this anger is against ourselves and against others as well.
As parents, very often we don’t feel enough. We don’t feel that we’ve done a good enough job, and we try harder and harder and harder.
Then when the kids, when the children get to the age of 15 or 16 (when they have to show that they can perform, or whatever their personality is), if they are not exactly the way we planned it, or we would like them to be, then we start being angry at ourselves, first, and then at them.
This is when problems start arising in families.
Now in the classroom it is a similar story.
If we, as teachers, don’t feel enough, that we don’t do a good enough job, and we try harder and harder and harder – then of course the students will not behave. or will not perform exactly the way we planned it in our head.
And because of that, we will be starting to get angry. And then the communication breaks.
So my point is that it’s extremely important to realize that this is just a trick that our minds plays. And if we are aware, then we can start feeling enough.
A PRACTICAL EXERCISE: “I AM ENOUGH”
ANNIE VOSSINIOTI: A good practice is to remind ourselves every single day that:
“I am enough.
I’m enough, in whatever I do.
As a teacher, I am enough.
As a parent, I am enough.
And as a person, I am enough.”
It’s extremely important.
ELENI VARDAKI: I love that. And what about the feeling that we need to be in control of everything in the classroom, and for parents, at home?
ANNIE VOSSINIOTI: Yes, that’s my third point that from these feelings of not being enough, if we are not aware of it, then because we try hard to be good (whatever that means for each one of us), then we want to be in control of everything.
We want to be in control of the way our children at home behave.
We want to be in control of what friends they will make, and of how they will spend their time.
We want to be in control of how good they will be at sports and how much time they will spend at sports or in music, or doing art or at school or studying Maths or Physics.
Each one of us, we have our particular, shall I say not weak – well, our “likes”, you know.
Each parent, or some parents, wants their children to be the best musicians, or the best artist, or the best at sports, or the best in Maths or in Physics or in Chemistry or in English or History – whatever it is.
LEARNING TO LET GO
ANNIE VOSSINIOTI: So we want to be in control of this, and as teachers, similarly, we want to be in control of how the class with behaved, at all times.
So whether a student will laugh or whether he will move. Whether he will talk or not or.
Whether he will be taking notes or not.
We want to be in control. The more we try to be in control, the worst it is. The more we want to control others, the more the others will react. Because no one wants to be controlled. Do you want to be controlled?
Do you, as Eleni, want to be controlled?
Or all of these people who are listening to me at this moment: do you want to be controlled by somebody else? No!
None of us wants to be controlled. So why would a student, or a child in our family, want to be controlled? They don’t want that.
So my advice here is let go of that control.
Just relax. Take it easy.
Let got. And just trust that everything will be fine. Trust this life. Trust this universe. Trust God, whatever it is for you, but let go.
And then things will be fine.
In my story, things started working really well when I started becoming aware of what was going on, and I started letting go.
No one can do it alone, there are methods various methods and techniques in order to learn to let go, because that’s the most difficult thing to do in life. And we all need to learn how to do it.
ELENI VARDAKI: Powerful, powerful stuff here Annie. Thank you very much for your time, for your wisdom, and for your insights.
Eleni Vardaki graduated from the Anglo-American School of Moscow with the IB Diploma, and is also an experience IBDP teacher. She’s taught over 3000 secondary school students and over 300 IB Diploma students in the last 10 years. She’s on a mission to help bridge the gap between mainstream education systems and 21st century well-being skills. For youth mentoring, school bookings and free well-being training resources, go to: www.elenivardaki.com or subscribe to her YouTube channel.