Tomorrow I will teach my second of seven Creative Expression classes at Lauren’s House for Positive Change in East Palo Alto. And as I had suspected, the kids are already teaching me more than I could ever teach them. I have two groups: pre-teen and teen. For the purpose of this piece I will focus on the older group.
I have to admit right off the bat that I’ve never done anything like this. I’ve taught yoga classes and nutrition workshops around the US in my twenties but never children and never writing. In fact, and this is something that became glaringly obvious a minute into my teaching, I’ve held a bias against youth and didn’t know it. I thought that young people were lethargic and permanently annoyed. I was scared of them, I was afraid they’d reject me. And while my hunches were close, there is much more to this story…
I made up the assignment on the fly. Looking at their tired and bored faces, I knew that whatever I had prepared would only make them roll their eyes or worse – exchange quiet sniggers. So I asked them about their dreams. “What are your aspirations?” I asked. “If absolutely nothing stood in the way, what would you like to do with your lives?” They stopped fidgeting at once and the ends of their pencils ventured to their partly open lips. They shared with me their dreams and I bowed to them in my minds eye. These children were listening to me and answering me! That in itself was an achievement.
“Why don’t you explore it deeper? Write about it,” I asked them and they said okay. “Open your journals and try to fill one page using at least three senses to describe yourself in the middle of living your dream. Just make up a scene. Any scene, whatever comes to your mind.”
After ten quiet minutes and more than one page of scribbling, they shared their impressions with me.
“It was cool,” one boy said and the others nodded. “Different that what they ask us to write in school.” His spark of enthusiasm and focus ignited my own.
Sitting across from them, I said: “What if everyone in the world was on fire about what they did? What if we all could do what we desire, instead of listening to other people’s ideas they have for us? What if we dared to be one hundred percent ourselves?”
The first boy looked at me and murmured just enough for me to hear, “That’s the world I want to live in.”
In an instant, my heart melted, all barriers between me and the students shattered and preconceptions evaporated. Here we were, all trying to be vulnerable and true, all wanting the same thing: to be free to pursue what we want.
“Well, you do have the power to make that happen, to create this world. And it begins with you,” I said. Nods and faint smiles appeared across from me.
No wonder most of the time they appear bored and lazy, I thought to myself. What if it’s not ADHD but instead their lack of patience or tolerance for bullshit that causes all the chaos?
Maybe it is as simple as this: They long to be heard. They yearn to be guided… gently within themselves.