Have you ever experienced the wonderful sensation of immediately being taken back in time upon listening to an old, familiar song or breathing in a comforting scent? A sharp consciousness of the striking memory overwhelms your mind and it’s almost as if you have traveled back into the body of your former self. This happens to me quite often and a lot of the time my journey back is mixed with different emotions.
One memory of a time past that I often find myself revisiting took place many years ago. I was only in kindergarten when I had a best friend, Z, who invited me over to her house one winter day to make gingerbread houses with her. As I think back now, I can vividly see myself walking past her homey kitchen and into her living room with all of the furniture comfortably arranged. The image in my mind is tinted to a perfectly warm caramel hue, probably because everything in her house seemed so nice and safe at the time. I specifically recall my nose immediately being ambushed by a sweet vanilla scent as I entered her house. But it wasn’t just a plain vanilla that poured into my system. The consuming scent was mixed with swirls of cinnamon and holiday cheer, which now reminds me of a simple and joyful time. We also happened to listen to Feliz Navidad at some point that evening and I have this vague recollection of hula hoops being involved. Believe me, I used to kill at hula hooping! So can you guess what happens every time I hear this song? Yep! My mind goes back to killer hula hooping with Z while Feliz Navidad blasted from the speakers of her parent’s car.
The first time that I came upon this specific scent was around the time of my later high school years. I was washing my hands at my friend C’s house and as soon as the soap hit my palms and its sweet scent traveled to my nose, I was transported back to Z’s house. It’s incredible how the simple act of washing my hands brought so much emotion to my being. I find the way that our senses interact with our minds to connect the physical and emotional sensations to our experiences fascinating. And as I was considering how my own memories are linked to songs, scents, experiences, and even images, I couldn’t help but start to think about myself in relation to my preschool students.
One of my biggest goals is to be an intentional teacher who fosters ingenuity, curiosity, and a confidence that inspires children to hone the necessary skills to be successful through their early and later years of life. While this philosophy may sound very thought out and my intention may be to always be this kind of support system, I am not always the perfect teacher that I strive to be. Some days when I am faced with several four-year-olds fighting over the same basket of materials and having massive melt downs when one hits the other, my patience runs out. This hinders me from being an effective teacher for my students. I sometimes even fear that the way I handle these situations or fail in guiding them will create negative memories in their minds. I wouldn’t want a student of mine in their later years of life to see a familiar toy or do an activity that takes them back to a memory of entering into conflict with another child and remembering me showing only frustration. Our senses are powerful tools for the mind, which is why I feel the need to hold a lot of value in all of my words and actions when I am with my students. I want to be able to use these tools to create vanilla scented and caramel-hued memories in their minds.
I don’t know why we are so hard on children when they have melt downs when we, as adults, have melt downs in one form or another quite often. Now, I am not at all condoning allowing a child to fall flat on his or her face in defeat every time they are in a difficult situation. I am all for children working their challenges by developing the skills needed to regulate their emotions and express them in appropriate ways. I just see that some children first need to be empathized with at their purely emotional level. Then, once the child feels a sense of true connection, progress towards self-regulation can be made. Again, this is so easy to write to you and so difficult to carry out when one is in the intense moment of the situation. I just know that I am sometimes prone to melt downs myself and find it so relieving when someone can come to my level and empathize with me.
I tend to cry a lot. The copious amounts of tears that have poured from my eyes might be astonishing to some. But don’t let sympathy for me fall upon your shoulders because, to quote The Holiday, “I’m a major weeper.” I cry when I laugh too hard, as well as when I am sad. I can most definitely be found crying when I am disappointed or really angry. I will sometimes even cry when I become very excited. I’m sure you get the point; I cry a lot. My emotions simply brings tears, hard; that’s the way it has always been for me and, I’m sure, will continue to be, but you know what? I find that as I cry and release my emotions, my tears melt away the cold and darkness surrounding me. When I cry in the arms of a friend, my truest thoughts and feelings become crystal clear and my sorrow, pain, or frustration fades away. I want to be this kind of support for my students. I want them to feel safe enough to express themselves to me and for them to truly know that I will accept them and help them find ways out of their frustrations.
I know that as I learn more about myself and the children that I work with, I will stumble and fall. The most important thing is that I will always get back up and grow through the struggles. As I will be taken down this emotional cycle of life, so will I aim to help my students down this path to the best of my ability.
I really hope that at least one of the hearts that I am given the opportunity to touch will one day be transported back to a fond memory of me after stumbling upon something familiar as I have often done in regard to Z.
And now I must leave you until more memories can be made!
P.S. I reluctantly finished traffic school last week and can now put this particular memory behind me! Unfortunately, Us the Duo’s third album, Just Love, is slightly tainted because I can remember what song I was listening when I first saw the police officer. Fortunately for me, I turned the music down so that it was barely audible as soon as I caught a glimpse his car, so I have been able to trick mind into not associating the album with getting my first ticket!
Ahhh, the mind and it’s beautiful complexities.