How May I Serve You? Revelations in Education

by Lori Desautels, Ph.D.

Writing this book began years ago in a special education classroom, and in my mind…The words for this story began to appear when I became emptied of words, ideas, strategies and leadership. A paradox.  I literally broke away from all that had been taught and ingested through my experiences  of formal education when a sad, enraged young man taught me that sometimes just being present and asking what is needed, is enough. It could be enough to begin remembering all that is going right and well inside every mind and experience. It could be enough to begin to revolutionize an educational system that is spinning in cycles of short term solutions emphasizing change from the outside in?

I searched and searched the libraries and bookstores for a book that spoke to the wordless goose bumps and tears expressed when a child or adolescent shares their notions, perspectives, and all of their hearts or discovers a strength that they never knew they had with unconditional awe.   I could not find a book about education that spoke to the esoteric and spiritual principles that define and discuss compassion, presence and empathy inside our classrooms   I decided it must be time to write, and during this process the words began to coagulate as I slowly learned that the thoughts we carry and the perspectives we consciously,  but usually subconsciously fashion become our beliefs… yet,  this is not the last word. Somewhere deep down, I knew that we were not our genetics or static beings with a pre-planned life appointment, IQ , an emotional undone jigsaw with a predestined journey- victim to all that we experience, and yet, I wasn’t sure if the research could back up my thinking and excitement!

The research is there! It continues to flourish and share the fabulous news that we have these dynamic and multi-dimensional   three pound brains that are the vehicles for a greater consciousness, a self-awareness and intuitive perception,  not only  shaped by the experiences we encounter, but this mysterious  mind,  coupled with the electromagnetic field and intelligence  of the heart searches and recognizes   well-being,  optimism, and holds the plasticity  to create new experiences and knowledge when passion, motivation and even the smallest desire is acknowledged or felt  for a  change.

How may I serve you? I begin my serving myself, because solid relationships with others begin with ourselves. When we are filled with wonder curiosity and contentment we are able to embrace a perspective, a view that sees all that is going well and right in our world.  This book draws attention to  the most powerful relationship and connection we will ever have…one with our own hearts and minds. For when we ask, then listen deeply, we have all we need in every circumstance. Another paradox because when we ask another, we allow another to begin to hear and clarify their own thoughts and feelings, as well as our own!

Children come into the world with a heart that is ready to love, to connect and to experience all that is present, and somewhere inside this journey, the views become narrow, negative and difficult! Why? Circumstances… yes, but there is more!

With all of the self-help, psychology, and educational books geared toward adults, I kept wondering about the potential of an educational/spiritual text that explores what cannot always be seen or measured. What would happen if we addressed our youth and began to work from the inside out?  There was something there…

Sitting at my computer on a Monday evening before class, an e-mail appeared with the words in the subject line, “Andrew in Action.”  My heart skipped beats and palms became sweaty as Andrew, my oldest son had a knack for attracting the negative phone calls, e-mails, and reports describing his ornery behavior in school.  But as I read the few short sentences inside the body of the e-mail, I could barely decipher the last few words through my burning and tear filled eyes.

“Mrs. Desautels, Andrew has been working hard on a group project and participating well, I just wanted you to know this. Please let me know how I may serve you in the days and weeks to come. “    This message was not solely about affirmations and positive remarks, although they were there; it was about a man who reached out and asked, nothing more. How may I serve you? What do you need? How can I help?

Research has clearly shown that there are positive shifts in emotions, behaviors and experiences of those who have encountered the opportunity to be listened to and heard.  Questions are processed in the brain long after they have been asked, and although unsettling for most of us to sit with a question and an unresolved or mysterious response… we pay attention and dig a little further.  Author of “Mindsight,”  Dr. Dan Seigel describes “feeling felt” as a missing component in our lives today. Although technology has connected us on the outside, we have become increasingly isolated with personal contacts and conversations that assist us in reaching into our repertoire of intuitive knowledge packaged inside the heart. For when we are asked, we become focused and attentive to our own needs through time. Our survival depends on the relationships we develop and implement with others, as we are interdependent beings.

“How May I Serve You?” shares a story inside a story because the brain and heart are attracted to and learn from patterns, emotions, and shared perspectives and thoughts discovered inside the stories we share .  Story-telling is familiar and a common denominator in all of our lives. We tell them, we read them, we listen to them and we make them up; and sometimes the power of a shared story is enough to reshape and redirect a perspective that broadens our view of life and all its possibilities. Part two of this book tells a story and one that may just transcend strategies, techniques, assessments, mastery trackers and the rigor imposed when trying to close these so-called achievement gaps inside our schools. These aforementioned procedures become effortless when we tap into the heart of learning and teaching preparing all students to live outside the walls of a school. The benefits of service to those who educate are recognized and celebrated when the awareness demonstrates that our greatest teachers are our children and adolescents. Open up and look inside to the rigor and extravagant  instruction of heart led teaching and a compassionate presence.
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