You’re So Vain…

…you probably think this post is about you…are you humming that Carly Simon tune yet?  Good.  But seriously, isn’t it so easy to think that everything that other people do is about us?

News Flash!  It’s not about you.  And that’s hard, especially when people do things that hurt so much and feel so personal.

I read The Four Agreements in college.  I don’t recall the book being particularly transformative, probably because I wasn’t open to the possible transformation.  The ideas come from Toltec ideals of Southern Mexican natives. But 15 years later, I think this wisdom is very applicable to us as teachers when working with students:

Agreement 1:  Be impeccable with your word

Agreement 2: Don’t take anything personally

Agreement 3:  Don’t make assumptions

Agreement 4:  Always do your best

The one that is hardest for teachers is agreement 2: Don’t take anything personally.



From The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz:

Nothing other people do is because of you.  It is because of themselves.  All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live it.  When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.

But teaching is very personal.  And isn’t one of our jobs to “impose” knowledge on students? We put our hearts, our minds, our souls (and sometimes our own money) into creating a learning environment that helps students thrive.  So when someone disrespects that environment, we can feel very disappointed and even personally damaged.  No matter how much time, sweat, or energy you put into creating the perfect bulletin boards or reading spaces. When a student decides to rip off letters or color on chairs, it has nothing to do with you.  Nothing.

When they don’t do their homework, night after night, it’s not about you.

When they steal things off your desk even though they know better, it’s STILL not about you.

When they shout answers out loud despite being asked repeatedly to raise their hand, IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.

Our task, as educators, is to turn our personal irritation, anger or hurt into empathy and compassion.  What else do students have going on at night besides homework?  What is a child missing in his or her home life to compel them to steal?  What kind of attention is a child missing that prompts them to shout answers in class?

This blog post is a challenge to myself to continue down this road of not taking things personally.  I’ve come a long way in this arena over the last few years.  But I still have a long way to go.

Cheers to a great 2015-2016 school year!


  1. A2: It’s not healthy when I transfer this feeling of being a parent to teaching, and it’s not even a good idea originally in the parenting.

    Agreement 3 is hard for me, too, in the classroom. I do not know what my students are going through, for the most part, and find it too easy to ignore when I do.

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