The other afternoon, I struck up a conversation with a fifth grader, a friend of the family, about how school was going this year. She described something her teacher was doing prior to a test, that to me felt stressful. It doesn’t matter what it was as it relates to this story, but when I pressed her for an explanation, here’s what she said:
“Oh, she does it on purpose,” she told me as a matter of fact. “To create intentional tension.”
Of course, I lost my (metaphysical) marbles. Teaching fifth graders, who haven’t yet hit the apex of anxiety, how to practice being anxious, seemed nothing short of genius. And it got me thinking.
What if at an early age we set up a controlled environment, with skilled oversight, expressly designed to teach us how to speak up for ourselves (or others)? To express needs?
Put a different way, it would be a space in which to learn restraint and then reward, deliberately; to exist between discernment and persuasion and to experience different ways of managing and resolving a conflict. What if we practiced…having a “practice”… in preschool?
Rather than promoting kindness because it’s the right thing to do, which most schools (understandably) embrace, what if we designed highly controlled uncomfortable situations, to help kids navigate them – and make more informed choices – from the start?
If we can do a mock U.N. at school, why can’t we apply that to training for our most challenging emotions?
Practicing worst-case scenario may not replicate the exact experience a stressful event creates, but kids become adults. And adults have the power to create or destroy.
Tools don’t give us wiggle room… as much as options.
And we should have options… from the get go.
Practice, in this case, is a double entendre (my favorite happy accident):
It’s both the rehearsal we do in preparation for a future event, and the thing that grounds us in the here and now.
We know events will happen.
And we also know, all we have is now.