We all wear masks. That is the most obvious statement I could make today. I call them masks, you might want to call it as ego states. Masks sounds somewhat more poetic.

I have chosen quite a challenging path. Teaching young adults is a challenge. Not only because teaching is challenging, but because you have a great influence upon someones life. You can shape them and show them they path of development as human beings. As I look at my students I see mask after mask. My whole group is very particular, but today there is one person that made me think. Let’s call him Jose.

Roger came, from one of the EU countries to UK to study. After knowing Jose for one semester I can tell that his upbringing was very strict. So, as he now lives on his own, he feels the freedom of making his own choices. He is not wearing the son mask anymore, now he needs to find a new one to wear. The one that he chosen to wear at the moment is one that may harm him greatly.

At the beginning, I bought into his play, what else could I do with a boy that does not listen to anyone, and sleeps at your lectures? Yes, he tried to sleep during one of my practical sessions. I have said quite firmly what I think about this, and asked him to leave to work on his project in the studio, if he thinks that waiting in the room for his turn is too much. Jose only chooses to listen to things that make sense to him, and nobody else. When I started teaching at my placement I was made aware that Jose is “the difficult one” … but is he?

He is smart and funny, in his own sarcastic way, he is funny. His art skills are good for his level, he does his research and asks the questions. During my last session, he took active part in the session. Yet he tries to sabotage all briefs that are given to him by interpreting them in the most bizarre way possible. He tries to joke from everything and anything, including himself. His new mask… “a joke”. How do I get behind it? Do I want to get behind this mask?

I know this, this is a self-defence mechanism that he created. New country, new language, new people that one day might become your friends. I have been in his shoes, in the same school, in the same room almost, yet had different mask. My mask was the” shy, introvert one” … and it got me few years to stop wearing this one. When people start to believe the mask you are wearing, after a time you start to believe it.   

And I have an impression no one seems to care about it… I mean, he had talks with the staff members. They say to him “Jose you are doing this… or this you need to do this”. Yet I don’t think this is the way forward. When we talk at the lunch break his mask is what they all see “Ahh yes, it is Jose, he does that to everyone”, but no one wants to know the reason behind this behaviour.  I feel like even though the group is only small we do not take enough attention to be true mentors for those kids. As teachers, as mentors (and as people in general) we need to know how to stop and listen to someone. Really listen, not nodding our heads and listening to our own internal dialogues, but focusing on the person next to us and listen.  Sometimes this can save lives, sometimes it can be as simple as making someone day better for a moment, but in a long run, nobody knows how this might influence them in their lives.

My reflection today might not be very simple one, but the answer to what is my next step from this is.  I will do my best not to look at my students by what they want me to believe they are. We always must look deeper, and learn to read the signs, the micro gestures, the body language or the hesitation in the voice, everything can be an indicator of their feelings and emotions.



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