Our Self-Made Jails: Reflections on a Teaching and Anxiety

         During the first two weeks of class, I’ve been thinking about jails into which I choose to put myself. Are there things in my life that act like a jail even though I’m not physically in one? I’ve come to conclude that my own fears, worries, and hurt keep me in these jails. I worry a lot about what people will think of me. Will I say or do something wrong? Will they not like me? Will I not fit in or be included? Will I make a mistake or hurt someone? These fears often keep me at home or keep me from saying/doing anything at all. And staying in isolation is something that I choose because it’s easier. All the anxiety created by my fear disappears. At times it is better to live in my own cage, than to have fear in my life.

          I told these things to one of my friends. She said that she sees people every day who are smart, beautiful, and kind. They have the same fears – the same self-made jails. She also said that she wished that these people could see themselves through her eyes so that they would know that they are smart and kind. Hearing this helped me. It let me know that someone outside of my jail cared. And it made me want to step out of the cage I had created. I thought about this, and I decided that one important job that teachers have is to let students see themselves through the eyes of the teacher. Perhaps this is the key to having a successful class at ACJ, a class which continues to influence students as they move beyond the jail and perhaps keeps them from coming back.

Kellyn Yoder, Words Without Walls Teaching Artist