Hallelujah Highway

Celebrating the Journey

Empty the Cup~ Kristi

on October 2, 2013



Last week instead of the typical staff meeting, we had some professional development.  Dr. Ernie Mendes presented some principles from his book, Empty the Cup Before You Fill It Up.  One of the cornerstone concepts is simple:  in order for a teacher to teach a student, especially a teenager, he or she must understand that students are like a cup—full of raging hormones, overwhelming life experiences, and unprocessed emotions.  If an adult tries to pour knowledge or wisdom into a student’s already full cup, then it overflows and nothing is gained, which is completely counterproductive.  In order to educate a student, a teacher must give students a moment to release some of the feelings or emotions that keep their cups full.

I set out to experiment with this principle and let life prove or disprove its authority.  Over the last week, life has proved it overwhelmingly:

  • I was at a parent-teacher-counselor meeting and the mother mentioned that the student behaves and performs better at school whiles she is in counseling.  Why?  Because the counseling empties the student’s cup.
  • I recently took over some classes from a teacher who was promoted.  I could feel the overachievers’ anxiety about me taking over.  I teach differently.  I relate to them in a different way.  I graded differently.  My lesson plans dictated that I try to cram more information into their notes, but I could not get past the resistance I felt as it was like teaching to a brick wall.  I decided to talk to them.   I wanted to give them an opportunity to tell me about how they were adjusting and what they needed from me.  It was an opportunity for them to empty their cups.
  • I was sitting down with my team teacher and we were going to hash out our lesson plans.  We spent 30-45 minutes talking about events in our lives before we even got started.  We had to empty our cups.
  • My grade level team had a release day for collaboration and we spent a good chunk of time talking about what is working and not working professionally and our concerns with the transition to Common Core standards and assessment—another example of emptying the cup.
  • It was a night where exhaustion from the back-to-school cold reigned.  My daughter craved attention and connection.  Her solution to my coughing and hacking existence was a warm cup of tea.  She and I sat on my couch with our cups of tea and talked.  She told me about her dreams and the highlights of her day.  I did the same.  It was a moment of emptying our cups—figuratively and literally.

After observing life since the professional development, I venture to hypothesize that teenagers are not the only ones who benefit from emptying the cup—everybody does.

Let me clarify: Emptying the cup is not spewing personal drama into the world to seek redemption, validation, or attention.  (We may know someone who makes conversations about his or her drama all the time or we may see individuals on Facebook oversharing too much information.)  It is about slowing down the hustle and bustle of life, connecting with our feelings, finding a safe space and medium to express them, and being vulnerable enough to share.  Emptying the cup is about fostering connection, which humans crave because it is a basic human need, and intimacy, or into-me-you-see.

While this concept was applied to the classroom by Dr. Mendes, it has direct application to friendships, relatives, marriages and relationships, workplace interactions, and just the everyday connections we make with strangers.

My prayer for everyone today is:  May you experience a moment of grace where you feel safe to share your emotions, hopes, and desires with another.  May you courageously choose to be vulnerable and empty your cup.  If someone else chooses to empty theirs with you, may you reach out with empathy, compassion, and understanding.  May these small gestures make the world more connected, open, and a better place to just be.  Amen!


2 responses to “Empty the Cup~ Kristi

  1. Tracee says:

    LOVED IT! thanks for this beautifully written reminder. 🙂


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