I work mostly with middle schoolers. And I love my middle schoolers. For the most part I understand why they make the decisions they do, what drives their moods, and what things effect them. I remember very well being that age and being overly excited most of the time. A couple weeks ago one of my students said to me, "I'm shining Ms. Sarah, you can see that." And I could. A boy had just said something to her and she was visibly glowing. I asked her though - because at that point she was having a very hard time pulling it together to finish the project we were working on - how she could continue shining, but still finish all the things that she needed to. This has been a question I have repeatedly discussed with my middle schoolers. How can we be excited about things, but not to the point that it makes it impossible for us to complete the other things in our lives?

It occurs to me that it has been a long hard journey for myself to even begin to approach not being overstimulated all of the time. Our society is based on being constantly bombarded by stimulation, from advertising (which consumes more and more of what should be our public space), to television and other media, to the things that we consume. Living in a society where the caffeine high has become the norm, where the food we eat does not calm and sooth our nerves, but rather stresses our bodies more, how can we even begin to find peace? And how can we teach it to our children? My approach begins with questioning. Questioning what happens when we shine to the point of excess, when we cannot concentrate or take ourselves seriously because we are hurtling forward like a train down a mountain with no breaks. Answering questions becomes the first way to bring awareness to what one is doing, how one is acting and why. And this awareness is the first step toward peace. It is very easy to remain overstimulated though and I am afriad that many people choose the ease that falling down a mountain allows. It does not require self-reflection, critical thinking or acknowledging the difficult choices life often presents us with. In order to find peace, one must really look at and be willing to see both the good and bad in oneself and others, the potential joy and pain that any moment offers. That is what would calm my student down after that boy speaks to her, the acknowledgement that something good, but also something bad may come of it. I worry though that with the amount of junk food our young people consume, with the amount of violence in the movies they watch and the encouragment of their friends that they will continue to choose being overstimulated. I cannot prevent them from making this choice, but I can continue to question them, to question myself. Question them about how they feel after eating McDonalds, question them about whether they are taking themselves seriously, about why they say and do the things that they do, about what they want out of life and what they need to get it.