Hearing heartbeats might make me faint, but will make me a better teacher




originally posted by olirrorz but originally originally from “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”

I have a confession: I don’t like the sound of my heartbeat.

This isn’t an issue of vanity. I’m sure it’s a handsome beat, but when I can feel it and/or I’m cognizant of the sound it bothers me. Even when I sleep I generally don’t like to sleep on my left side and if I’m laying on that side or on my stomach I don’t like to have my left chest directly against the mattress. It vibrates against the mattress so I put my arm or a pillow in between to prevent that. Yes, I know this is WAY too much information, but bear with me.

I hadn’t though too much about it until I listened to a recent episode of Radiolab. Listen to it, if you dare (really I encourage you), but basically it’s a segment about a woman who had a heart transplant and ended up with a very, very strong sounding heart. Like out of body! Ooooh!! As part of the show they had a band playing a beat like a heartbeat and hearing it made me want to faint. Literally. I had a physical response close to fainting. They explain that this reaction may happen in about 2-4% of people, most likely due to a reaction from the parasympathetic nervous system. I turned off the podcast and didn’t finish the episode until last night and it still caused a strange physical reaction.

Yesterday morning I was driving to work with the music turned up loud (it was Monday – coffee wasn’t enough). The music was loud enough to feel the drumbeat vibration against my leg coming from the door speaker. Suddenly I had this strange feeling like I was going to pass out and my mind was telling me there was nothing I could do about it. I was about to pass out (thanks, mind). My limbs got cold and I started to see stars. Fortunately, I was aware I was about to pass out – I even started thinking through the emergency. I had my “pass out while driving” escape drill all planned out.

“Ok, Aron, time to slow down – let’s pull over and get the car in park. Don’t forget about the hazards and then just pray there’s no collision.”

The song in question was Josh Ritter’s song “Homecoming” – a song I’ve listened to many times – just not at such dangerous decibels.

At that volume the kick drum was mimicking a heartbeat!

I had just enough brain power to make the connection that it might be the song – to CHANGE THE SONG before passing out, but that was pretty scary for a minute. Blood flow went back to normal pretty quickly.

It really bothers me that I don’t like the sound of my heartbeat, as if I dread the involuntary muscle contraction that keeps my living machine going. Please don’t stop, heart. I like you. Fortunately, for me, I’m rarely aware my heart is literally beating. Right now? Don’t even feel it. Just trusting it’s still going.

Figuratively though, I need to listen more to my heart and the heartbeat of others. Just not my literal heart.

I want to know what makes my student’s hearts beat. What keeps them going? We check in on our student’s brains daily (hopefully), but we don’t always check in on their hearts. I’ve worked with too many teachers – effective teachers – who haven’t been listening to heartbeats. I don’t write this because I have some secret formula. It’s certainly not to call out educators or because I think we are doing a poor job. Most teachers do an outstanding job of listening to their student’s hearts. If anything, it’s a reminder that our heart is there even when we don’t hear it beating and we need to be more intentional about listening.

Let’s get the stethoscopes out.

Here’s some music to play us out…

The Avett Brothers – Kick Drum Heart

I don’t mean this to be morbid or dark, but ironically, this is the song I changed it to…

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats – I Need Never Get Old