As I read a story to an eighth grade eighth-grade class, they were instructed to imagine themselves as the main character and to notice what the character was thinking and feeling. “What’s the difference between a thought and an emotion?” asked one 8th grade student. I was surprised that I had to explain the difference to an almost high-school age student from an upper middle class background. I went on to explain that emotions are sensations we experience in our body, sometimes strongly, sometimes subtly, that tell us how we feel and that thoughts are ideas, words, opinions, interpretations, judgments, etc., that may give voice to that feeling or arise from other outside stimulation, formed in our heads.
I was grateful that the student had the courage to ask that question, for his own sake and for others who were wondering the same thing. This was a powerful reminder to me of how important it is to educate students about what they experience on the inside, regardless of age so they can learn how to better navigate the terrain of both their inner and outer worlds.