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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Self-care

Posted by on in Social Emotional Learning

Towards the end of a Tibetan Buddhism meditation lecture on compassion, a woman in the back row raised her hand and asked, what about compassion fatigue? Before the instructor could reply, the woman added, I am a teacher. I do my best. I care for my students, but it gets to the point when I can’t anymore. I feel empty and useless. I was in the front row and couldn’t see her face, but I felt the heaviness as if she were right beside me. The instructor explained that compassion fatigue is a result of being attached to outcomes. When things don’t turn out the way we expect, we feel disappointed which can lead to apathy and fatigue. She encouraged the woman to use her meditation practice to explore whether her happiness was dependent on the outcomes of her students or if she found joy in teaching them, regardless.

I left the session deep in thought. I appreciated how the instructor used the question as an opportunity to introduce the topic of detachment, the stripping away of one’s ego and the delusion of acting for the sake of self-aggrandizement, but I felt uncomfortable suggesting to a teacher that she detach herself from outcomes and focus on her happiness. So many educators, myself included, have turned to contemplative practices to find peace. Often we work in challenging environments where the best, most dedicated teachers are driven by outcomes. Outcomes tell us if we are doing our job correctly, if we are having an impact on the lives of students. When supporting teachers who are burnt out and suffering, we need to consider a different approach when they turn to mindfulness meditation training.

Teachers typically go into the teaching profession for altruistic reasons. They want to help students and make a difference in the world through the process of education. This is the seed of compassion. In reality, it is only a seed because compassion needs to be cultivated through mindfulness and pedagogical training. Oftentimes, our best intentions don’t translate into the world in the way we would like. Compassion involves listening deeply and bearing witness to suffering and also, helping to relieve that suffering. How does one listen deeply and bear witness? How does one know what is needed in any given situation?

Compassion is associated with the heart chakra. When there is an imbalance in our heart chakra, we begin to experience insensitivity and apathy for others; what would normally be heartbreaking, suddenly means nothing. The heart chakra is associated with love, relationships, and kindheartedness, but it also pertains to self-acceptance. Self-acceptance is often forgotten. It is arguably the most important aspect of how we cultivate our ability to be compassionate. Self-acceptance involves understanding who you are, knowing your strengths and your weaknesses, and recognizing your limits. Without self-acceptance, we cannot be compassionate without burning out, and losing clarity.

Let us consider an example of compassionate behavior in a school setting. A teacher walks down the hall, busy and late. She passes a student who is crying so she stops everything. She takes the time to fix the situation by getting a band-aid or walking him to the guidance office. This is a very simple scenario, but in most cases, it is unrealistic. What about the classroom full of rowdy students who would be left alone without supervision? Or the principal who would be left waiting in her office scowling? Teachers work in complex, often chaotic environments characterized by countless demands and a wide range of social, emotional, and academic needs. It can be difficult to make choices. It can be difficult to be compassionate all the time. For the newest teachers, still figuring out the curriculum, they are unaware of what may be going on below the surface. Why is Fran’s head down? Is she tired, confused, or hungry? Why did Tomás refuse to answer the question? Is he shy or does he not know the vocabulary? Why didn’t half the parents show up to the parent teacher conference? Was it timing or cultural insensitivity?

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Posted by on in General

reading on plan

Sitting on a plane is typically not my favorite thing to do. However, it’s been a great time for me to catch up on reading. I have no excuses not to; no screaming kids (that are mine), no texts, and I even try to refrain from Netflix.

I read a book review of Do Over by Jon Acuff a few weeks back and couldn’t help but to laugh.  The review spoke about how people dread Mondays, their current job, and how people feel stuck in their Groundhog-Day-like jobs (if you don’t get the reference, you need to watch this). Being that I’m always talking or tweeting about how people should leave their job if they are not happy, I was intrigued.

The book eventually delved into a myriad of issues that deal with relationships, skills, character, and hustle. These four qualities help you shape your entire career and how you will proceed.

Some great quotes and takeaways from the book include:

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Posted by on in Professional Development

If you follow me on Twitter, you have probably seen me use the FitLeaders hashtag quite often. You may have searched the hashtag and come across a variety of posts by a lot of different people. This still may not give you a true idea about what the #FitLeaders movement is all about. This idea originated with Dr. Ryan B. Jackson in January of this year and gained significant traction ever since. He wrote a blog post titled "Empower Yourself! #FitLeaders" that highlights the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of being fit, as well as how it can positively impact your school.

Ryan and I met during a Saturday #LeadUpChat session and we have challenged each other ever since. The #FitLeaders movement includes educators from all walks of life with different fitness goals. We like to tag one another in our workout pics to increase accountability and raise the bar for each other. It has allowed us to build a community based on support, encouragement, and a genuine desire to see all of us become our best self.

Recently, I have found myself reflecting on my meaning of the #FitLeaders movement. If you look at the posts that include the hashtag, you will see a heavy focus on the physical fitness aspect. What is not immediately clear to an outsider is the impact that the physical fitness part has on one's mental and emotional fitness. If you have ever worked out, I can guarantee that you have benefitted from the release of endorphins that make you feel like you are on top of the world. Ever experienced "Runner's High"? I know I have and it is an amazing feeling! These endorphins can impact your mental and emotional fitness as well. Being fit is as much about your emotional and mental fitness as it is your physical fitness. Here is how you can take control of all three key components to build a better you!

Physical Fitness - This one is kind of a no-brainer, right? Work out and improve the way your body looks, feels, and functions. Seems simple enough, but here's the thing. So many us cannot get out of our heads and get out of our way when it comes to starting something. Let me explain something to you. I don't care if you are a professional athlete, are extremely overweight, or fall somewhere in-between. Everybody has to start somewhere. All of our starting points are different and focus on what our goals are. I run elite Spartan Races, but I was not always capable of doing this. Don't believe me? Check out these two posts about my Spartan Journey here and here. Stop psyching yourself out and get started somewhere. Go for a walk or a jog, go buy a workout series (there are so many, but I am incredibly partial to BeachBody products), sign up for a gym membership and talk with a trainer, or get involved yourself with #FitLeaders on Twitter (we will help you, I promise!). Bring the best you have on a regular basis and always look for opportunities to improve on the previous day. Do yourself a favor and remember there are ups and downs, every single day. Don't believe that? Check out the differences in times from two of my trail runs that were completed 3 days apart!

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Posted by on in Professional Development

art materials

One of the side effects of teaching is that we often give up our hobbies, our crafts, even our art for our job.  Our jobs are so overwhelming that we often sacrifice our music, our art thinking we don't have time for it, not with needing to make another parent phone call or write another lesson plan.

For those of us battling chronic illness or even disability, though, we need to make time for our crafts, our art.  An interesting study by Stuckey and Nobel in 2010 found that patients with chronic health problems do better if they create something, anything, especially visual art, music, dance, or creative writing.  In all reality, it helps all teachers, since the study found that, "despite methodological and other limitations, the studies included in our review appear to indicate that creative engagement can decrease anxiety, stress, and mood disturbances" (Stuckey & Nobel, 2010).  For those of us living with pain or chronic health issues, creating music or poetry, painting or knitting, dancing or sewing can help us heal: "When people are invited to work with creative and artistic processes that affect more than their identity with illness, they are more able to 'create congruence between their affective states and their conceptual sense making.'104(p53) Through creativity and imagination, we find our identity and our reservoir of healing" (Stuckey & Nobel, 2010).  Finding that "reservoir of healing" would be amazing for most of us.

So, how do we fix this?  Kate Harper interviewed Rice Freeman-Zachery, author of Creative Time and Space: Making Room for Making Art, and she came up with ten ways to make time for our creative processes.  In reality, many of these are tricks teachers already use to make time for our jobs at home, but we can also use these to fit in our music, our art, our writing.  I personally like #7, wearing what we need to feel like the artists we are.  We so often wear teaching clothes, even outside of the classroom, putting on that professional mask  It's okay to wear what we need to wear, put on what you need to write, create, sing, dance.  Do it to feel better, to be whole.

References

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Posted by on in General

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What's your restoration plan? I mean, despite the holidays and travel and grading and planning and presents and stress, how do you plan to be ready to return in January to school rested and restored and ready-to-rock?

Well, I have an assignment for you. I gave a similar one to my students, with only slightly different rationales.

1) Go for a walk outside.
The weather may be cold and wet, but exercise, fresh air, and natural light are good for you, preventing brooding. If you're like me, and work in the Northern Hemisphere, there's a good chance that you've been going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark only to balance grading, family, and holiday preparation. Your mental health and circadian rhythm will thank you for taking a walk outside in a natural setting. I've got such a kick out of walking in the morning this week -- in daylight nonetheless!

2) Express gratitude.
Sure, if you express gratitude to others, their day will be better, holiday spirit, yada yada. But expressing your gratitude by writing a heartfelt card, or calling someone to let them know why you appreciate them, will help you be more positive and happier. Positive and happy teachers are good for students.

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