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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in self management

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 Classroom Management

As I was watching my favorite hockey team the other day, I noticed something that struck me during one of the brawls that (for whatever reason) still occur in the almost every game. I was amazed as the guy wearing the black and white striped shirt held two huge athletes at bay and got them to stop fighting without even being phased. He calmly talked to both players, they released their stranglehold on one another, and the game continued (after penalty minutes were distributed, of course). I immediately thought about so many issues that I've seen with classroom management, and how this guy might have the solution.

I know what you're thinking: "what does this have to do with me, my students, or my classroom?" 

Let me explain. The ref was able to calm down two extremely angry players, and continue the purpose of the event because he didn't get emotionally charged, maintained his expectations, and focused on getting the game going again. This is exactly how we as teachers need to address disruptions and management issues in our classrooms.

Before I get to far, I want to point out that there are systems, routines, procedures, and a myriad of other pieces that go into good management, such as building relationships. For right now though, I'd like to keep talk about re-focusing students and reducing the stress level of a situation that has gotten 'out of hand'.

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Posted by on in General

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Sometimes the thought of right now can be overwhelming! We have so much going on in our lives that we feel we cannot add one more thing to our already full plates.

I did not write this post to convince you otherwise. I wrote this post to suggest a different way of thinking about things that pushes tothe side the right now mindset.

Because let’s be honest.

Right now is scary! And when we put right now demands on our brain it usually reacts in one of two ways. And I am not fond of either one.

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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 Education Leadership

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In August of 2015, I summited the 13,770 foot Grand Teton. I had attempted the climb over 12 years before, but was turned back because of weather and it remained an unmet personal goal over the years. Thanks to a push from my cousin last winter, we decided we were going to attempt the “Grand” together at the end of the 2015 summer. I once again set my focus on the goal of reaching the top of the “Grand” and this time I successfully met the physical and mental challenges it took to complete the climb.

chairThe morning following my 14-hour climb, descent and celebration dinner, I pulled myself out of bed because my friend Luis Hernandez, an early childhood specialist from the Western Kentucky University, was facilitating at the Children’s Learning Center staff retreat and I did not want to miss him. I was delighted I did because we had a fantastic morning focused on early childhood leadership... my favorite topic.

When I returned home that afternoon, I began to feel the “blues” caused by the emotional letdown from my huge accomplishment the day before. I had spent so much time preparing for my climb. I had set my vision more then 12 years prior, taken steps to reach the summit, both literally and figuratively, and now the accomplishment was behind me. I had been leaning into the process for a long time and now there was nothing to push against.

A couple of days later, when my body felt good enough to take a walk again, I began to reflect on my feelings of letdown and my thoughts brought me back to Luis, leadership, and a book he co-authored with Holly Elissa Bruno, Janet Gonzalez-Mena, and Debra Ren-Etta Sullivan called Learning from the Bumps in the Road: Insights from Early Childhood Leaders, specifically the chapter titled The Great Imposter: Unmasking the burden of Self-doubt in Our Professional Lives. It occurred to me during my emotional letdown I had begun to question my accomplishment... had I really been good enough or was it a fluke? Did I have it in me to gear up to take such a risk and meet similar challenges again? And more importantly, do I need to set a new vision and start working on it immediately?

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