After the first semester, I give my students a writing prompt “What I Want my Teacher to Know”. They can write as much as they want, as detailed and deep as they want, and I promise them to keep it confidential, will read every text they write, and take it to heart. This can be a very eye opening experience and sometimes very difficult to take.
Of course some students keep it very much on the surface and write about their cats and dogs, football, and other things that do not cause many emotions or reflection. Other students go extremely deep and it can be heartbreaking as an educator to read their stories.
We get annoyed by certain behavior?
Do we have the right as an educator to judge?
Do we really know what our kiddos have to deal with day in and day out?
Here's just a small sample of some of the stories I receive.
Another young lady always comes in happy in the morning, a lot of social drama and difficulties adjusting to social situations- but seemingly happy.
This young lady recently found out that her step dad is dying of cancer in the next few months.
This young lady disappeared in the beginning of the school year, and the principal and I were on the phone with parents and police until ten o'clock at night to make sure she was o.k.
...and the list continues on and on.
Every year, these stories break my heart. Young people having to deal with issues that even adults are overpowered to overcome or even comprehend.
- Is homework really that important to this child?
- Is there a reason they are tired and unfocused in the mornings?
- Is it really all about my well-planned lesson that should make every student learn and grow?
The answer is “NO”!
There are more important things in life, there are relationships, there are the times these kiddos can unload and are respected and accepted by the educator who might be the only source of a smile and a warm embrace.
Doing all of this and staying strong as a teacher or parent, you have to ensure you are recharging.
I am not saying ‘stay’ distant- in fact DO NOT! These kids need you! The wounded warriors, these kiddos with special needs, the depressed teen especially needs you to show compassion, empathy, understanding and be there for them- but make sure to charge your ‘batteries’ as well.
Nobody can just give and give, and even though it might give you an incredible feeling of accomplishment, eventually you will need to show self-compassion. You can find online strategies and guidelines on how to do this.
What I found particularly eye opening was when she mentioned “secondary traumatic stress” and even though feeling bad about it - because really, I shouldn’t feel stressed because of other people’s issues - it made total sense.
If you hear so many traumatic stories, and you are in charge of caring and supporting these people, of course it becomes more personal than we might wish to admit.
However, as caregivers, we can not and often do not want to admit to fatigue. If we want to avoid it and be of better service, we need to ensure self-compassion however that might look like.
Some people might really benefit from exercises for self-compassion others might need to go to Yoga or go for a long trail alone up in the mountains, surf a good wave out in the ocean etc. Whatever works, use Kristin’s advice and make sure you “put on your oxygen mask first’- otherwise you are of no help to anybody…