Educator Vulnerability and Reflection

Disclaimer: This is from our hearts, with students in mind. The intention is to help us ALL do better (including us), to keep our “Why" in focus. Reading this, you may feel emotional and uncomfortable, or even resentful. For us, we find our biggest growth is when we accept the challenge to go to a place of vulnerability, for the good of all kids. Here we go…..

Teachers, let's strive to be honest with ourselves, and with others. None of us are ok. Yep, we said it. The feelings of stress and overwhelm are not new to educators; but this year, it feels different. As you walk down the halls, you can feel the energy of anxiety and worry seeping through every crack and crevice. Masks may hide some of our emotions, but it’s amazing what a furrowed brow and intense eyes can share with coworkers. When we do laugh, it's either forced, or it's more of a sarcastic response to a conversation, idea, or ask. Things that would have rolled off us in the past, are now the last straw. (And sometimes our last straw happens daily). More and more educators are considering leaving the profession for a variety of reasons. This is the reality for us all the first month into the school year.

This is hard. Everything feels extra. We are worried about our health, and the health of our family and students. Each day feels like we are awash in cortisol and adrenaline; racing through the day trying to stay above water. There aren't enough support staff to go around, and sub jobs continually go unfilled. It’s no wonder many educators want to throw in the towel. That is, until we remember why we are here; for the kids.

Our students come to us with a variety of needs. For some, we are the only place where adults attempt to meet those needs. Some kids have experienced neglect, and are familiar with adults letting them down. The thing is, if we aren't careful, we can quickly become just another adult who disappoints them. Here are some things that can easily happen if we aren't emotionally regulated educators:

  • Students feel our stress, get uncomfortable, and begin to act out (Or withdraw completely).

  • We develop a skewed perception of student motivation, behavior, or respect.

  • Kids are overly written up for discipline issues.

  • Relationships with coworkers are stressed or damaged.

  • We forget to “Seek to Understand” when communicating with families.

  • Some become overly judgmental of others (including colleagues, families, or leaders).

  • We revert to familiar teaching methods that fail to serve ALL kids, because we are stressed and need to feel “good” at something.

Instead of being stuck in the hard feelings of resentment, anxiety, and disappointment, and letting that affect our interaction with students, let’s take this week to reflect like an emotional detective. We want to understand our different and heightened emotions we are experiencing this year, to attempt to move forward. This week, try these steps:

  • Recognize the emotions you are feeling. Give them names; attach them to physical feelings you experience. Work to go beyond the basics like “I’m stressed” or “I’m tired and overwhelmed.” Really dig deep to uncover the specific emotion you are in the midst of.

It’s going to feel messy and uncomfortable. This discomfort is necessary to move forward. Linked below is the “Mood Meter” from Marc Brackett’s work with the Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence. It's designed to help us specifically identify our emotions to attempt to understand ourselves.

  • Understand the “why” behind our emotions. Now that you’ve specifically identified the emotion, now comes the hard part. Asking ourselves things like, “Why do I feel this way right now?” “Is there a specific cause of this emotion?” “Is there something I experienced that triggered this?” In ``Permission to Feel”, Brackett writes “The stronger the emotion, the higher the stakes.” Many of us don’t like to go deep in this area, as it can bring up traumatic experiences. However, with the help of a mental health professional, this can be a necessary step to understand our triggers, and begin to recognize them. Hopefully we can catch ourselves, before we react in a way that can be harmful to our students.

We hear a lot about self care. To us, the start of self care is understanding ourselves; our triggers; and our needs. It is crucial to spend time learning how to be an emotional detective. Doing so helps us to remember our why...the kids. We look forward to taking this journey with you and growing in our discomfort together.

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