What is your most interesting work as you care for and educate children (ages 0-18)?

I’m curious about the resiliency of parents and teachers.  How can Learn Forward nourish their sacred work?  The emotional labour is obvious.  It weighs us down.  We can get overwhelmed.  It’s a terrible recipe for students.

We’re exploring interesting work, as parents and teachers, in this blog series.

  • Part I investigates the paradox of students being released into their own learning and creativity in balance with adults taking the lead role with boundaries and accountability.
  • Part II explores embracing the emotional labour of our work.

Resiliency

My therapist describes it this way:

We all have a container.  Throughout the day, all of the little stressors, irritations, deadlines, communications, interruptions, and pressures fill that container.  A teacher or parent who is blowing his stack or losing her cool has a container that is overflowing.  The pressures of life are just too much at that moment.

Photo by Léonard Cotte on Unsplash

There’s great news!  We can learn to daily empty our container.  Start with sleep.  Additionally, Emily and Amelia Nagoski in their book Burnout bring attention to completing the stress cycle as a way of emptying that container.  Even though the stressor might not be in front of you anymore, you have stored that energy in your nervous system.  The book discusses completing the stress cycle to deal with the chronic stress of educating or raising children, including:

  • exercising – most efficient way!
  • breathing – deeply and slowly
  • casual social interaction – remember the world is a safe place
  • laughing – from the belly
  • affection – the 6s kiss or the 20s hug
  • crying – the key to adaptation
  • creative expression – paint, bake, make music

Regularly implementing these simple practices improves resiliency.  They tell your body you are safe now!  You can relax.

The Nagoski sisters admit when you are really bogged down with an accumulation of stress in your body, it will take more than a 30min jog to unwind.  The rest of their book is about how to do it!

Vulnerability

A pre-requisite to resiliency is vulnerability.  You see, at the very least, I have to admit to myself and likely to others that I don’t have it all together in order to improve.

It takes courage.

What if my classroom looks more like a tornado than a learning space?  Or, what if my container is overflowing with fire and anger more often than it should, particularly with children?  What if I just can’t seem to get out of the ruts of teaching to unlock creative and engaging learning projects?  Or, what if every time I approach report cards, I know I’m not prepared and don’t have evidence of learning?  What if my finances are out-of-control and the “Overdue” slips are everywhere?

Honestly, I know these feelings.  I’ve been there many different times, both as a teacher and as a parent.

A Story of Vulnerability

When I first started teaching, I was in a shared contract with one of the most joyful humans I’ve ever met!  She just glowed positivity.  I did not.  I also found myself at a loss for how to effectively manage the students without raising my voice.  Even though they were little (Grade 2) and I felt so much shame, I was struggling to break these habits.  It was worse because my partner didn’t seem to have any of my issues.

However, my shame kept me quiet and made it worse.

I don’t know how it happened, but a mentor teacher from my church and I started walking together every other Saturday morning.  We both had young children at home, but she had been teaching much longer and served at a different school.  She was lovely and encouraging.  Slowly but surely, I would confess my frailties.

  • “I yell at the students too much.”
  • “I’m pretty disorganized.”
  • “Assessment is overwhelming me.”

We would brainstorm together.  Over time, I learned how to manage my classroom in ways that didn’t leave my nervous system frayed.  Also, I learned how to prepare a full week in advance and stay on Fridays until I was ready.  Indeed, my Future Self was always so grateful.  WOW!  One of the best things I learned was how to mobilize the students in a myriad of ways: to care for the learning space, create quality self-assessments of their own work, and take care of each other.  It was a wonderful process of professional growth!

The formula for unlocking resiliency included vulnerability.  It was a worthiness story.  As I let go, I gradually was able to integrate, habit-upon-habit ways of completing the stress cycle.  I learned how to pursue a balance of succeeding at work and home.  It’s taken many years, but I think it’s getting easier.  My vulnerability leads to growth.  My stress management leads to resiliency.

For the sake of the children,

Karine

PS  If you are interested in planning more specifically for your own self-care, you can download the FREE self-care template here.