I had an incredible conversation with Deputy Superintendent Evan Whitehead about his work with the focus “Balance, limits and breaks. ”There were so many takeaways in our chat, but I want to focus specifically on a few.
1. Evan discussed the importance of incorporating socio-emotional time into the daily routine for educators, as “compassion fatigue” can be overwhelming. According to this article by Katy Kamkar about the “20 warning signs for compassion fatigue,Here are some examples of emotional symptoms:
• •Feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, helpless, or powerless when you hear about the suffering of others
• Feelings of anger, irritability, sadness and fear
• You feel detached from your surroundings or from our physical or emotional experience
• Feeling emotionally, psychologically or physically exhausted, burned out or numb
• Reduced empathy
• You feel hypersensitive or insensitive to stories we hear or to emotional material that we may hear or see
• Limited tolerance to stress.
These symptoms not only affect our work performance, but can also permeate all aspects of our lives. So what can we do to help those we serve?
I remember a strategy, or rather a mindset that seemed simple at the time but made a big difference. When I started working at a new school, I noticed some experienced teachers leaving school during their preparation time and asked them where they would go. They told me that they needed Starbucks, and at the time I was afraid that they would get into trouble with our headmaster without knowing the culture of the school. They said that the headmistress would have no problem with this, as she encouraged people to use their preparation time to do what they needed to do to improve. One of these strategies for people was to get out of school for a few minutes and only have a moment to themselves.
Here’s the thing … your planning has always been done. But do you know how difficult it is to get things done when you feel overwhelmed? Sitting in a room and “planning” cannot possibly feel if you can’t think clearly. When I became an administrator, I specifically stated that people who needed time to get away during their preparation time had to do so. Nobody has ever abused it or never reappeared. In fact, I feel that people did better because they felt they were valued as professionals to do what they had to do in a way that made sense to them.
It seemed easy, but I remember how much it helped. I am happy to see that more and more administrators are realizing how important it is to take this time as we all know how emotionally overwhelming teaching can be.
2. Evan has also given me the following message and I think it is powerful.
The importance of standing up for yourself, and sometimes that means standing up for something to yourself, about your own well-being.
We often give our best advice to others, but we don’t take it ourselves.
Of the three concepts that Evan shared in terms of “balance, boundaries and fractions”, I was particularly interested in the idea of “boundaries”. What Evan had shared was that we have to think about how often we say “yes” to others, while we may say “no” to ourselves. I previously wrote about it and shared the following:
Can you say “No” to everyone? Absolutely not, nor should you. Too often, however, educators say yes to so many others, and sometimes we stack up more on educators who say “yes” more often. It’s almost a punishment for being reliable. But we have to be able to filter to take care of ourselves.
I also shared this article: “The 6 Questions I Ask Before I Say Yes to Anything ”by Jess ElkstromHere are tips on how to filter out what to say yes because only one person can use so much energy:
I became more selective where I used my time and energy. Just as I could work with an accountant to allocate my funds to various projects that I want to pursue, I wanted to direct my energy to where it was needed. I wanted my glass to do things that matter to me every day, not just because I felt like I had to say yes.
Evan’s perspective on “Balance, Limits and Breaks” reminded me that we can focus on the success of our students and colleagues and that this does not have to be at the expense of our wellbeing.
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