Prompting Event: I was talking to my realtor about school starting and she said, “Teachers need to stop whining and do their job. They are getting paid to do it, so do it.”
My Interpretation: She cares more about “normality” than the teachers and students who are being put at risk.
My Physical Response: My eyes narrowed, jaw clenched, my heart started beating a little faster and the spot in my back that holds all of my stress tightened.
Urge to Act: I wanted to tell her to stick her bird-brained opinion where the sun does not shine and march right out of that house.
Action: Instead, I said to her, “Teachers have a bit of a point, people are going to get sick, and people are going to die. Is it worth putting this many people at risk?”
After Effects: She back pedaled and said that I was right but she felt like some were just whining to whine. To which I simply replied with a civil, “and perhaps some of them are.”
Perhaps you have conversations with others that are quite similar to this. Maybe you have been me in the conversation, or maybe you were the other person.
I know that I could have handled this situation differently if I would have taken a moment to consider other ways to interpret her words but–I am not going to lie to you–that is hard. It is hard to stop and consider the other person when, as an educator, my entire world has flipped upside down. It is hard to keep my emotions in check when I hear a flippant comment about my teachers, and I want to go straight into mama bear mode. It is hard to manage the ever changing swirl of emotions that lives inside of me right now, as every day–every moment–seems to hold a kind of change that is detrimental to my community and my students.
Yet, I must remember, I am not the only one feeling these things.
Every single one of us is experiencing this change. We have spent the summer watching and taking part in some of the biggest changes that this generation has seen. There is a constant state of mourning as we have seen death, destruction, disease, murder, famine, homelessness, and a war against the people themselves. As a nation, we are living on a precarious precipice, and the change that is coming is going to be even larger. This tension that lives in us, is only going to become more complicated.
We are going to have to become even more aware, more attuned, more gracious with our emotions.
Remember, we are adults, we have had practice managing our emotions, and we still find this time difficult maneuver–imagine what this must be like for students. Their whole worlds have changed too, and that most likely that classroom outburst was not about you. As educators, we must provide the space and skills to help students deal with these changes and emotions, while also being a model ourselves. This may seem daunting, but it need not be. While there are plenty of resources out there about how to support students socially and emotionally, there is a simple first step: create space and listen to your students.