feel helpless, be a helper

Aug 19, 2020

 

If I Only Knew Then

When I decided to take early retirement last October from my role as a high school counsellor/ teacher, I couldn’t have predicted the pandemic or its impact on the education system.  Especially the untenable situation my longtime colleagues, friends and close family members who are educators, students and parents are facing today.

Many are experiencing an enormous amount of fear, anxiety and overwhelming stress in light of unsafe re-entry plans that could burst every bubble that has helped flatten the COVID curve to this point.

I know of teachers who are:

  • Updating their wills
  • Letting aging grandparents know that Thanksgiving and Christmas get-togethers may not happen
  • Taking summer PD courses and preparing curriculum to be taught on multiple platforms
  • Instructing their children around hand-washing, distancing, masks and protocols for re-entering home after school
  • Deciding if they will retire early because either they or a family member is immune-compromised

We know that anxious students struggle to learn so why do we think that anxious teachers will be at their best?  The stress will inevitably impact their attention, memory, decision-making process, relationships and their health.

 

Now That I Know

From a place of deep empathy for those in this situation, I created a series of guided meditations.  A tool to help educators access their inherent emotional stability and resilience in preparation for the fall.  A practice to get their mind on board as an ally when it’s spinning out of control with “what if’s”.

Only a day or so after releasing the meditation sessions, a thoughtful educator online said something along the lines of “all the yoga, meditation and gratitude journaling cannot fix this”.  I get it!  This is not a solution.  Mindful practices are only a beginning.

That same day that the school board in my region sent out its “request for the confirmation of return” notices, parents and educators who are also parents were not sleeping.  So many decisions that would impact them for months, if not years, to come.  It was a sleepless night for many.

I was awake that night, too, thinking about how to be a support.  A support for people who, like me, chose a career to lead, guide, mentor and engage with other life-long learners to make a difference.

Then I realized something quite disheartening.

 

There is no fixing this situation.

There is no solution.

There is nothing I can do that will make a huge difference.

 

After looking at the clock for the hundredth time that night, I realized something else.  Something a little less disheartening.  It’s not my job to fix this.  I couldn’t if I tried. It’s my only job to care, to connect and contribute.

My job is only to be a helper.  A light for those who can only see the darkness right now.

 

 

Turning Helpless into Helpful

 

  • Care
    Empathize with those who have to make difficult choices
    Resist judging those who may make a different decision than you
    Know you’re privileged if you have multiple options

 

  • Connect
    Reach out to an educator you know who might be struggling
    Listen actively to their long list of worrying “what if’s”
    Make meals for an educator when the stress may be overwhelming
    Send notes of thanks to your child’s teacher

 

  • Contribute
    Take your own self-care seriously so that you are available to help
    Petition your government officials regularly for a safer re-entry plan
    Vote for public officials who respect and support teachers
    Provide PPE for a teacher and their classroom
    If teacher takes an early retirement, hire them to do work they can do from home

 

Do you have more ideas of how to be a helper in these times?

Please share your ideas in the comments.

 

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