So last week I had a long, and as it turns out, a much needed conversation with a great friend and colleague of mine. We talked about the past year and a half, and how incredibly hard it has been for everyone, and for our world, and you know what, that conversation for me was cathartic. At one point he used the word “trauma” to describe some of his low points since the pandemic began, and for many people that is exactly what the last 18 months or so have been…traumatic.
Trauma as we all know, is the response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, and it can cause feelings of helplessness, loneliness and isolation. It can diminish a person’s sense of self, and it impacts a person’s ability to feel a full range of emotions and experiences. Well, what people have gone through lately certainly fits this definition, and I think the first step toward healing is for all of us to find space to unpack and talk about how we have been affected and changed since this all began.
To be honest, I’m not very good at opening up about my darker feelings, and I’m outwardly as happy and optimistic as anyone that you’ll ever meet, so the conversation with my friend was a little uncomfortable at first. As it went on however, it started to feel good to say out loud how I was feeling, and to verbally articulate how much I’m struggling with the way the world is these days. It can be overwhelming if you stop and think about all of it, which is why it is so easy not to, so many of us keep focused on the silver linings and little joys and gratitudes as a nice defense mechanism…I’m really good at that by the way, but I’m not sure it’s all that healthy as a solitary and full-time approach.
Saying that this past year has been hard is a colossal understatement, as people have lost jobs and loved ones, been sick (in some cases more than once), been locked down and isolated away and in most cases deprived of many things that make them happy. We haven’t been able to hug or touch or even see people’s faces, we haven’t been able to travel, many of us haven’t seen family for almost two years, and every day is an uncertainty. The level of stress and the type of stress that people are experiencing is unprecedented and people are afraid.
For educators specifically, we are struggling to be our best professional selves in this new normal, and we are all desperate for the things that we took for granted, like a face to face happy hour, or a sit down lunch with a friend, or a simple conversation with a student without a mask on. We’re all so tired of it and we all just want to take off our masks and smile and share a hug with someone…anyone. For our students, it’s also been really difficult. Many of the best parts about school are gone for them, and for seniors, it’s happened at the absolute worst time. For the kids who find their identity through sport or theater or social connections it has been devastating. So, let’s talk about it…we need to.
Before the end of the year, as we carve out time to meet and reflect about the year in teams and as a larger division and school, we will have an opportunity to share how we’re feeling, and how we’ve been affected, and by sharing we can find strength in our collective trauma. Like I said, sharing and listening and empathizing can be a cathartic experience, and I think it’s essential that we do this first, before we have the important conversations about how much we’ve grown, and how much we’ve learned, and about all of the good things, the silver linings, that will eventually come out of this.
In a strange way that conversation with my friend buoyed me a little and I felt lighter and ready to return to my smiley and optimistic self…I think that talking about the hard parts of your year will help you too. Anyway, the end of the school year is in sight so hang in there and lean on each other for support. Together we will unpack our trauma and then celebrate our growth, which will in both instances make us a little bit better and a little bit stronger. Have a wonderful short week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. Oh yeah, Happy Mother’s Day for all you incredible mothers out there!
Quote of the Week…
Listen. People start to heal the moment they feel heard.
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