In the wake of yet another tragedy, educators will be spending time in the coming week trying to help students cope/manage/understand (don’t know if there is a correct verb) all that has taken place. Not a day goes by in which I am not in awe of educators’ ability to provide comfort and support to children when they need it the most. It’s what they do. While they probably knew that a portion of their days would be spent helping meet their students’ social and emotional needs, I can’t imagine educators were expecting to have so many needs of their own.
But they do.
Yes, there are supports in place to help us cope with our social and emotional needs. Awareness of our needs is gradually increasing. Yet, I can’t help but think that is an untapped resource that we are neglecting.
You read that correctly.
I believe that our students can help us if we just let them in.
They Are With Us Every Day
Think about it. We spend between one and seven hours with our students each day. While I am aware of the fact that we are the ones that are supposed to be taking care of them, I believe that they have the potential to help us. They notice things that we don’t. They can tell when we are upset or stressed. I know we are supposed to leave our issues at the door. But let’s be real. That’s impossible.
If we are having a rough day, why not reach out to them. I am not implying that we lie back on the sofa and empty our souls. What I am saying is that it is okay to let our students know when we are not ourselves. I have found that oftentimes they will empathize with us. They can surprise us if we let them.
All grown-ups were once children … but only few of them remember it.
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
We aren’t that different
The students that we spend our days with, whether they be 7 or 17, need to know that we are struggling too. Not that this will make them feel better. But what it will do is let them know that they are not alone. That we often deal with the same type of sh%$& that they do. We experience self-doubt. We get nervous. We have anxiety.
By opening up to our students, it gives them the courage to do the same. With us. With each other. With their friends. It seems as if every week we hear of someone who is struggling or worse, has taken their life. And yet we had no idea. We can’t let this continue.
Why do they treat us like children? they said & I said why do you treat them like adults?
& their eyes opened wide & they began to laugh & talk all at once & suddenly everything looked possible again.
― Brian Andreas, Trusting Soul
We need each other. Our days are spent trying to find ways to help our students and our nights are spent trying to find ways to put ourselves back together. It is time we start opening up to our students — letting them in.
What we are going to find is that once we realize that we need them as much as they need us, we can start to heal and grow and rise together. The children that we spend our days with are amazing. And so are we. But we are also tired. Just like them. Let’s be tired together so that we can then get stronger together.
I think it’s worth a shot.
There are things that you have to do, not that you want to do, and those things even though you still have to do them, and they might not be great, they are better because you are doing them together.
― Mary Marantz