by Laura Brownstone, LCSW
In 2020, I was lucky to facilitate my first Healing Circle for Teachers sessions, in which a small group of teachers joined me on a Saturday (via Zoom) to talk about what they experience in and out of the classroom. Over the course of two hours, teachers shared honestly with each other about their fears and provided ways they coped with the unknown and the lack of ideal teaching conditions. Some teachers taught for at least 20 years, while others had just started.
It was crazy to feel the 50 degree weather that day in December. At that time, I wanted to walk off the worry about getting retested for Covid-19. (I tested negative last Friday, and then I tested again this week. I am waiting for results to stop my quarantine.) Others spoke about, in their own words, the ways in which the pandemic was real.
But I am one of the privileged ones who gets to work from her apartment. I think of everyone who must work in schools, in offices, retail, food service or on public transportation. I think of first responders and teachers who continue despite feeling acute stress.
It’s 2021. Now what?
Some group members worried about returning to school in January. Some teachers thought about leaving the profession. Others asked for ways of coping with the crushing realization that not all kids will be reached through technology.
They wanted to feel more engaged with their classes yet many kids didn’t turn on their cameras. They wondered how to continue to feel enthusiastic about the work. One teacher shared how she interacted with her kids creatively in the moment. She wasn’t worried about doing things perfectly, but she focused on making honest connections with her kids. Most teachers in the group had a story that acted as a catalyst for teaching. It was usually a wise teacher they knew. It seemed that a good mentor teacher and colleagues made all the difference. I started thinking about other mentors and role models.
I loved the question that Mr. Rogers (Fred Rogers, that is… the beloved PBS TV personality) asked the audience at the Emmys one year. He asked the celebrities, ”Who loved you into being?” I ask you: Who loved you into being? Who said “you can do this?” I loved hearing the teachers’ stories of who mentored them. We all need that support. As I gently remind my clients, support is just a human need.
I also think about Mr. Brown, who was my ninth-grade teacher, who helped me figure out algebra. When I was failing the class and avoiding the work, he stayed late to help me practice solving problems. With repetition I better understood “order of operations” and could breathe. I remember professors in journalism school who believed I could write. They said I just needed to have some faith. I thank them.
It was very meaningful to me when I noticed how in the end all the teachers had moved closer to their screens and felt heard and connected. They logged in as strangers but left as people connected in wanting to heal.
Join our next Healing Circle for Teachers events. Dr. Laura Brownstone will host the next Healing Circle on two dates, Jan 23 and April 17. You and other teachers you know can register here: http://bit.ly/3buChnS