January is a time for resolutions; a time to set goals, renew commitments, or vow to improve. Typically, these resolutions last about a month. . . and for some of us (myself included) a month is being generous! So, I am going to try something different this year and I’d like to invite you to join me.
Let me suggest that we cultivate positive change in the new year by nourishing our well-being. The keyword: being.
As a lifelong educator and advocate of hope, I know from experience that educators do not need more to do. For many of us, the last two years have been stressful, to say the least. We are worn down and worn out! Personally and vocationally, educators are exhausted by the incessant challenges brought on by a seemingly endless pandemic. Educators suggest that disruptive student behaviors, social immaturity, cell phone distractions, instructional loss, grief, trauma (our students’ and our own), polarizing politics, and an uncertainty regarding how to best address prevalent social and racial inequities within school all contribute to feelings of frustration and overwhelm. Add the pressure of meeting district or state mandates regarding curricula or standards, student assessments, and educator performance criteria, and the burden begins to seem unmanageable. We continue to hear, “you’ve got to take care of yourself,” yet that often feels like one more thing we must do.
Thus, as we step into the New Year, please join me in taking self-care off our “to do” list by focusing on the way in which we be. Our state of being already is. We all have thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors that help or hinder the situations we encounter in life as well as our social emotional well-being. As such, we can practice self-care by focusing on our way of being without taking on extraneous responsibilities.
Consider these 6 Ways of Being that can nourish our own well-being and, ultimately, that of others:
- Be Reflective: Being reflective means looking within. Being reflective can help us to connect or reconnect with the purpose and meaning of our vocations, inspiring joy, confidence, effectiveness, and productivity. To be reflective is to acknowledge strengths and opportunities that will foster personal and professional growth, as we cannot grow from that which we ignore, nor can we leverage a strength without recognizing it. We all possess traits that have helped us to be resilient over the last two years: flexibility, creativity, empathy, perseverance, compassion, patience, humor, or something else? Whatever our strengths, we nourish our well-being when we value our strengths and share them with others.
- Be Intentional: Being intentional means thinking, speaking, and behaving with purpose. Being intentional helps us to be present and contributes to mindfulness. When we are intentional, we take time to slow down, consciously breathe and prioritize our social, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. With intention, we notice our feelings and that of others, our realm of control, our words and actions and their impact on others. Being intentional cultivates authenticity, which fosters positive relationships and enriches our social and emotional well-being.
- Be Empathetic: Being empathetic means seeking to understand. Now, more than ever, our students, their families, and our colleagues need for us to be empathetic, to acknowledge that there is a human-being behind every behavior. Being empathetic fosters acceptance, kindness, self-lessness, and understanding. Being empathetic means listening without judgment, honoring differences, and actively engaging in courageous vulnerability by approaching people and situations with an open mind and an open heart. Being empathetic helps us to nurture stronger relationships, improve classroom management, and engage in more authentic communication.
- Be Connected: Being connected is developing and sustaining healthy relationships. It is being emotionally and socially united, even when it is necessary to be physically distant. Being connected means smiling authentically, using eye contact when appropriate, and greeting others by name. Being connected is knowing that the little things we say or do in the routine of our day can make a big difference. Expressing gratitude, sharing joy, or inquiring sincerely about someone’s experiences, interests, or well-being can help them feel seen and valued. Connection cultivates belonging, inspires confidence, and neutralizes isolation. If we have learned anything during this pandemic, we have learned that as humans walking this earth together, we are interdependent and interconnected.
- Be Accountable: Being accountable means taking responsibility for our choices. There is a burden we carry when our thoughts, words, or actions negatively impact others. Being accountable relieves that burden and helps us to acknowledge our poor choices, seek sincere forgiveness, and make a concerted effort to change behaviors that negatively impact ourselves or others. Being accountable sustains relationships, encourages honesty, demonstrates accountability, fosters trust, and enriches well-being.
- Be Equitable: Being equitable is to be fair, just, and free from bias. It is acknowledging that fair is not equal and that being free from bias requires we look within and reflect upon how our own experiences, or lack thereof, may limit our ability to see the way in which our own assumptions or judgments may negatively impact others. Being equitable blesses us with the opportunity to learn about the traditions, cultures, and ways of being of others, helping us to be more understanding and confident in advocating to ensure all students and adults have what they need to experience opportunity, achievement, and personal fulfillment. Ultimately, being equitable nourishes our own social and emotional well-being because it calls us to be reflective, intentional, empathetic, connected, and accountable.
In 2022, let’s resolve NOT to make a resolution without staying power. Instead let’s resolve to be. . . All year long!
For more information and practical tools for using Michelle’s Framework for Well-Being check out her new book, Social Emotional Well-Being for Educators.