Classes are over. Students are no longer seen weekly and lesson plans no longer need to be written…at least for a few months. Despite the end of the school year, our system continues to work for about 3 weeks (depending on where you are in the country) so we’re still going for another week. By now, we’re all pretty much exhausted and focused on the light at the end of the tunnel that is at the end of this last week of (official) work.
Due to the exhaustion, as well as other factors of course, stress is high and emotions are on a roller coaster. This last week will involve curriculum planning for our upcoming school year, which involves working in small teams and in the whole group to align the curriculum we’re teaching for each grade level. Although individual work can be stressful, it is often group work for me that becomes extremely taxing. Managing various opinions, background experiences and aspirations becomes difficult and as a teacher lead within my city, I have to be more aware of how I react.
Over the years, I have become pretty good at self-analyzing and reflecting in my own head. This helps me ensure that I’m at least thinking about how I’m feeling at any given moment and why that emotion may have been elicited. Over the years, I have also realized that many people don’t necessarily have this skill and so emotions kind of just spill out and the stress takes over everything.
As glad as I am that I don’t live that way anymore and that I have learned coping mechanisms for myself, it is difficult to get into conversations with those who have a hard time managing their own emotions and stress levels. As I prepare for a week of long, intense, & exciting grade level meetings, I’m trying to find ways to ensure that I can hold my own, but also help my team navigate the various feelings that come up during these times.
To do this, I turned to Google. An article on Muse and one on the Harvard Business Review (HBR) turned out to be helpful in getting me to think through small strategies that may help my team and I this week (and in the future, of course). The Muse article, by Jo Miller, helped me remember to make sure my team knows that I understand their pain and am on their side. It also helped me realize that I need to be flexible during these times to ensure we head in the right direction and made me think about how I can incorporate moments of stress relief into the day (one awesome example given was going into a closed room and screaming; I’m not sure I can make that one happen, though).
The HBR article, by Rich Fernandez, focused a bit more on practices of well-being and using compassion and empathy to get across to people. Not surprisingly, the practice of mindfulness was also brought up to help “train the brain to deal with chaos.” When you’re thinking through 3 weeks of lesson plans at a time, it can be difficult to stay in the moment of whichever one you’re discussing and easy to get confused, but mindfulness may be a way to help get some colleagues out of that rut. Maybe a few moments of meditation or a calm walk around the parking lot will help us keep going when the going gets tough.
In the end, I feel that it really comes down to one thing – me being able to manage my own emotions in order to ensure that I can help take care of those around me. Emotional intelligence skills are difficult to teach someone; we can discuss it all we want, but unless the individual takes it on consciously, it’s going to be hard to make it happen. So, let me just focus on what I can control – myself. Let’s hope I’ve got the strength & courage to make this week a successful, productive and joyful one for everyone on my team.