I know that teaching is a hard job and, not from personal experience, that parenting is a hard job too. I think that both of these jobs, on different levels, are so difficult because they feel (and are) so extremely important. Parents and teachers might be looked at as heroes but we have to remember we don’t have superpowers. We have limits and we can only handle so much. We make mistakes; we get frustrated and stressed out. We get disappointed with ourselves, we feel guilt and helplessness. These are huge complex feelings! It’s important to notice these feeling, admit them and talk about them.
Magda Gerber says, “both parents and infants need time for themselves” (18). I think we can replace the word infants with children in this statement. We all need time for ourselves. We (parents, teachers and anyone else who works with children) need time to care for ourselves and get our needs met. If our needs are not met how are we going to meet the needs of the children we care for? Think about when you’re on an airplane and the flight attendants are going over the emergency procedures. When the oxygen masks drop down, whose mask do you put on first? Yours or your child’s?….YOURS! If you pass out before you get your child’s mask on you won’t be able to help them.
Personally, the time I need for myself is all about discussing how I’m feeling (stressed, angry, disappointed with my care giving and so on) with a trusted adult. I got to attend the Annual RIE conference in April 2014 and had the privilege to listen to Janet Lansbury speak. One, out of the many, things she said that really stuck with me was how important it is to decompress with a trusted friend or coworker away from the children. I know that when I hold these BIG negative, complex feelings in it really starts to affect my care giving and how I interact with the children. So here’s what I do…
- First and most importantly I admit my feelings. This is the hardest part, I don’t like admitting that I’m not being the very best teacher I can be because I’m feeling stressed out, over worked or angry. In order to work through these feelings I first have to know what they are and recognize that they are there.
- Next, I need to tell someone how I’m feeling. I may need to talk to several people about how I’m feeling. This is not about fixing how I’m feeling it’s about being acknowledged (just like children it’s important that adult’s feelings are acknowledged also). This step might also include some crying.
- Then, I need to admit my feeling again and talk through them. This is where I explain why I’m feeling that way and moments that happened in the classroom that might have influenced my emotions. I have several people that come to mind that I can do this with and feel comfortable admitting everything that I did in a situation even if I’m not proud of it. This can be embarrassing but once you find the right person to talk to it won’t be. Talking through situations and emotions allows me to see if I’m overreacting and if there is something I can do differently to avoid feeling a certain way. This is also a time when suggestions from the person you’re talking with are welcome.
- Finally, I let my emotions take their course and I do what I can to help prevent myself from feeling these emotions again. I know that I will feel stressed, angry, frustrated, and burnt out at different points in the day, week or year and that’s okay but if I can avoid them I would really like to!
Remember that you, teacher or parent, are human! You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to feel happy all the time. When you do start feeling negative, big, complex feelings, admit it, don’t feel embarrassed and find a way that works best for you to move through these feelings. Don’t let yourself get to the point where your feelings are negatively affecting how you interact with children. Our work with children is important and we are important so make sure to take time for you.
Gerber, Magda, edited by Joan Weaver. Dear parents: Caring for infants with respect. 2nd/Expanded Edition ed. Los Angeles: Recourses for Infant Educarers, 2002. Print.