Through the Eyes of an Educator: From Forward Movement to Giant Leaps

by Stacey Ebert / Apr 05, 2022 /
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In 2012, when Hurricane Sandy struck, I lived in Long Beach, NY. Living right on the ocean meant the threat of a hurricane could necessitate a water rescue. We were able to safely evacuate and had a safe place to stay. We left for our own safety—and so that no rescuers would need to risk their own life to save us. In the hurricane’s aftermath, we volunteered at the Long Beach Ice Arena, which quickly became the donation/distribution hub for the entire barrier island. Help came from everywhere. In the days and weeks that followed, hundreds took part in a gigantic relief effort that eventually shifted towards recovery. We witnessed the shift in the needs of the public, the amount of people flooding into the center, the help that came, the boardwalk that was rebuilt, and the spirits of humans in our city that went from battered and bruised to empowered, rebuilding, and thriving. 

As with any mass event, there are periods of time that may last for days or hours but feel like weeks and months, and some that are weeks and months and feel even longer. And, of course, when there’s a shift to whatever that ‘return to normal’ looks like for many people, there are always those who for a variety of reasons aren’t at that same space at that very same time. 

Ten years after Hurricane Sandy, it feels like we’re in a familiar spot. After a long hiatus that shifted course multiple times, there’s a desire for that ‘return to normal’...whatever any sort of ‘normal’ might mean—which will, of course, be different for every one of us. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: From Forward Movement to Giant Leaps

Two weeks turned into two years with times of lockdown, new learning, and discovery that has ebbed and flowed at different stages for different communities and humans. Yet, as the world tries to take steps to re-emerge from the most devastating time of the pandemic while still in the midst of it all, not everyone is on the same page. 

How can we help our students, our next generation, manage the ebbs and flows, the challenging risks, their own comfort levels, and all of the everything that comes with being a part of an engaged and active social society

How can we ensure that our children feel safe and secure, learn about tolerance and acceptance, understand that there will be different paths, and find perspective and gratitude amidst it all? 

How can we find our footing once again in a constantly polarizing, difficult, and risk-filled world?

Through the Eyes of an Educator: From Forward Movement to Giant Leaps

As always, there are many things in this world beyond our control. If we asked many people what they’d want in the world, I’m certain you’d hear some say world peace, a return of empathy, an end to wars, access to healthcare for all, and safety and security for the world’s children, and today, for certain, it would include an end to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

When I find myself stuck, struggling, or ruminating on a decision or a step, breathing helps. 

When I find myself anxious, dealing with the loud ‘what ifs’, the risks, and the stuff that has nothing to do with my control, shifting my surroundings helps

And, when I find myself wondering how on earth ‘other people’ are participating in things and spaces ‘I want’ to, as well, pausing to recall perspective, gratitude, and the things that make me—well, me—help, too. 

We all have our own levels of comfort that contract and expand in situations that happen to us and ones we take steps to make happen. Whatever space you’re in right now, isn’t the final spot of that comfort zone. We have the power to change, the ability to alter our attitude, change our perspective, manage our own risk aversions, and take a cue from Disney’s Luca, to ‘SILENCIO’ our own BRUNOs. 

In 2012, the ocean met the bay in Long Beach, the winds and the water decimated our boardwalk, and people, pets, and property were forever changed. But, when the water receded, the winds slowed, and damage was assessed? With one foot in front of the other, with a bit of help and a whole lot of heart, steps were taken to move forward. Today, you’ll see houses on stilts, a thriving boardwalk, and a community that was then bruised but today flourishes. It wasn’t a leap, yet to some, it may look like that. It took a whole host of little steps—constant, forward moving little steps to get there. 

Call it resilience, call it a force, call it a what other choice did we have, or anything else you like, but sometimes, afraid or not, we take the steps anyway...and with each step, we grow.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: From Forward Movement to Giant Leaps

5 Ways to Help Guide a Journey of Forward Movement

Take the traveler’s approach 

“If we fail to adapt, we fail to move forward.” - John Wooden

Multiple times, while traveling or preparing to travel, there’ve been things that make you stop, doubt, and say, "I’m scared." I can remember the shots needed to go to Africa, the first time taking anti-malarial pills, and the first time we had to tick the box for repatriation insurance. I can remember trying to pack in one small bag for a year-long ‘round the world trip and wondering about all the stuff in the bottom of the closet. Each one had a level of fear, of discomfort, and each time it was a struggle to work amidst it and do it anyway. 

Without knowing it at the time, each small step made the next one possible. 

Perhaps, as we continue to forge our new paths in this weary time of unsteady footing, we can take that traveler’s approach. Ask the questions, consider the options, allow the nerves to be there, engage that perspective, then take a safe step that seems acceptable to you even if it’s not the most comfortable. With each step, you’re defining your version of normal and growing into the you of tomorrow.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: From Forward Movement to Giant Leaps

Take small steps, but take them often 

“Every great move forward in your life begins with a leap of faith, a step into the unknown.” - Brian Tracy

Whether it was your first day of kindergarten, sleep away camp, university or something else, it’s possible that there was a level of nerves, discontentment, or butterflies. Perhaps we didn’t have the verbiage to go with the feeling, but it was there. But, for most of us, we went back for a second day, and a third, and finally, some of those feelings may have subsided making room for a bit of calm before the next unsteady step. 

In essence, without knowing it, we were building our resilience muscles, our adaptability aspects, our fear force field, our superhero capes that allow us to do what we need to grow into the person we wish to be. Often, as we grow, we forget to look back to see how far we’ve come. 

The first day of a new job is that first day of kindergarten. That first date, marriage proposal, big adventure, new house, decision day...whatever the next big step or scary leap, we forget, we’ve been there before and survived to rule the day. While Dr. Seuss may have told us about all the places we’ll go, let’s remember all the places we’ve been and the steps we had to take to get there and the ones we can continue to take to get where we wish to go tomorrow.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: From Forward Movement to Giant Leaps

Use proven psychology methods to reframe your own behavior 

“If you can’t fly then run. If you can’t run then walk. If you can’t walk then crawl. But, whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sometimes we need to employ the strengths of other avenues in order to help ourselves, and sometimes we need to utilize the assistance of the experts in the field. Whether we’re managing our own behavior or getting help from experienced professionals, changing our thought patterns and behaviors is not for the faint of heart. 

The Mayo Clinic defines cognitive behavior therapy as ‘a common type of talk therapy…CBT helps you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way.’ Another tool in our toolkit, CBT can ‘help anyone learn how to better manage stressful life situations’. 

Positive psychology focuses on strengths, well-being, and the flourishing and thriving portions of life. While we work to maximize our strengths, we all have other aspects that take a bit more work and need a bit more care. Perhaps it’s meditation, the ‘off the mat’ yoga, or a gratitude practice. Perhaps it’s quite literally sitting with the challenge of the ‘ick.’  The work isn’t easy, but it comes with priceless rewards. 

Perhaps it’s challenging ourselves to enhance our efforts to get to the space in life we wish to inhabit. It takes a particular amount of time to learn a new habit, and takes multiple tries to change our own behaviors. Sometimes we falter and have setbacks, but awareness in all of it is key to our changing processes. Whether it’s the tango, the two-step, or the cha-cha, backwards steps aren’t failures. In each one, they’re part of the pattern and propel us to those next forward steps. Whether a therapist helps us uncover what we need or we’re seeking to help ourselves, learning awareness, taking steps to work on ourselves, and being patient are all part of the reframing of our own behavior process. It’s altogether challenging to get to our best selves, but 100% worth the effort.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: From Forward Movement to Giant Leaps

Trust that you’re your own net 

“Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tip toe if you must, but take a step.” - Naeem Calloway

It was just the other day that a friend and I were talking about being our own nets. In a period of doubt, she reminded me that not only do I share growth tools with others, but that I too, have exactly what I need, that perhaps I might want to take my own advice and remember that we are all our own nets. 

As young children, we learn who to ask for help in an emergency. We learn how to bandage our own wounds, make a sandwich, brush our hair, and do our homework. Later (and often with help of others), we learn to manage our healthcare, how to pay our bills, how to book a flight, and find what we need through vetted arenas. Perhaps it’s handling your own DIY project, paying your taxes, moving to a new city, changing careers, caring for a pet, booking a one-way ticket, setting up your own business, buying a house, or something else...we must remember that we have what we need and we are—without question—enough. 

It may be scary to change directions, but it’s also energizing. It may be filled with doubt to show your authentic self to the world, but it’s also invigorating. We are our own nets, and we can take those leaps. Trust yourself and leap. You have the power to make the net appear. 

Reimagine your tomorrow and work to get there 

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Travel has often been my guide. I recall the many firsts that all came from travel - many where fear could have gotten the better of me, yet travel helped me be afraid and do it anyway. Some of those travel dreams were years in the making. They had been on list after list; I’d researched in books and websites, pinned sticky notes to the walls, and talked about them forever before they came to pass. Sometimes they were derailed by life detours or stalled by world events, but they remained on the list. Sometimes the end version of attaining them looked different than that first vision, but, like humans, dreams and life evolve. 

Whether a small step, many consistent small steps, or what often felt like a giant leap, travel helped remind me that we can be afraid, we can do hard things, we can adapt, evolve, and reframe and rewrite our own story. 

It takes courage, it takes sometimes the cha-cha method of steps backwards to go forwards, and it takes believing that you’ll make it when you tell fear and doubt that they can come along for the ride but that they will not, under any circumstances have any say in the journey. It may be scary to get back out there a bit; find your pace, find your rhythm, and take your steps. You’ve got this!

 

Please click the photo below for a collection of my Through the Eyes of an Educator columns:

Through the Eyes of an Educator: A Compendium

 

Stacey Ebert, our Educational Travels Editor, is a traveler at heart who met her Australian-born husband while on a trip in New Zealand. Stacey was an extracurricular advisor and taught history in a Long Island public high school for over fifteen years, enjoying both the formal and informal educational practices. After a one year 'round the world honeymoon, travel and its many gifts changed her perspective. She has since left the educational world to focus on writing and travel. She is energetic and enthusiastic about long term travel, finding what makes you happy and making the leap. In her spare time she is an event planner, yogi, dark chocolate lover, and spends as much time as possible with her toes in the sand.

Check out her website at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com for more of her travel musings.