Through the Eyes of an Educator: Finding footing amidst a shifting ground

by Stacey Ebert / Oct 05, 2020 /
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My Mom remembers where she was when President Kennedy was assassinated. I can tell you where I was in the early hours of September 11th. And most recently, for many of us, we can tell you exactly where we were when the news of the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg was announced. Sometimes the ground literally feels like it's shifting directly beneath our feet, the weight of the entire world feels as if it's crushing on those tiny shoulders, and it seems nearly impossible to even remember to breathe. When it feels like there's a crack in the core of the Universe, how do we pick ourselves up and soldier on?

Better yet, how do we teach our kids to take the time to mourn, to grieve, to consider, to reflect, and get up off the mat...even when it's hard?

On a regular basis, 2020 has pulled back the curtain on some layer of something unstable. Globally, we're dealing with a viral pandemic while at the same time having world-wide disagreements on the value of science and the merits of an actual public health emergency. Closer to home, there are countless political, social, and ethical issues fought at kitchen table conversations, around social media, in the streets, and in our government institutions. Our students and families are struggling with constant change, distance learning that continues to shine the light on critical in-equity and in-equality, and citizens the world over feel as if the bottom could literally drop out from under them at any minute. Whether they vocalize it or not, our young people see all of this. While it shows itself in various ways, children (young and old alike) are experiencing the constant alterations of the very things on which before may have been stable parts of their world. 

How do we help them find that footing on ever shifting ground?

Through the Eyes of an Educator: Finding footing amidst a shifting ground

We've all taken a lot of pummeling these past many months. Day after day there's a 'breaking news story.' 2020 has shown us some of the worst of humanity, and reminds us of some of the best. Gratitude, compassion, kindness, understanding, patience, passion, grace, and perseverance are words, acts, and deeds that continue to carry us forward. The 'dig in and do the work' attitude helps to pick us up off the floor and remind us to take those steps and follow the advice of one of Frozen's princesses to "do the next right thing." In the midst of blows and countless aftershocks, "nevertheless, we persist." Perhaps we need to consider them COPING SKILLS 2.0. Our students need these skills now, and if they had them before, they might still benefit from a big ole booster shot to their tool box. 

How do we encourage that gratitude, grace, and grit?

Perhaps, we once again take a page from an icon. To be our own heroes, to be the heroes that are needed today and in the future, channel the ideas that ordinary people, doing great things beyond themselves, for the greater good can change the world. In a recent article in Glamour Magazine, Connie Schultz writes, "Ginsburg discovered her life's mission at a young age. It takes a fierce imagination to work for a world that does not yet exist." Perhaps we help the next generation of advocates and dreamers remember that putting one foot in front of the other, clearing a path through the yuck, and persisting is for that greater reason, for that greater purpose—in order to imagine "a world that does not yet exist" and fight tirelessly to make it a reality. 

9 Tools for the 2020 Toolkit to Encourage Gratitude, Grace, and Grit

9 Tools for the 2020 Toolkit to Encourage Gratitude, Grace, and Grit

Acceptance 

No matter how much we wish to, there are some things that we cannot change. Sometimes it's people, sometimes it's circumstances. Regardless of the issue at hand, the only things we can change or have a moderate amount of control over are our actions, our mindset, and our responses. Today, we're dealing with things large and small that many of us wish we could change. Maybe it's the way a family member reacts to change, maybe it's the way a political candidate speaks, or maybe it's the fact that so many people are suffering. 

If we can get to acceptance about that which we can't change, perhaps we can aim our change efforts at the things we can—and by doing so, add a bit more peace to our lives.

Adaptability

Adaptability has proven time and time again that it can be a superpower. We've all been in situations where the outcome is not what we desired, whether you were five years old and told you couldn't have that new toy, fifteen and didn't get the mark you wished on a test, twenty-five and got rejected from your job of choice, or most of us now as we see life constantly shifting amidst restrictions and a powerful tug of war of social issues and economic justice in the land of government. We can pout our lips, scream from the rooftops, stamp our feet—or pause, take a deep breath, see the whole board, adjust, and adapt. If we can shift our thought process to maneuver through the discomfort of it all, we will come out the other side—and often be far more prepared for the next flummoxing moment than we were previously. 

Grab your cape! Adaptability really is the strength of a superhero.

Compassion

True concern for the suffering of others, compassion is kindness personified. Building up your capacity for compassion can only make you a better individual. That ability to not only notice that circumstances differ for all in the world, but having that true, unbridled concern for those beyond yourself fosters empathy, expands kindness, exposes disparities, and reminds us that we all have value, worth, desires, dreams, and the need to be seen. The Golden Rule of 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' is as valid today as it was at its inception. 

Find that compassion. With your heart, you can change a lot of lives, including your very own.

Grit

Leading grit psychologist Angela Duckworth describes grit as 'passion and perseverance for long term goals.' Before she was a psychologist, she was a classroom teacher encouraging her students' efforts to constantly build that grit skill. With passion and purpose, dedication and determination, it's possible to build those grit muscles and elevate our energy in that direction. 

Dig deep, stick with it, determine a course of action, and aim your efforts towards that goal. 

Hope

Optimism, positive expectations, faith—hope is vital. Hope allows for light in a time that seems endlessly bleak. Hope fosters energy to get up in the morning when the world seems dark. Hope in something as vast as humanity and the greater human spirit can be the change we wish to see in the world. Whether it emboldens you to join community activism, gives you the kick in the pants you need to get out of your own way, introduces you to others who want to make a positive difference, or simply provides you with a smile in an otherwise sad state of affairs, hope is essential.

With hope, we move forward to imagine and move towards that vision for a brighter tomorrow. 

Passion

Some of us find this at an early age, while others learn along the way. My college roommate knew from the time she was young that she was destined for the medical profession; she was right. She pushed through and far beyond organic chemistry, now helps bring newborns into the world, and with her kindness and expertise, continues to change the lives of countless women every day. Others, like me, nurture those passions over time. At times they seem out of reach, while at other times they're literally defining your core beliefs and seem written in bold, emblazoned, glittering Sharpie right under your nose. Regardless of which camp in which you sit, passion helps to guide your journey. 

Seek yours today.

Patience

This is the gene with which I was definitely born without and have had to learn and work to cultivate over the years. Some days are more successful than others, some trials provide more growth than others, and there are days that I'm definitely more of a work in progress than anything else. This 6 month pause amidst shaky ground constantly tests our yoga these days! Patience is a skill that can be learned, honed, and perfected. It's not easy, it's rarely comfortable, and it's often far more daunting than expected. 

Nevertheless, toning that patience muscle will, in the long term, make you stronger in more ways than you can imagine. 

Persistence

Sometimes the road is longer than we expect. Oftentimes it's filled with pitfalls, twists, turns, and seemingly deep valleys that pop up out of nowhere—yet, we continue onward. There will always be things that take up residence in our brainspace, block our path, or attempt to bully us into submission. Perhaps we acknowledge them, push through them, ignore them, or accept that they'll be there along for the ride and persist anyway. 

Trust in the advice of the The Wizard of Oz's sparkly Good Witch of the North: "you've always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself."

Resilience

When I was younger, I think the resilience motto was 'get back up, dust yourself off, and do it again.' We didn't always get the memo, some scrapes hurt more than others, and some wounds take far longer to heal. "Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress." (APA) We can all benefit from building our resilience tools. While some of us might bounce back quickly, others will find themselves looking for help, and still others might muddle their way through the transformative personal growth that often follows along for the ride. 

Keep getting up, keep showing up, keep putting one foot in front of the other—this is how we rise.

 

 

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.