Note: February 5-9, 2018 is National School Counseling Week.
Vicarious or secondary trauma invades our classrooms and leaks into the hearts of educators who carry the emotional burdens of their students. If we can honor our educators and their work by giving them the skills and space for their own self-care, then we help them stay whole and enjoy long, healthy careers being present for students and their learning.
As a school counselor, I help teachers understand the most important thing they can do for children is to keep their own mood stable. When I come into their classrooms to teach students about breathing strategies, mindfulness, yoga and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), it is not just for the students but also to offer time for teachers to connect with their own breath.
Addressing our own “caught-upness” and keeping our own mood stable
Emotional awareness, empathy, anger/anxiety management and problem solving are the backbone skills that make up Social Emotional Learning. These are highly honed skills that educators use every day and every minute. When teachers and educators embody compassionate strategies like breathing, stretching and tapping, they increase their capacity and provide safe haven for students to practice these skills.
We can be curious about a child’s behavior. What is the child trying to communicate? We can always pair our curiosity with compassion. There have been times I have felt the same way. How can we serve to help the child communicate his/her feelings more effectively without getting “caught up” in the behavior?
Can we be kind to ourselves when we do get “caught up”?
Neuroplasticity and hope
When educators feel like they belong in a safe, inclusive, and positive school, they are able to structure an environment where students feel safe, included and hopeful about their futures. This is the foundation for emotionally healthy youth and providing a culturally responsive and trauma sensitive world.
Educators are in a unique position where we can role model keeping our body calm in the midst of a child’s storm of dysregulation. By being present, we teach the child resilience and build their capacity for enduring tough moments. We can also role model self-care. We can step back, ground ourselves in the moment, take a deep breath, and say within, “It’s not about me.”
Christy Lynn Anana, M.Ed., NBCT, RYT, pictured above, is a nationally board-certified school counselor, registered yoga teacher and author of 3 books: I Can Feel Better: A Tapping Story, and A Finder of Lost Things, and Five Best Days to Run Away. She was named 2016 Washington State School Counselor of the Year.