After reading Deborah Helsing’s 2007 Teaching and Teacher Education article about the barrage of uncertainty experienced by educators, I was reminded of something one of our veteran teachers said in a small group break out session at a recent faculty meeting.”I feel discouraged most of the time because there are so many things to do that I can’t do any of them well, and sometimes I’m not even sure I know what to do, so it is impossible to do it better.” His heartfelt statement seemed unrelated to the stated meeting protocols but seemed to resonate with many around the table, opening the door for others to share similar feelings of despair. The small group discussion ended after five minutes when we were all called back for the next part of the presentation, Creating a Culture of Care.
I followed up with this teacher after the meeting and checked in with him a few more times over the course a couple of weeks to see how he was doing. I would like to think part of the reason things improved for him was related to his ability to express how he was feeling that day. By doing so he invited others to share how they were feeling, validating his sense of overwhelmed-ness, and providing some comfort knowing he was not alone. So, part of dealing with the uncertainty we face in education every day requires acknowledgement from someone else that the job is hard, and creating an environment where people can talk openly about their struggles. I am starting to see where our new SEL program might provide a framework for teachers and students to solve problems that arise from ambiguity in teaching and learning, and where mindfulness training might provide the serenity to live with the tension caused by such uncertainty.