The Reflection Pool

How Much Can You Care?

Education is a caring profession. Educators I know chose it because they care about others, and especially about kids. If we only go into teaching because we are fascinated by the subject, then burn out happens. It’s great to be inspired by the content of what you’re teaching; we also have to be inspired by our students.

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I’ve seen educators go above and beyond hundreds of times. I know educators who cry for their students after the day is over and who wonder what else they can do to reach that child whose life is difficult and whose behaviour is so challenging. I’ve had conversations where educators fight against their own biases to understand the perspectives of students who may not be like them. I truly believe that this is the work of education. We have to care or our jobs become meaningless.

And yet, how to care without depleting our compassion banks? How to care without running out of the energy to care for ourselves and our families? In the past few years, we have come to understand that compassion fatigue is real and can affect educators in extreme cases.

The lesson for me is that we need to care for ourselves in order to keep caring for others. As I’ve written before in this space, I am an introvert. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about people; it means that not enough time alone can lead to lack of energy or feeling overwhelmed. When I feel depleted, it’s time to retreat a little from the world and spend some time doing things I love. It might mean that I clear my personal or work calendar for a couple of days. It might be spending time with someone in a quiet space with few expectations so I can recharge. I find that if I don’t, things can get worse and I lose empathy and patience.

Sometimes caring for ourselves means seeking out help with a professional who can act as a sounding board and counsellor. This is nothing to be ashamed of. I know how helpful this can be from personal experience, and I applaud those with the courage to take that first step.

What about you? When you feel that you don’t have more to give, what do you do?

Moments of Humanity

I heard Veronica Lacey speak when I was a new teacher. At the time, she was Director of Education in North York and went on to become a very influential voice in Canadian education. That conference was a long time ago, but I remember her words so well:   “It’s always about relationships.”

IMG_0290I was not particularly wise as a twenty something young woman. I didn’t really understand the importance of relationships and how they influence and determine the direction and content of so much of your life. In the classroom I enjoyed the students I taught, but I didn’t think too much about my lasting impact on them through all the everyday interactions we had.

Now I know better.

Maya Angelou said it so well:

“I have learned that people will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” 

It’s so powerful! No matter how much time we spend preparing, emailing, reading, writing, or thinking, it will have no positive lasting difference if we can’t establish caring relationships with those around us. I have come to understand the importance of those moments of humanity when we connect with another person, whether student, colleague or friend. This has been my challenge throughout my career. I come from a background where emotions are to be hidden and judgment is everywhere.  I’ve made progress, but still have some way to go. I find that smiling, laughter and trying to pay attention to the little things are the best ways for me to show my humanity and caring. I’m going to keep seeking out those moments.


“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”  Theodore Roosevelt

(Day 4 of #Aprilblogaday)