Those of us called to teach, who flush with the pleasure of a student’s hard won insight or accomplishment and who do all we can to stay true to our purpose to lift and to launch others into the magic of new knowledge, new skills, and new relationships, are often shocked to feel our passion for work we believe in unequivocally drain away. And yet this ebbing of passion happens, these days more than ever before, even among the most committed teachers. We often learn the hard way that powering through the pain we feel on our students’ behalf can lead to Compassion Fatigue so debilitating we feel forced to leave rather than further our relationship with teaching and learning. Happily, there is now an effective remedy for teachers’ professional exhaustion.
Leaving When We Want to Stay
Even the most dedicated of teachers may experience burn out because of new testing requirements, inflexible zero-tolerance policies, large classes, increasing school violence, and the overwhelm of meeting the learning needs of traumatized students. When discouragement strikes, some colleagues opt to endure the stress by doing their best to shut down emotionally and power through the next crisis and the next, only to face serious health consequences in the future. Other colleagues opt for medical leave before they reach this point, and then find themselves regretting the loss of a profession they love. And some do as I have done throughout my teaching career – leave positions we love but simply don’t have the energy to continue in because of systemic challenges that do not support healthy learning environments; once we regroup and return to our beloved profession, we discover we are faced with the same professional challenges yet again.
I learned long ago that changes to “the system” take time, energy, and the synergistic commitment of a room full of dedicated teachers with similar ideals and goals. Besides learning that this professional solidarity is a rarity, I also learned that when I closed my door, treated my students with respect, and adhered to my student-centred approaches, learning miracles happened for all of us. Even so, moving forward without community and without the skills to regulate my own system meant that any future position would lead to the repeated cycle of emotional exhaustion. It is, after all, our sensitivity to our students’ challenges that make teachers vulnerable to Compassion Fatigue.
Emotional Freedom Techniques and Staying Power
Because Emotional Freedom Techniques provide the emotional support we need to resolve the traumas inevitable in every teacher’s personal and professional experience, this simple support to our ability to self regulate daily means fewer of us will voluntarily leave or feel compelled to leave before our time. Our students are stressed because of home challenges, school challenges, social challenges, and cultural challenges, and their youth and inexperience mean that they need the adults in their lives to model self regulation and resilience. Only a self regulated, resilient teacher can offer this calming, clarifying support to her or his students.
We all know about breathing deeply, about counting to ten before speaking or acting, and about taking a break when a challenge proves frustrating, but the positive effects of these techniques are limited given the extensive stresses teachers and students live with daily. Personal agitation is contagious, and long-term stresses infect a classroom as surely as do cold germs. When a teacher practices EFT daily to address the frustrations and fears inevitably spawned by daily life in a technological, information-saturated, wildly diverse culture, she is able to temper the atmosphere in which she teaches with deep understanding and appreciation for self and others. Practiced faithfully, even the most challenging situation or person is woven into a benign world view capable of inspiring every teacher and every student to become an agent of positivity and post-traumatic growth.
Why Teachers Hold the Key to Peaceful, Productive Classrooms
Teaching EFT to students is impractical given the commonness of the over-crowded curriculum, the natural compliance and eagerness-to-please of young children, the basic resistance inherent in every adolescent, and the hyper-arousal of older students. Each teacher, however, has a vested interest in developing the skills to create a learning environment in which everyone thrives. We’ve all been to enough conferences, been encouraged to live from our heads, and left learners behind who have tugged at our hearts and our consciences. EFT can and does soothe these wounded places just as it increases our creative problem solving abilities and our good will toward the people, young and old, we find in our classrooms. Working through our own issues using these simple techniques, whether these issues be personal or professional, means that we positively influence the atmosphere of our homes and our classrooms.
Practicing EFT daily also means we can stay in our profession for as long as we wish, set goals with our students that help them to reach new heights of learning, and at the same time protect and nourish our own health and well being. Good health – mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual – is catching and supports physical and professional longevity. Each student deserves the experience of being taught by healthy, well regulated, caring adults who love their work.
A Call to Action
My decades of experience in classrooms without and with the benefits of EFT have convinced me that this modality should be taught in every teacher training course around the world. We want effective, well balanced, and self regulated people in our classrooms in order to support a healthy, well regulated citizenry. Become a joyful, resilient, creative, self-regulated teacher by taking an EFT training. Then call a colleague and create a movement. Generations of students will thank you.
Until next time