If you have been in the ECE sector for quite some time as we have, you may have noticed something. Have you seen it too, the formerly bright eyes of teachers have dimmed a little, more and more are feeling burnt out? Sometimes it seems as if the morale in our sector resembles one big deflating balloon. We come into our work so passionately at the start but become disillusioned and just plain exhausted on the way.
There are certainly obstacles in our path to explain this outcomes. When we believe one thing but regulations, restrictions and those ‘higher up’ make us feel we need to do things differently, it IS hard. The feelings we all experience are understandable, and yet we have to remember what happens next is up to us.
We have a choice - to just go on the downhill slide to disillusion-ville, feeding on the low energy around us, and going with 'good enough’ as our benchmark, or striving for more, not just for the children but for ourselves.
WE deserve more too. It seems that in our dedication to the children we often forget about us, but we matter too. When we realise that teaching is about who we are, then we actually need to be happy in our work - positive, inspired and hopeful. If we also just want to be a contented, peaceful person who is in love with life, we need to be happy in our work. We can put the children as one of the important ‘why’s on our list, but we need a place to put our own name too.
We are 100% accountable for our own attitudes and responses, and yet we can’t deny that we are affected by the energy around us. In order to be thriving as an individual, we need to look at how we are in our collective. In short, how is our team doing? Because low team energy will take the wind right out of our sails. We can be as positive as Pollyanna, but if we are the only one looking on the bright side, even we will go dim. We all need people who uplift us, not just be the one who does all the uplifting.
If we want to gently shake up the sector, we can focus on teacher wellness, and start right within our own teams. Ask yourself, what is your team vibe like? How is the energy that is circulating around? How are you all responding to the people-needs of each other, dropping the false partition of 'teacher selves’ and 'real selves’? And how is all of this impacting on YOU? Do you feel like the people around you are gaining you or draining you?
It is so important to actually examine what sort of ‘unseen environment’ you are immersed in. We feed off the energy of others, and unfortunately low moods, negative mindsets and general disgruntled feelings can be contagious. And it doesn’t seem to matter about numbers. Just one negative person can rock the team boat, making little waves that get bigger and catch others up in them. Luckily we know that positive energy, passion and heart can also be infectious. It may take more work to spread around, but is worth doing to keep your own spirits up and remind others why they got into this role in the first place.
There is a point though where the team energy just may not be right for us. That’s something we need to assess and make a bold judgment on. Nowhere is going to be perfect, even if we set the place up ourselves, but there is a difference between little niggling annoyances, and a downright unhappy work place. We need to have enough great parts to dilute the less favourable things so they don’t really matter. We need to make sure we have things within our control in our setting, and establish our own non-negotiables - the things we need in order to not just be ‘OK’ in our work, but UPLIFTED. Perhaps we need a place that lets us share our family stories, rather than be told to leave it all at the door. Or maybe we need to be able to share our ideas, even the off-beat ones, without being told, “no, we’ve always done it this way”. Perhaps a team that speaks positively about each other is so important that we just can’t face being in one which includes gossip and talking behind others backs.
Whatever we decide are our ‘must haves’ in our team dynamics, we need to be brave enough to stick with it. Talk about it with our team, or look elsewhere if the fit isn’t right. We really can enjoy our work if we are with the right people. There are some absolute gems in our field, and we all sparkle more when we are keeping company with those who ‘get us’, hear us and let us be ourselves.
We want those who let us chase our dreams, not the ones who squash them flat. We want to be around people who let us spread our wings, rather than those who clip them, either intentionally or accidentally with their negative energy.
What do we need to do when we find ourselves with the greats? We need to not take it for granted. Let the people who uplift us know that they make a difference to us. We can do the same for them, and for those around us. Everyone wants to feel appreciated. That is how we are all going to rise up and re-inflate the passion that has been seeping out of the sector.
We perhaps can’t change all the conditions we are working in that challenge us, but we can make our settings kinder for the adults within. We perhaps can’t tackle every obstacle but we can remember that of all the people in our settings who matter, WE ourselves are right up there on the priority list.
If we can make that our intention for 2019, we can be the change-makers our children, our families, our community and we ourselves so desperately need!
NB - To help you create a year full of HEART, our beautiful Reflection Journal is the perfect tool to help your reflection and teaching to truly become a heart task and be a change-maker.