Whatever is being asked of you this school year, whether you are teaching in a socially distanced classroom (or worse, one that should be and isn’t), teaching online, or somehow doing both, you have done an amazing job.
You have learned so many new things and dealt with so many new challenges, often without the parts of teaching that are fun and rewarding. You have worked long hours, sacrificing time with your family and even your own self-care. You have possibly even put your life and the lives of those you love at risk.
What you are doing invaluable.
People can be stunningly thoughtless, selfish, and shortsighted. They take your time, your expertise, your very life for granted. And most of the time they have no idea what they are talking about. They are not educators. They don’t do your job. They speak from ignorance.
Don’t listen to them. Don’t read their angry, often baseless posts and comments (much less waste your energy responding to them).
Stay away from all that negativity. It does not serve you in any way. It only hurts. Instead, seek out those who will support you, empathize with you, and help you to grow. Remember your worth, daily, and ignore anyone who would tell you otherwise.
Of course, that is not always (or often) easy and there is still a ways to go in this school year. So, here are a few ideas for protecting yourself from negativity, even when the people around you are making it difficult.
Curate your social media
Facebook, Instagram, Clubhouse, and the like can be a quick way to de-stress…or they can have the opposite effect. Remember that you are the architect of your social media streams. You get to decide what you see.
Get rid of anything that stresses you out! If something concerning shows up, remember, you don’t have to read it and you especially don’t have to read the comments that were most certainly written by people who are long on baseless opinions and short on compassion.
You don’t have to stay friends with people just because you went to high school together. Unfollow and Unfriend with abandon. Replace them with things that make you happy. There are Facebook groups for just about everything – join groups that focus on your passions and hobbies and your feed will become a happier place.
Remind yourself that it’s usually more about them than you
When someone is critical, especially if the criticism has no basis or is out of left field or nit-picky, it is likely more about them than you – their bad day, their need to control the situation, their past experience that actually has nothing to do with you, their need to be right, look important, or just have someone listen to them for 5 minutes.
If you can see it in that light, it can be easier not to take things personally…and if you want to go for extra angel points, to even feel a little compassion for them.
Surround Yourself with support
As much as you can, seek out those friends, colleagues and family members who will tell you how amazingly awesome you are, give you a shoulder to cry on, or just sit in silence with you, if that is what you need.
Friends who will pick up your kid at soccer practice, bring you a latte, or fix whatever is wrong with your computer are also great to have.
It won’t be like this forever. You won’t always be the one in the relationship who is receiving more than she is giving, but it is fine for it to be like that right now. Friendships aren’t about keeping score, but if they were, odds are you are probably ahead in the “Things I’ve Contributed to this Relationship” anyway, so go ahead and take it easy for awhile. This is a time when educators need that extra help, and that is okay.
And just to take it one step further, remember that people like to be of service. It is one of the ways we make ourselves happy – by helping other people. So, in a way, you are doing them a favor by allowing them to help you!
Take a break from being the always-understanding parent/spouse/friend
You need your friends and family to be in your corner. If they aren’t, it might be time for a heart-to-heart talk, a family meeting, or even help from a counselor or a therapist.
However, you might not have the bandwidth for any of that at this point. You might not be able to do the things we normally do for those we love and care about.
The idea of listening to someone else complain about something you did (or didn’t) do, so they can feel “heard” might just be too much of a stretch, and trying to see it from their point of view and empathize…well that just might break you.
In fact, what you really need is for them to do that for you. If they won’t or can’t, it is perfectly okay to let someone know that your stress-bucket is overflowing and that you just can’t deal with whatever is tweaking them out right at this moment. Seriously, everyone should be cutting you some slack. If they won’t give it to you voluntarily, just go ahead and take it.
Track the good stuff
When something good happens – a lesson went well, someone gives you a sincere compliment, you ate soup without spilling it on your blouse, write it down. Put it in your planner. Keep a “Good Things that Happened” notebook. Or just jot it on a sticky note and make a collection of Positive Post-It’s on a wall, or a door, or your mirror.
Then read a few of them each day to remind yourself that good things do happen – even when life seems like a series of tiny disasters.
Be a good friend to yourself
If you have lived with a lot of criticism, constant negativity may be your norm. In fact, it may be the way that you talk to yourself. You may be, as they say, your own worst critic.
That is no way to live. You deserve better. Learning to love yourself runs right down the middle of self-care. Please read this post on being a good friend to yourself for some ideas on how you can treat yourself with more compassion.
Remember that not everyone's opinion counts
Here are some people whose negative opinions about your teaching don’t count:
- Anyone who has never been a teacher during a pandemic.
- Anyone who has an ulterior motive.
- Anyone you don’t respect.
- Anyone named Larry or Russ (probably not really true, but in my personal experience, if some guy wants to enlighten you on a topic he knows nothing about, his name is probably Larry or Russ).
And finally, consider this quote from Brene Brown:
“If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion, I am not interested in or open to your feedback. There are a million cheap seats in the world today filled with people who will never be brave with their own lives, but will spend every ounce of energy they have hurling advice and judgment at those of us trying to dare greatly. Their only contributions are criticism, cynicism, and fear-mongering. If you’re criticizing from a place where you’re not also putting yourself on the line, I’m not interested in your feedback.”
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