This is part one in a three part mini-series exploring my unconventional takeaways from the RELIT2022 cup-filling day!
Part 1 takes a dive into the wisdom of Dr Jody Carrington. Her messages ring with such truth:
– If you’re not ok, the people you’re in charge of don’t stand a chance
– All we want is to feel seen
– When you are acknowledged, you rise
Join me as I explore these topics and what they mean for us in our classrooms.
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Hello everybody. This is part one in a three part mini series. Just a little warning, there is some slightly colorful language in this episode, but I didn’t wanna remove it because it would lessen the impact of the message. I have changed the wording slightly, but it does involve the F word, so be aware of that that is coming up in this episode.
So a little while ago I was gifted a virtual ticket to an event run by Dr. Jody Carrington. If you’d never heard of Dr. Jody Carrington and you are active on social media, I strongly suggest you go and give her a follow. Her wisdom and her insights have actually been really, really, really valuable to me, professionally and personally.
So this event that I got the ticket for was called RELIT. And it was solely aimed at relighting the spark and the joy and the love of teaching. So it was an event for teachers run by Dr. Jody and her team. She herself is the child psychologist who has turned her attention to the big people that care for the little people that she has spent her career looking after.
In her words, if the adults are not okay, the kids don’t stand a chance. And it’s just so damn true. We see it all the time in our classrooms. If we as the teacher are not okay, if we are stressed, burnt out, generally in a bad place, then the kids can suffer for it. That doesn’t necessarily mean suffering in some huge traumatic way, but it can be as simple as the teacher not being quite as patient as usual, or not having the mental capacity to give as detailed feedback as usual.
The little things slip away when you’re not okay, and it’s those little things that the kids need just as much as the big things. And I’m sure to all my teacher parents out. This holds doubly true for us as well. We know that as a parent, if you are not in your best place, your parenting is not in its best place.
And as a teacher, if you’re not in your best place, your teaching can’t possibly be in its best place. Anyway, I found out about this conference slash seminar slash cup filling day through Dr. Jody’s Instagram account. I immediately knew it was something I wanted to experience because Lord knows we need our cups filled at the moment.
We have spent the past three years in a state of crisis and nobody has been looking after us. Dr. Jody wanted to be that person, even if just for a day. So I entered a competition through her Instagram and she incredibly generously gifted me a virtual ticket. Which is brilliant because obviously I’m not over in the states, I’m here in Australia, so the timing didn’t work out well, but I was able to watch you back a little later.
The whole event with the breaks, et cetera. Chopped out went for about four and a half hours. So this was a whole day thing. I really wish I could just give you the entire replay through the podcast because it was so incredibly informative and inspirational and soul filling and emotional. It had me in tears, it had me laughing out loud, which would’ve been very amusing for my cats who were at home watching with me. I’m not sure if in the future they will release the playback to the general public, but if they ever do, I’ll let you know ASAP so that you can get on it. I’m going to give you some of the absolute highlights here over the next few episodes. Some pearls of wisdom, some questions, some insights, and some of the love because that was the biggest point of the day, was to shower love on teachers who have largely been pushed around through the pandemic. And of course, this pandemic. Has compounded issues that have been systemic for a very long time, and we’re at Crisis Point, and you and I know that.
Now my takeaways from this day are going to be a bit unconventional. I think some of the biggest aha moments for me seem to not be the actual message that the speakers were trying to get across. A lot of them actually happened when I took a break, almost like little shower thoughts, if you will. And I think that’s such a great thing about learning, is like you learn the core content sure, but you also learn a heap of adjacent, sometimes invisible things along the way. Anyway, Jody started off the day and then popped in and out as a host, and then she had a section all to herself as a speaker. Her wisdom weaved throughout the entire day, so I’m gonna chop it all together here into what I hope will be a logical recount because I want these messages to go far and wide. I needed to hear. You need to hear them and I need you to hear them. Your students need you to hear them. Your student’s parents need you to hear them. Everybody needs to hear them.
The first message from Jody was this, and I’m quoting her words here. “I know that we need to fill up some hearts in this room today.”
That one sentence almost set me off to have that acknowledgement, that feeling of being seen right in the opening address was incredibly powerful. I know it is true of the teachers and the support staff that I work with.
There are hearts that need filling up. I wish I could do that for you because our job is a hard. I don’t need to tell you that, but I do want to remind you that I am here on this journey with you. It’s a bloody hard one in truly unique ways that just don’t get understood by people who aren’t working in the same space.
As Jody said, “there is not a single person in this room or wherever you are today at home that hasn’t lost sleep over someone else’s baby. Not one of you hasn’t given money. Time, effort to someone else’s baby.”
And I think it’s so important to recognize that we are holding within our grasp, these small humans who technically belong to someone else, yet we care so deeply about them.
And beyond the academic curriculum we’re expected to teach. And all of the add-ons to the academic curriculum that we’re expected to teach. We go home and talk about them. We try and nut out ways to help them. We complain about them and the ways that they frustrate us beyond belief, but we still go back and work with them.
And it’s hard. It’s so hard. Jodie talked about how our core objective as a human and as a teacher is to make sure that our students feel. Because if they feel seen, they will rise. If they’re ignored, they will shrink, and that shrinking is so dangerous. Jody said, When you welcome babies into your classroom, the only thing you need to accomplish between now and the end of your career is to make people feel seen.
If that happens, the rest falls into place!
A little tangent At this place in the opening address, Jody asked the audience five questions. They then wrote their answers on a card. And then they traded their cards around so much that they were lost in the crowd and therefore anonymized. Which by the way, I think would be a fantastic way to elicit responses from your own students about a topic.
But then Jody repeated the questions and they audience stood up if the card that they were currently holding, which a reminder is not their own, responded in a particular way. The point of this exercise was to help the audience members to individually to feel seen. To realize that they are not alone in their feelings.
I want to ask you these five questions and give you a moment to think about your answer before I tell you how the audience responded. And there are a few hundred people in this audience, by the way.
Okay, So question number one, I often wonder if I chose the wrong profess.
About a quarter of the audience stood up for this one. This means that about a quarter of the audience often wonders whether they chose the wrong profession. Question number two, My mental health has suffered significantly since I became an educator.
About three quarters of that audience stood up.
Question three, I have lost sleep over someone else’s child.
Every single audience member stood up for this question. And Jody had a bit of a response to that. She said, This is what so many of us in this profession do. We understand how critical it is to be trusted with someone else’s most important commodity. Don’t ever mistake this about teachers.
Question number four. I often doubt whether I’m making a difference anymore. I’m getting tired.
Half of the audience stood for that one.
And the last question, number five. I have nothing left for me at the end of the day.
Again, half of the audience stood for that one.
How incredibly powerful are those questions and those responses. To me, that really highlighted the state that our profession is in. And it is scary. As Jody says, if you’re not okay, the people you love, the people you lead don’t stand a chance.
Our impact as teachers is so powerful, so far reaching, and we don’t even realize it. The impact we have on our students on any given day can resonate with them for life. As I’m sure you know yourself, you will have memories of your own teachers, good or bad, but they do stick with you. It can extend past your students to their peers, to their families, and even to their own children one day.
So if we’re not okay, and I mean truly not okay, deep down in our core, then the ripples could have such unintended consequences.
It’s no secret and no surprise that we’re not okay as a.
We have been living for three years now in a state of uncertainty and fear with no real end sight. That level of stress is something I’ve talked about before, and Jody talked about how there is still and always such an emphasis on the curriculum, how we aren’t being given any grace for the trauma that we’ve been going through.
Jody said that when we talk about curriculum and being the best educated that we can be, it’s not that we don’t have the ability right now, it’s that we don’t have access to it while we’re in this state of exhaustion and overwhelm. Access to higher order creativity in innovation just doesn’t happen when you are effing tired, when you’re exhausted.
We need to fill up our own cups before we can do that, before we can access that higher order creativity and innovation. And it is so true. When you were run down, when you’re exhausted. You can’t design your best lessons. You can’t differentiate effectively. You don’t have the spoons to help regulate a challenging child. We can’t do these things when we are in this state. It’s not that we don’t want to or that we don’t have the ability, it’s just that we literally can’t.
And look how we fill up our cups is so individual. I won’t spend time talking about it here because that’s a whole nother series on its own, but as Jody. We’re all so worried about how heavy everything is right now, but the bar is so low. The bar is so effing low. The simplest acts are bringing such joy because we are so overwrought, so high strung, so burnt out.
Think about something that has brought you a moment of joint recently, but it was a small, simple. Perhaps that one student actually engaged for a lesson or a colleague complimented your outfit, a stranger smiled at you. Those things resonate when the bar is as low as it is. It really doesn’t take much to lift each other up at the moment, and that in itself is a little scary, but it’s also so powerful.
You have the ability today to bring joy to someone and it can be an act so small and so simple. As Jody says, all of us just want to be seen. All of us just want to matter. So show someone that they matter. Show someone that they are seen. Yes. Telling them was lovely too, but a psychiatrist once told me It’s far more impactful and beneficial for you to act on your gratitude.
Don’t just write it down. Don’t just speak it, act it. If a colleague has complimented you, compliment someone else. If an admin gives you a little time off class for planning that was unexpected, use your freed up time to help someone else. Get your primary students to write a sneaky thank you note to the teacher’s aid.
Just something to act on your gratitude and it will help fill up your own cup as well as that other person’s. Simple, small things.
In terms of our students, Jody discussed how emotional dysregulation is at the crux of all of our problems. Putting aside the system and the curriculum, et cetera. But when we get down to the level of the individual student, problems arise when emotions become dysregulated.
And that can be their emotion, but it can also be our own. When they have pushed that last button, when they’ve jammed it in their so hard, you become dysregulated too. And when you are dysregulated, you have no hope of bringing the smaller human. As Jody said, it’s about losing your frigging mind. That’s the point of dysregulation.
When that happens, you lose access to the ability for language. You lose access to the best parts of yourself. That’s what’s happening with our students. When they lose their mind, they lose access to themselves. Just like before when I said us being in a state of exhaustion and stress means that we can’t access the best parts of ourselves and therefore can’t be the great educators that we want to be. When students can’t access the best parts of themselves, they can’t be the best students that they want to be. They can’t be the best humans that they want to be, and it’s not that they don’t have the ability, they just can’t access it in the moment. Jody talked about how you should never say to someone, Calm down, use your words.
She had a fantastic analogy about a bar fight. If there was a person who was absolutely raging in a bar fight throwing bottles around punching people, would you tell them to calm down and use their words? Of course not. You know how ineffective that would be, dangerous even. So why do we say those words to kids?
It is just as ineffective and dangerous when they are dysregulated. They literally cannot access parts of their brain that allow them to use their words. Biologically, it’s shut off when they’re at their most dysregulated, they go into a feral state biologically they can’t help. And time and time again, we find that the students who are the most dysregulated are the ones who have the biggest contributors of living in uncertainty and fear with no end insight, the ones who are living in trauma
See the link back to us as teachers living through the pandemic? See the link to how we can’t be our best selves? Neither can they. And it’s our duty and our privilege to help them regulate, to walk them home.
Something else Jody talks about is how we can’t ever tell a student how to become regulated. We can’t teach them that in calm moments. They actually need to be dysregulated. And only then can we show them how to walk it back.
If you wanna learn more about that specific topic. I cannot recommend enough Jody’s book, an online course, it’s called Kids These Days. Outlines all of that perfectly with actionable strategies. I did the online course myself, and it has been invaluable for me as a teacher and also as a parent of young kids.
So a little bit of a personal recommendation there, but I can’t go into the specifics of that course for you here because it was purchased for me by my school. So I can’t use that as content for the podcast. But do go and check it out yourself if you’ve got the time.
But the biggest message from Jody for this whole day was that when you were acknowledged, you rise.
When you are acknowledged, you rise, and I know this is ringing with truth for you right now because it’s been ringing with truth for me ever since I heard it. When we as teachers are acknowledged we rise, we plan better lessons, we give more of our time, we access those best parts of ourselves and the ripples flow outwards benefiting everyone.
But through this pandemic and the pressures on our system, we are being acknowledged less and less. But it’s true for our students as well. When we acknowledge them, they rise when we show them how they are good humans. How they are clever, kind, funny, struggling, having a hard time being dysregulated. When we acknowledge all parts of them, all parts of them rise.
We can walk them home, bring them out of their dysregulated state through that acknowledgement, we can bring ourselves home through that acknowledgement. And all of this circles back to Jody’s message. All we want is to feel seen. So I leave you with this. How can you help those around you feel seen? How can you help your colleagues feel seen?
How can you help those people in your home life feel seen? How can you help your students feel seen? And what can you do for yourself that’s within your own control to fill up your own cup? To bring yourself back towards a place of being okay, cuz when we are not okay, our students don’t stand a chance.
Now in the next two parts of this little mini series, I’m going to be sharing some of my highlights and unconventional learnings from two of the guest speakers. One is Nikki Sanchez.
And one is Shelly Moore. So I hope you’ll join me in the next couple of weeks to learn some more wisdom. These next two bits are a bit more specific rather than this generalized trauma that we are talking about in this episode. If you yourself happen to have a virtual ticket or perhaps were there in person for the RELIT conference, I would love to connect.
Please find me through my website or on Facebook or Instagram at staffroom stories, or come join us in the group of the teacher community by staffroom stories on Facebook. I’d love to connect and talk with other educators who were there, who were part of it, or who have experienced Dr. Jody’s work before. And I hope the rest of your day goes well for you!