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Episode 3.5 | Responsible - Educator Edition

Updated: Jun 19, 2020

Season One | Episode 3.5


Have you ever heard someone say, "That's not my job?" Maybe you have said it at one point in your career. I know I have been there. This episode takes a close look at THREE (plus a bonus…wink) things that are your job if you take on the great RESPONSIBILITY to educate children at any grade level. We are sensitive to the times we are in right now but want to be responsive and attuned to the needs of our students, which are guaranteed to return to school with a wide variety of new and potentially adverse experiences from home.

With the reality of education changing before our eyes after a global pandemic, now more than ever, we need to reset our mindset to be clear about the power that is within our control.

You STILL have the power to make a meaningful impact on your students by building relationships, empowering change, and impacting the environments in your classroom (virtual or in-person) and throughout the school.

If you are still committed to being a teacher, listen to the episode, take notes, and reflect on your mindset, and remember your purpose for being an educator. Come back stronger than ever with the tools that make sense for the times.

Read on for the blog post covering everything and more from this episode.

"That's not my job."

Okay, I admit I have said it before. I didn't know any better at the time, and I heard veteran teachers saying it around me. I thought being vocal about my boundaries to other teachers, administration, or even the support staff (counselors, dean of students, etc.) was what I was just supposed to do. When I look back on it, I said that phrase and heard others saying it when we actually didn't have the tools to support our most challenging students successfully. I wanted the responsibility anywhere else but on my plate. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, and I have a much different mindset now. It is my responsibility to share this with as many educators as possible for the rest of my lifetime. Our students deserve it!

I put the secret sauce all over this… Are you ready? Let's go!

To build some background, before we hop into the 3 things that are your job, I was reflecting on what the science of learning and development has taught me in the last few years. Naturally, I have been thinking about the former students that I know I could have done a better job if I only had this information sooner.

I won't get too "sciencey," but if you are more aware of the simple way the body and brain respond to stress, then that is all you need to know to react differently to children. You won't take their moments of intense behavior as a mark against their character and your nerves. We must consider that the hormone, cortisol, floods the brain and body in a moment of triggered stress. That flicks the switch on the brain and body for survival mode. The simplified version we know as fight, flight, or freeze.

When a child is in a moment of misbehavior, it is important to remember that it starts somewhere. They were internally triggered by something in the environment, whether it was a voice, a sound, physical proximity, etc. We never really know unless they can and want to tell us. Our response to children should be more attuned to the need to teach a skill and mindset rather than punish them because of what they did at that moment. Punishment and consequences alone are just not responsive to how the biology of the situation works. At that moment, their actual brain and body aren't even thinking about you as their teacher, and that they are in school, or that school has rules. They are literally existing in a state where their brain is screaming "THIS IS A THREAT! WATCH OUT! SAVE YOURSELF! FIGHT or FREEZE or RUNNNNNNNNN!"

Teachers are also thinking at that moment, "How dare this child not follow my rules and disrespect me." (I'm raising my hand) Then if I really felt disrespected and they got under my skin, I'm activating the phrase…

"That's not my job!"

Then if I am feeling particularly angry, I might throw in the next level.

"They don't pay me enough to deal with that!"

While reflecting on my past students, I have had students beg me not to call that one guardian or parent. They would plead with me to just forgive them and that they wouldn't do it again. At the time, I didn't think too deeply about it, but it is obvious now that they were trying to avoid the most harmful thing in that moment, which was the person in charge of their lives finding out. When this happened, they had another whole round of consequences waiting for them at home, usually physical.

Yes, I know you might be thinking, they should have thought about that before they did it. But you know too much now… it's just not how the brain and body work when students have been triggered by something... remember?

In some ways, we are more forgiving of an adult than a child in a classroom. The child that was perhaps triggered by another student because they reminded them of a person outside of school that hurt them or someone they love. They walked out of the classroom when you didn't acknowledge that they were upset and only seemed to care about how perfect and silent your class was during your instructional time.

This shift in thinking is the hard mindset work. You will never look at your students the same if you internalize how the brain and body work and merge that with your stellar content knowledge. You take moments that stand out in your day like that less personal, and you are more supportive.

What do I do then, Joscelyn? I thought you would never ask (smile).

What you do next is vital. If you want to kick your student out of the classroom and if you can't bring yourself to level up above the emotions you feel about a child cursing you out (remember the survival blackout mode state they are in) then you also have to ask yourself, how do you anticipate being able to teach that student at all in the future?

Goal number one has to be to reunite once in a calm state to restore the relationship. This has to be done when the student is calm again, because of cortisol. Cortisol will prevent any life lessons you want to teach in the heat of the moment from actually sticking. Don't even try it! Just be safe and do your best to de-escalate and stay calm. But then, let the student know that you are willing to listen to anything that they remember thinking about BEFORE they got upset. Remember, the triggered moment originated somewhere, but don't push if you don't have the relationship built with a child where they would want to disclose information to you.

Whether they share more with you or not, it is your responsibility to teach a calming skill and strategy for when they feel that way again. There is always an again, and they will just be ready for it. The power is when students know how their brains and bodies work in stressful moments.

What typically happens when teachers don't respond well to students during moments of stress?

Imagine a student has calmed down after having an outburst and perhaps has said sorry for what they did in that state. But they can't even feel the forgiveness from their adult teacher, because their teacher still has an attitude, makes them sit in the corner, and has taken away their recess indefinitely. They might even think that "my teacher hates me?"

Have you heard a child say that they think their teacher doesn't like them? I have. I now understand why! I don't know about you, but having your students think things like this is not why you became a teacher. It is hard, but we have to start building our toolbox full of strategies to help us here. It is a part of the job!

If all of that wasn't enough for you to be mind blown like I was when I started learning the science... let's get into those 3 things I promised before.


3 Things it is your job to do as an educator:

1. Make you students your business!

Instead of making it your business to punish a student, make it your business to get to the source of the experience that child went through that made them respond in the way that they did. (Note: This may take baby steps of building a relationship to get there. Our Path to Meaningful Connections resource and Questions to Connections are a great start to help!)

If a student feels that the only option I have right now to be safe is to flight, fight, or freeze, then the only option you have an educator is to figure out how to get them to stay." Stay Calm—Stay Present— Stay with you!

Also, please stop telling your students to mind their own business. "Mind your business" is hurting our kids. It is our business, and our kids depend on us. It is incredibly difficult to push through stress to ask for help without fear that it will only make matters worse. Create an environment where kids feel safe to speak up for themselves or another student about their feelings or anything that should be noted and acted upon. Avoid the guilt you will feel if you are the teacher that told a child to mind their business when they were trying to warn you about trauma, with themselves or another student. Talk to your students about how to gauge the importance and when to let an adult know, but the golden rule is always, when you are unsure, TELL. Remember, kids, share thoughts with each other (in class, hallways, ar recess, through text and tech), that "tattling" or "snitching" (cringe) could save a life.

2. Manage Your Emotions

As an adult, you have been through a lifetime of learning skills and strategies to use when you feel your emotions escalating. Some of us are better at using those skills than others. Let's be real. We have the responsibility of keeping level headed for all of our students. There will be no good that comes from riding the escalator of emotions up with your student. Of course, you don't stand for a student (a child) disrespecting you. But now you know that there is a time, a place, and a way to respond when you can actually impact how a student behaves from there on out. Your relationship and ability to teach that child depends on you being the ADULT and acting like it.

3. Speak promising and positive words over your students

This one is near and dear to me, as it is the whole reason why this podcast is the heart of the business here at Revolve Learning. We can't teach about learning and development to educators without giving you the tools and strategies you need to build the relationships required to be successful teachers regardless of the community you teach. This is especially important for teachers in communities where students have experienced and are continually experiencing significant adverse experiences. With that being said, let me throw another "p" word in there (my love for alliteration will never cease)... PROGRESSIVE. Speak words into the lives of young people that progress their mindset, and challenges their abilities to be better... Hello Growth Mindset!

It is your responsibility to push past the minimum, "you're smart" when a child is showcasing their ability in a particular way, be specific about the vocabulary you use to describe them. It may be the only time they hear those words spoken to them, about them, and to represent them.

Okay… I must mention this one last thing, I know I said three, but this is a tough-love moment!

BONUS: Your professional development is your responsibility. Only you know what you like and are drawn to as an educator. Too often, educators wasting years of their career, talking about the administration isn't helping them grow in their practice because the PD offered isn't relevant to their field and interests.

Hit up your search bar. FIND IT! Present it to your school administrator, if they say no, find another one if you are serious about growth and development. How silly would it sound in twenty years if the reason you use for not growing in your practice is that the school leaders didn't offer it? The responsibility is yours. Carpe Diem!

Click here to join our mailing list to learn about our Revolve Learning virtual learning programs as soon as they drop!

Ralph Waldrop said, "My life is immeasurably enriched by taking personal responsibility to do what I can, with what I have, where I am." That's really all we can do. Show up and learn what you need to be successful and impactful in this field and grow from there with what you have, where you are.

When students return to school, you will be so important to them. It is my calling and responsibility to share this insight with you. For many students, they already were living lives of highly toxic daily stress. Now they are experiencing that same stress for more extended periods with no end in sight. This year is going to be long-lasting communal trauma; we will have to unpack and support children through with the best that we have got.


You will find the EDUCATOR EDITION- Questions to Connections Worksheet for this episode on the word RESPONSIBILITY here!

If you are new here, check out our Path to Meaningful Connections resource!

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