Today’s episode is a conversation with Jeffrey Benson. As internally known author (and having worked over forty years as a teacher, mentor, and administrator) he’s had the good fortune of working with wonderful people on school reform, conflict resolution, learning theory, trauma, addiction, advisory programs, math education, staff development, leadership training, and curriculum development. Together, he and Dr. MC discuss their self-care routines, the benefits of rest, the current climate of education in a post-Covid world and so much more!
As always we love to hear from our listeners! Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or topics you’d like to hear about on future episodes.
You can learn more about Dr. MC and this podcast on her website: https://drmcselfcare.com/podcast-home/
Speaker 0 00:00:26 Welcome to another episode of Dr. MCs self care cabaret podcast. I’m Theresa Melito-Conners a PhD level self-care expert in the greater Boston area with a passion for helping others recognize the importance of caring for themselves. Today’s episode is a conversation with Jeffrey Benson. Jeffrey is an internationally known author and has worked for over 40 years as a teacher mentor and administrator. He’s had the good fortune of working with wonderful people on school reform, conflict resolution, learning theory, trauma addiction, advisory programs, math, education, staff development, leadership training, and curriculum development. He now coaches, principals and teachers writes about education, speaks at conferences, all in an effort to upload what he has learned in hopes others can make good use of it. His work focuses on schools being more successful to more students, always rooted in the understanding of how people learn, what should be the starting point for all we do in schools.
Speaker 0 00:01:29 I first met Jeffrey back in 2011, fresh out of grad school round one, when I was hired to be the guidance coordinator at a therapeutic high school in Massachusetts folks who have attended my trainings on creating a trauma sensitive school have likely heard me reflect on this experience for many reasons. Jeffrey was the director of education at the school when I was hired. And I learned so much from working with him. Our paths crossed once again, in my next role, as I hired Jeffrey many times to present to a large conference of special education professionals that I used to put together for a statewide trade association in Massachusetts Jeffrey’s workshops, always received rave reviews from his attendees. Jeffrey has so much information to share, and I’m delighted. He’s here with us today.
Speaker 0 00:02:21 Thank you so much, Jeffrey for joining us here today on the Dr. MC self care cabaret podcast. We’re going to jump right in here with, um, question one. I know you’ve written on the topic of self care in the past. I believe you’re actually cited in my dissertation as a fun, fun fact for our listeners. Um, so I’m wondering what self care looks like for you?
Speaker 2 00:02:45 Well, I’ve, it’s been an important part of my career from the beginning because, um, as some people know, I, my first job was in the basement room next to the janitor’s closet with all the kids in a school, no one. And it was so important to realize that I needed to take care of myself. So I’ll tell you an interesting one. I did. Um, I found, I realized I always needed someone to talk to in my work. I mean, I think that’s the most, like I would start off with that. You have to have someone to talk to because there’s so many issues, so many things go through your head when you work in a school in a given day and you have to kind of sort through them, figure out what’s important, organize your priorities. So even though there might be a hundred things on your list, you know, the top 10 you have to do.
Speaker 2 00:03:32 And so I went to the school psychologist at my school who seemed under work, or, you know, you want connection because oftentimes school psychologists are kind of not part of the school staff. You know, there’s kind of these extra people who are kind of trying to make their way in. And I said to him, Charlie, can I have time with you? Like, could we launch together on Fridays? He was like, oh, absolutely. That would be great. So every Friday tri and I met and we had lunch together and his little office and it was an escape island. I could talk to him about anything. He knew all the players involved. Um, so he could confirm some of my concerns about how the school was running. He could challenge me if I hadn’t had enough information. It just was also a place to just do a brain dump also to have him affirm that what I was doing well, because part of working in schools is you just don’t get enough affirmation to have someone just sit with you and listen to you on school, your thoughts and say, that’s really well said, or that was a good move you made, or, wow.
Speaker 2 00:04:43 I would’ve never thought that in those small moments of affirmations from somebody else super critical to keep going. So that was one thing, always having someone to talk to. The other thing is that I’m teaching is a physical activity. Um, and one of the things, when you working, particularly with kids who are needy, which has been a lot of part of my career, kids who have particularly more needs than typical students, um, we’re like sponges for their athletes. We’re sponges for their needs. We take it all in. So having routines of exercising of meditating, um, taking care of one’s body, that way is so important. There’s a wonderful book by all my colleagues, Bessel van der Kolk on, uh, trauma called the body, keeps the score. One of my favorites. It’s such a great book. It’s a great book for educators, even if you don’t work with kids with trauma, because it’s just about how the brain works and how we work in concert with our brain.
Speaker 2 00:05:41 And you just working all day in a school, you take on so much of the kids’ needs inside your body. You don’t even realize it. Sometimes I used to think why is my work so exhausting? I haven’t been cutting sugar cane. I haven’t been tarring a road in hot sun. It’s because of that physical inhalation of all of the issues in the school. And you have to have a healthy way to deal with it. And so exercise for me always been important. I know there were a couple years in my career where I was able to walk home from school. That was always wonderful. I would take a slow walk home from school. I would walk by a park. I walk to do some chores on the way home. Um, and there was a couple years where I rode my bike to school. That’s awesome. And that was also just, it was my time. I knew that I would get on the school feeling and thinking something. And 20 minutes later I’d be home and my body would have assimilated would have metabolized I feelings and they I’d be different. So those were two biggies for me talking to somebody and having something outlet for my body for all. I am so up from the day. Yeah.
Speaker 0 00:06:48 That definitely aligns with what I promote in my workshops too. When we talk about the different domains of self-care, you are, you know, that connection with other people, that’s your relationship domain. And being able to have that connection, that support that respect, um, that sustainability through that relationship is very important. And of course, moving our bodies is so, so important. Um, you know, my mother always says, when you don’t move, that’s the kiss of death
Speaker 2 00:07:15 And in slow kiss, you don’t even realize that’s, you know, death has been puckering up to you for a long time, but you get that smack
Speaker 0 00:07:24 Important. And it’s, it’s kind of funny. I was just remembering the reason why I actually got into self care was when we worked together in the school and I won’t name the school that we worked at, but it was pretty intense. We had a pretty intense student population and fresh out of grad school, round one for myself, a young wide-eyed, um, you know, guidance counselor coming in actually guidance coordinator. It was my role. And, um, and she said to
Speaker 2 00:07:50 The listener, she was terrific, right from the get-go that, that she didn’t have things to learn, but, um, she was ready to, she jumped in. She was great. Teresa was great.
Speaker 0 00:07:58 Thank you. Um, definitely did jump right in and I loved it, but I realized very quickly that I was on a fast path to burnout. And I recognize that, you know, learning with the students and learning about their paths, it, it was a lot to take in and to process. And I remember kind of going to the program director at the time and making a comment like, you know, I’m having a hard time like with all of this. And she said, you’re going to need to learn to not take that home with you. And I didn’t a hundred percent understand what she meant. So I took it upon myself to do some research and kind of stumbled upon, um, the world of self care. And at the time, you know, leading voices, being Wayne Dyer, Dr. Dyer, uh, Dr. Deepak Chopra and among others, uh, Louise hay. And so that’s kind of why I gravitated towards their work and really started to just read and listen to anything. I could get my hands on by them. And at the time I thought that the, this was unique to me that I was just experiencing this and that this was not, you know, a much larger issue, um, till I didn’t realize that until a little bit later, but it definitely helped me to kind of start to put my health and wellbeing first. So I could better serve the students because you have to,
Speaker 2 00:09:08 Right. I tell you a story. You may not know this from when our offices were just a few feet from each other at one point. So, um, I was one of the directors of the school. So I did have a slightly bigger office than some people, because I have a lot of people came into my office for meetings. I had a little couch and I realized that every teacher in some fashion has, um, prep time. And so I would actually close the door to my office and I get on that couch and I put my feet up and I’d set my timer and I take a 10 minute nap. And I realized that that was for me, prep time, that was not me be ready for the next set of stuff I had to do that I could still turn and look at all my other things that I had to do.
Speaker 2 00:09:52 But, um, that was, uh, so I remember once going to one of my bosses and saying, I think other people should know they can do this. And that boss said, no, no, I don’t want anyone doing that. And I’ve felt like, you know, everyone has a different way of taking care of themselves and prep time. Isn’t just to prep your lesson plans, it’s to prep for all you need to do, um, going forward. Um, I have another thing I learned to do for self care. This was a hard one. Um, but really it was helpful. I, as many people do, I have a long to-do list and my job, um, I remember once going to my boss and saying, I want you to look at my to-do list. I have 56 things on it. And I’m worried that somebody is going to say, how come you’re not doing this one here?
Speaker 2 00:10:40 And I’m like, well, that’s number 17. I didn’t really know. And that’d be like, maybe it shouldn’t be 17. So one thing I would do is I would go to my supervisor and I’d say, here’s my priorities for the week. Do you agree with, because I wanted someone else to help me support me in the sort of chaotic movement of a school when things shift quickly. So I could say, um, I think this should be number four on the list for this week. And my boss says to, okay, I think I’m going to leave, sit in at number four. Um, and I learned to do that. That was really helpful. And another was to have a very fluid to do lists. So it w it had a column for things to be done by the end of the year, then things to be done at the end of this semester, things to be done at the end of this week, things to be done at the end of today, and things would shift through them.
Speaker 2 00:11:38 So I could also say, all right, I know what my priorities are today. If I have time, I feel confident in choosing the three or four things I’m going to put my time to, cause I know everything else is parked somewhere where it won’t get lost. Cause otherwise everything was swirling in my head trying to hold on to everything. So having a really well organized prioritize, do list to do list and having your boss confirm that you’ve got it right. It was really helpful for me focusing and being calm. I think that’s part of the stress of working in many institutions. And I know school the best is the endless number of things to do. They say, schools are at the crossroads. Here’s something for self care problem. Schools are at the crossroads of infinite need and finite resources right there. Isn’t that just a killer for those of us who care about the kids, care about this system, care about the parents to know every day you’re not doing as much as could be done.
Speaker 2 00:12:43 You have to learn to live. That’s the part. It’s not that you can’t take that home, but you have to know over time how to pat yourself on the back and said, I did the best I could today with what I had to do. Can I tell you one more story? Yeah, of course. So one time when I was a director of school principal and, um, there was a big crisis that day at this school. And basically I had to abandon my well-prepared to do agenda for the day, took care of the crisis, everything went fine, you know, got through it, got the right people, got the police, got whoever had it to be there. So I remember all the details that ambulance or whatever. And I went to my boss at the end of the day and said, I want to let you know that I just did a hall of fame day as the director of this school.
Speaker 2 00:13:32 I managed the school so well, but I have to let you know the person who’s number three on my to-do list that I didn’t get to talk to today thinks I’m a jerk because I never got to him first thing tomorrow. And that’s the other part. Um, okay. I’ll give you one more self care part. Obviously I’m going to keep kind of helping us. One thing leads to another. Um, I made a rule for myself, which I ultimately shared with a lot of people, which is if that you called me or send me an email on our texts on, let’s say Monday I had till the end of the day, Tuesday to get back to you, unless somebody said it was an emergency wise, I had to give myself permission to get through what I felt was the priority today and know that I would get to the person by the end of the next Workday. But I’m that person who’s writing to me calling me, texting me to get their needs met, have no idea what they’re dropping their need into, to the culture and I’m working away. Well, I always had that as I tried to put that out to people as sort of, this is how Jeffery operates. And as long as you know, that, I think that’s a good way to, um, protect yourself from being overwhelmed.
Speaker 0 00:14:53 Sure. No, I love that. I think that you hit upon some really important points and I also, I really liked that. So let me make sure I get it right. Infinite need, but finite resources. I think that might be the episode title
Speaker 1 00:15:08 And finite resources, because I think globally
Speaker 0 00:15:12 People self-care anyway, like there’s, there’s an infinite need to take care of yourself, right? But sometimes people feel really like struggle with the resources in the how to do it.
Speaker 2 00:15:20 Right. And also, you know, in schools and I think a lot, the most finite resources time, of course, you know, and that’s why teachers don’t take the time to go to the bathroom during the day or eat or eat or anything like that. Um, what I work in middle schools, one of the things I cause middle schools, they work as teams and it’s, it’s like built in, you know, and it’s a really great resource is to be able to ask your teammate, could you cover for me for five minutes? Cause I wanna, I have a bathroom. I want to let’s build in bathroom breaks and just cover for each other for just five minutes or to ask for help from your peers is another self-care thing. Now, when you’re on a team it’s sort of a mutually supportive situation, right? From the start, we can start scheduling in stuff to take care of each other. Otherwise it’s to find a partner or two in the school who you can say, Hey, on our free times, if you want to, if you want to get to the bathroom, if you want to do something, I’m willing to give up five minutes of my free time. If people aren’t going to take you up on it every day, but it’s nice to know that somebody’s there for you. Great.
Speaker 0 00:16:33 I’m going to ask you another question. I know you have so much experience working with adolescents with various mental health needs. And we know as a result of COVID, many educators are concerned with the impact that it has had on, on students and children and their mental health. So I’m wondering what advice you can offer to help educators in dealing with this as we move forward,
Speaker 2 00:16:54 That’s your job. So, you know, it’s an interesting thing about, um, living and learning through the pandemic when it first, um, hit. And I was, uh, I coach and consult to principals and school leadership teams and teachers all around and with zoom sort of geographically, even farther reach at this point. And I was feeling a little intimidated at first because I said to people, I actually have no experience of running a school in a pandemic. I can’t tell you, we have to three weeks in the pandemic, you should be at this stage. And looking back, we can see there were some stages, but what I realized was human beings. We’re still a human beings in whatever conditions we’re put in. And so I actually leaned heavily into some of the resiliency research and looking at three protective factors and that’s going to be for kids coming back into school.
Speaker 2 00:17:43 So one is relationship building, absolutely critical. Very, very second is opportunities for students and staff to have voice in autonomy because you know what I always say, I’m not a good mind reader. And I don’t want people to count on me reading their minds to ask for what they need. So part of the relationship building is so people feel safe saying to me, Mr. Benson, can I do this? This would help me. Can I do that? I’m wondering about this. They have to feel safe to be vulnerable. So relationship building is primary. Cause then it allows kids and adults have autonomy and voice so they can organize their own worlds a little bit because it’s very scary if the system is so set in stone, that you can’t take care of yourself, even though you might have a good idea. I always love my students who would say Mr.
Speaker 2 00:18:40 Baker, can I sit by the window? Mr. B, can I have graph paper? Mr. B, can I use a mocker instead of a pencil? Mr. B, can I sit with Theresa because I would work better with her. Oh, that’s yay. That’s what you want from kids to do. So they need to feel safe. They need to know that to ask. And then you want to praise kids, autonomy and voice. And initially you’re going to have to ask kids, you give them menus of things. What would help you? So I’m going to come to the third thing, but first I want to say this one second one, um, in the school that Theresa and I worked in, and I don’t know if this happens when you were there, but there were a couple of times when we had, there was a crisis either with a kid at the school or in the world, the big event.
Speaker 2 00:19:22 And we knew everyone was coming into school with a little more on their emotional ledger. And we realized that what some kids wanted was to just do school. It was the most soothing thing they could possibly do. It was better than all the chaos in their mind, give them a math sheet. That was what they wanted. Some kids wanted to sit one-on-one with a trusted adult. Some kids would like to be in a small group to talk. And so we realized that autonomy and voice was to give kids choice about how to take care of themselves and to, and that’s a really important thing to have a menu of options that they can choose from that they won’t always choose perfectly well, but they’ll learn to. And some of them really do know what’s better because I realized when we decided one time to cancel class and just had groups that made a lot of kids really anxious, not a good idea to give people zero choice when they’re emotionally in turmoil and say, this is the one solution for you.
Speaker 2 00:20:24 So autonomy and voice means there’s choice that kids can operate within adults as well. And the third thing is predictable systems of support. So if you need something, how do you get it? What’s their fee in one of the schools I worked in, we had a long list of, if you are feeling anxious, a friend go to, you can go to this person in the school. And it was like a list. If you want to change a class, go talk to Teresa. Did that person, um, if you’re aware, if you’re having concerns with a medication, here’s when you can go see the nurse, but it was a long list of things. If you would like to find a job, if you would like to get ride a ride home regularly, whatever it was that we had a list of places, kids could go where they had, didn’t have to ask because asking the wrong person makes you vulnerable.
Speaker 2 00:21:19 I want to know. So we listed out as much as we could. And it was in the student handbook. It was posted in like a lobby area. And it served the purpose also of saying it was okay to have meetings that we all had them. And I remember once in an assembly, we had some of the veterans students talk about who they went to one time when they had a need like that. So you also want to model self-care. It was okay. I went to talk to Teresa when I wanted to change a class and it was great talking to her and, you know, I recommend going to see her. And so hearing it from their peers. So I want to repeat, so it’s relationship building, reaching out to him, that extra stuff, opportunities for autonomy and voice, which means you have to give a choice whenever you can have activities and things.
Speaker 2 00:22:07 And the third thing is predictable places to get the support you need. So you don’t have to ask for it, but it’s set up ahead of time for you. All of these things are doable in schools. And I want to say the last one in particular, I wish we did more regularly. We do know what the resources are in the school. How do we make it? That’s how we roll around here. We put resources out, kids use them. We celebrate kids using the resources. Yeah. I that’s why I think coming back from COVID we still lean into those three protective factors.
Speaker 0 00:22:37 Yeah. And I think that resilience piece is going to be huge as we move forward and the idea of choice and autonomy also, because we have to remember that these kiddos are coming back from a variety of different experiences over the last 15 years. I mean, not everybody’s 15 months, 50, sorry, 15 months, 15 years. Oh my gosh. Well,
Speaker 2 00:23:00 Let’s say 15 years. Definitely. And then the last 15 months it’s sort of exponentially idiosyncratic. Yeah, absolutely.
Speaker 0 00:23:06 And um, when we think about that, I mean, not everybody’s COVID experience from one person to the next has certainly been the same. And so we have to be mindful of that and for the staff also coming back and getting going, and, and from a lot of different places. So I love that. That’s that’s great. And I’m wondering, so that, oh, go ahead.
Speaker 2 00:23:25 Let me just say one more thing about that. For instance, for some staff, having time set up like a place to go and talk to peers, super-important other staff want nothing more than getting their classroom and just get an organized and set up. And that’s their soothing self care thing. Like, you know, cleaning up an organized, I w I have to, even though I’m not anal, I’m not disorganized either. I love times in my classroom to go in. Like sometimes, you know, as teachers do this, we come in early, really early sometimes, and we just putter around our classroom and we just set things up and we organize it. And there’s something incredibly soothing about having time to do that. So I think Fred administrator to be aware that if you can carve out some time for people to just have optional time and not feel like how can I say this, that the staff will be professional in their decision-making about how to take care of themselves when given optional time.
Speaker 2 00:24:23 That’s one of the things we tend to do in schools about kids and staff. If there were a hundred staff, there might be four who use that badly, and we tend to not let the other 96 have that option, because we’re worried about the force. Same with kids. Schools tend to be that we worry so much about the kid who’s going to screw up, that we don’t let all the rest of the kids who are developmentally ready to have autonomy, have their autonomy. And it’s sort of like, we would never say to a class, well, you know, we’re not going to teach algebra, but, or this group cause five kids aren’t going to do it well, but we do a lot of that around behavioral stuff, as opposed to 15 of these kids, I know we’re going to really use this time. Well, I will protect the other five from themselves and from damaging everyone else’s opportunity. So I think there’s a part of giving people time and space to take care of their own needs with some options again, how they want to do that. Yeah,
Speaker 0 00:25:20 Well, really important to think about. And so we talked about, you know, kind of the staff and students coming back, and I have been seeing this too in my work, and I’m sure you have as well, you know, the parents are also quite anxious about learning loss and, and lots of, and rightfully so that they have concerns. I’m wondering any tips for parents that we can, um, maybe try to help them ease some of that anxiety as we’re picking up the pieces from COVID.
Speaker 2 00:25:47 Well, this is what I’ve heard. Something really interesting the other day about this. And it’s, it’s a complicating factor. What we’re hearing in schools is what the teachers and the kids most want. And again, there’s variation is time to be with each other, that the relationship part in this rebuilding the school culture, which you can do through your academics is really important. And what we’re hearing from parents is lost learning. It’s, it’s like a disconnect because you know what parents see more than anything else out of school is you sort of the academic outcomes, what the kids are doing for homework. And what they don’t see is the primacy of the relationship and the social cauldron of school and how important that is to, um, everyone’s functioning. So there’s a little disconnect there. I think best thing to do with this goes back to a little, um, a structural part is to give parents the roadmap a little.
Speaker 2 00:26:50 So they’re not guessing how the school is going to do it, I think is, you know, professionals in the schools where we are, we’re ultimately responsible for what happens in the walls of the school. But I think to say to parents, here’s how we’re going to roll stuff out. We are going to spend the first three days doing more relationship, building culture, building norms, getting to know you, helping kids set up than we usually do. And then here’s how we’re going to roll stuff out after. It’s not like just going to be an endless time on the mats with Graham cracks, you know, to suit their fears around that as well. But I think they need to hear a plan. It’s always good to know what the people who are taking care of your kids have plans and a little information can go a long way. Yeah,
Speaker 0 00:27:35 I think so too. And I’m actually reminded, I just had a flashback of when we work together and used to always call it and rightfully identified it as the secondary curriculum. Cause that’s not necessarily the, you know, the academics, which is sometimes easier to see and easier to, to, um, to measure. But that whole, that secondary curriculum piece is really hard, right?
Speaker 2 00:27:57 So I do need to make a small plug for my new book, which I don’t know if you did in the opening, um, which is, um, improved every lesson, the way I have to look the real time, improve every lesson plan with SEL, because it’s the notion of that is that you can do the relationship building and the autonomy and choice and the structure part and developing kids’ social and emotional skills and competencies in lesson plans. It’s not like it’s a separate curriculum, so you can do the we’re going to spend two or three days more than we usually do on rebuilding the culture. But we’re going to integrate that as well into how would you lessons? Um, it’s not one or the other and, uh, as you, and I know most good teachers, which are going to say most teachers have always implicitly and somewhat randomly built relationships and social, emotional skills into their lessons,
Speaker 0 00:28:49 Even knowing the fancy terminology for it, it just happened.
Speaker 2 00:28:53 Right. And so my, in the sense is let’s just make it explicit and planned. So I know when kids come in the room, I know how I’m going to praise them. I know I’m going to prompt them. I know I’m going to model for them as they’re sitting together to do group work. I know I’m going to model for them. I know I’ve got to prompt them as we’re closing up the lesson. I know I’m going to have kids talking to each other about what they experienced during that lesson. We do that, like I said, randomly, we start doing that stuff integrated into the lesson. I think we’re going to be more successful academically and the kids are going to build their resilience. Absolutely.
Speaker 0 00:29:31 And I love that kind of shifting that thinking. So we’re, they’re not separate things, but sometimes we tend to think of it as separate, right? Like social emotional,
Speaker 2 00:29:41 Right. I’ve done this work. I’ve always been scared. It’s going to be another curriculum imposed on teachers already have too much to do or a book from the shelf. And okay, now lesson one Tuesday, then lesson two, as opposed to, that’s a part of a lifeblood of how we are as a community. We just need to adjust as a big word. That’s why writing the book was give people permission to do it, give people some models to do it and support them in doing it.
Speaker 0 00:30:09 Yeah. And since you mentioned the book, I was going to ask you about it, but, um, so where can folks purchase it? Do you want to let us know?
Speaker 2 00:30:16 Um, so the best place to go, uh, is afcg.org, a S C g.org, which is the publisher. It is on Amazon. I’d like to go through ASC D that order because they’re the publisher. They get a little more of the bucks. Um, when it goes through that organization to write organization, um, you can also go to my website, Jeffrey benson.org, and there’s links to the ASC D sites, either way into the book. If you go to my site, you can also see other things I’ve written in my articles and write to me and be in touch. And I keep in touch with a lot of educators all over the country because it’s fun. It’s interesting. We need each other. I mean, going back to self care, um, you need people to talk to about the work and I love, you know, it’s for me when people write to me and want to talk about education, I don’t feel like I am being, um, drained. I’m actually, that’s my self-care too talking to other people. I have the same questions that are working on the same area that I’m working at that
Speaker 0 00:31:18 Starts to get into actually the spiritual domain of self care, where we can see a larger purpose in our work, and we enjoy helping others giving back. And that we, you know, educators tend to do really well in that domain, just in general, because we can see the impact that our work has on the students.
Speaker 2 00:31:35 And that’s been a big part of my work in various ways and it’s sort of implicit and sometimes I, ain’t never gonna make it explicit is, um, I want people to remember why they became teachers and what they love about kids, because really none of us, or almost none of us became teachers because we wanted to give a test on Friday afternoon. It wasn’t for the money either, and we didn’t want it to, because we want it to be taking attendance. That’s not why we, we became teacher for this wonderful it’s spiritual, it’s ethical, it’s existential, it’s life affirming. Um, it’s such a privilege to be able to sit with kids and being asked to and responsible for helping them grow into this world. What a one, that’s why we got into this and the, you know, there’s learning and then there’s schooling and schooling gets in the way of learning.
Speaker 2 00:32:30 Schooling is all the institutional bureaucratic stuff that happens when you shove a thousand people into a building and expect everybody to do things at the same time. And we learn how to manage that. But really, you know, the time we spend talking to kids and talking to each other, that’s, that’s that spiritual deep stuff. Um, it’s why, like I love doing my work as well. I love going meeting people while I love my consulting work. I love having people write to me because it does, it connects me to why I do this and why, you know, I have limited time on earth and yet he has, so he has a deep one for me. Um, I’ve been blessed. I’m not religious. I say that by, um, having a handful of amazing mentors in my life. It’s my one super power finding and keeping really good mentors.
Speaker 2 00:33:21 And one of my mentors, um, he was traveling and, uh, he, he started having chest pain. He thought he was having a heart attack and he was in like a hotel room and he called and they were going to get medics to, and he looked out the window of his hotel and it looked out over a school yard and there were kids playing in the school yard. And he said, well, this is so deep to me. He said, well, if I die now, I’m really glad I work with kids. Wow. Yeah, really? Right. Well that realization, I mean, it, it
Speaker 3 00:33:53 Is it’s can be really powerful.
Speaker 2 00:33:58 Yeah. Yeah. And that’s, you know, it’s, it’s what we have to, um, those of us who work in education reform, it’s the head and the heart, you know, you combat this because in the head, I know we can do better, but in the heart, I know how much people want to do more. And the pain we feel, and this goes back to self care because we can’t do as much as we’d like to do. And that goes back to, that’s why you have to exercise. That’s why I have to talk. Right. Because it’s that criss cross of resources and need, um, that impacts the heart as much as, uh, what I want to say is if you’re feeling that those of you listening to this, it means you’re still working at it. And that’s good. It’s when you stop caring, um, are more worried if you’re feeling the pain, I’m sorry, we’re feel the pain, but at least that means we’re in it. You know, that means where we want to do more. We want to do better. And it’s when we start feeling our frustration with the system that I’m most worried about. Absolutely.
Speaker 0 00:35:09 I’m going to ask you one last question. Um, so as you know, we’ve talked about this before and my listeners know, but my dissertation study was centered around self care for leaders and teachers. And more specifically that leaders need to practice self care and promote it for themselves, you know, promote, practice it, but promoted also for their staff, you know, to help avoid burnout demoralization and help increase retention rates. And so when your work, where you’re training leaders and principals, and how do you try to instill this idea that self-care is other care and that you must put your oxygen mask on first?
Speaker 2 00:35:45 Oh, absolutely. Well, I want to say it just takes me a couple of questions talking to most school administrators, central office and principals for them to admit how isolated they feel. Now, some of them have some support systems, but you know, if you’re a teacher in a school you’re surrounded by many other people who are in your job when you’re an administrator, you might have one or two, three or four, and maybe you get along with them, whatever. Um, so they will know it on some level. So one of the things that I work with administrators on is setting up seminars with administrators to get to talk to each other, but all it’s sort of like, I don’t have to do much. I just have to put them in a room together, give them a little, like a reading to do or something. And it’s like, and they’re telling each other stories and they’re giving each other sort of not advice in like a, um, talking down more.
Speaker 2 00:36:41 But yeah, I tried that too. Have you ever tried this? It’s not that even they need solutions, they just need to talk it out. So that’s one part of it. Um, I know one of the, um, and then also is not a group to have a mentor to have a consultant. I always had someone I talked to when I was a principal. I always paid for it through the school, or even on my own time or found a colleague like that guy, Charlie, I found early on, I always had someone to talk to. Um, when I was a principal, I partly felt like I had to role model working harder than everyone and longer because I felt like I was paid more sure, socialists backgrounds, you’re going to pay me more than to work more. I was always a sucker. You know, anyone paid me more. I was going to have to work more, you know, boundlessly more. And, um, I also needed to model for the staff that, you know what, let’s all try to leave early this Friday, me too. Like I’m going to, going to be able to take time off and I want you to take it to, um, it’s really important. Um, when I could, I could tell my staff, yes, I actually take a nap in my office during my prep time.
Speaker 2 00:37:58 I want you to do what you need to do. And these are the things you see me do. Um, as you know, I used to take lots of walks with staff, um, when they were going to meet, when they we’d all go, Hey, let’s go take a walk together because I need to get out of the building too. Um, so you want to be transparent about your own process. Um, you don’t have to be a martyr. You don’t have, you’re going to end up working more as an administrator. You just do. Um, but don’t be a mater about it. You know, take your vacation, talk about them. Um, let people know how you’re taking care of yourself. Um, here’s another interesting one. Let people know, and this is a tough one that you have a consultant. There’s a wonderful article by a tool Gawande. He was a wonderful writer, G U w a N D E is his name.
Speaker 2 00:38:52 And he wrote an article called personal best. He’s a scholar. I mean a surgeon. And he decided he could be a better surgeon if he got a mentor and he looked around and he found sort of a retired surgeon who he would talk to about his work, excuse me, who would come to his surgery and observe a minute afterwards. Talk about technique. Talk about what he talked about with the other people on the surgical team. So you would just be kind of observing. And the first thing that a tool had to bump up against was all those peers saying, why do you have somebody? Because the assumption was, I must not be very good. And he was like, wait. The greatest tennis players in the world have coaches. The greatest singers in the world have coaches, masterful people in the world continue to learn and have coaches.
Speaker 2 00:39:44 And he was like, I realized I wanted to be better. And so he had to overcome his institutional bias against owning that you were still learning on the job. Um, the article ends with a very funny moment where, so he’s, he’s become comfortable with having the surgeon mentor to have a good relationship. And somebody’s getting wheeled into, I think it’s a woman getting reeled into surgery and he’s going through with her, what’s going to happen. And this person’s United sociologist, this person is going to help me is introducing them, which is a lovely thing to do. And she seized his mentor on the side and she says, who’s, who’s that? And he goes, oh, that’s my coach. And the less I article is she didn’t look happy.
Speaker 0 00:40:34 I think that’s great though. I mean, I think sometimes there’s, you know, like that stigma, um, as you were talking was reminding me even how people sometimes feel about therapy that like, you know, you shouldn’t need that support or that help, like there’s that, that kind of, you know, feeling from certain people. I mean, I, I work with a therapist. I don’t see a problem with that with anybody where I think it’s, um, really beneficial for people to have that. And it’s almost, you know, think of it similar to like a coach. So somebody, a mentor, like you need those people to kind of help you make sense of the world and help you on this journey.
Speaker 2 00:41:06 Correct. And in schools, there’s a little bit of a part of the stigma and I can’t speak to other organizations and institutions. I don’t know them that well is most people who are school, administrators rose up from the ranks. Sure. And so there’s this little bit of, I have to prove that I’m actually smarter, wiser, better, more accomplished than the people who are my peers, because otherwise, why do I have this job? And so being vulnerable, talking about that, you were still on the job feels somehow like I will be diminished in the eyes of my peers, as opposed to your peers would be going. That’s great that you’re trying to get better at your job, but you have to overcome the sort of ego thing, you know, but I highly recommend the article personal best a tool go on date. Cause it talks through all of his internal stuff and institutional stuff that decided he wanted a coach. So he could be better at his work. I
Speaker 0 00:42:02 Love that. I’ll definitely look that article up. Maybe we can link it also in the episode notes as well as your contact information. And you’ve already shared your website with folks, um, which is excellent. And, um, that was all the questions I had for today. I think you gave us a lot, which was excellent. Thank you so much for your time. I very much appreciate it. And I consider you one of my mentors, um, as you have definitely, um, helped me throughout the years as we’ve worked together. But then I still recall on lots of the things that I learned during that time period, very fondly. And so I very much appreciate that. Thank you. Good.
Speaker 2 00:42:38 Nice talking with you, Teresa. You too.
Speaker 0 00:42:47 Jeffrey had so much to share with us and there are many key takeaways from this conversation, even though we were mostly chatting about the education arena, there’s a lot of information and tip shared that a transferable to any industry and to life in general, first relationships, they’re really, really important. We want to ensure that we make time for and spend time with people who are good to us, encourage us, respect us, support us and believe in us. This includes building a trust that you will be respected when you need to advocate for your needs or even say no at times, these are also the people who should listen to you when you become upset, whether it requires an empathetic or sympathetic listening on their part, the bonds you share with family, friends, and colleagues contribute to this domain. If you are listening to this and feel that you do not have people in your life like this, I strongly encourage you to seek the support of a therapist, counselor, or group of like-minded individuals to help foster this domain.
Speaker 0 00:43:49 This is a critical aspect of self-care and can be the hardest to come by and sustain. And we absolutely absorb the energy of those around us. So we must be mindful of this and make sure we are setting boundaries and taking care of ourselves in the process. And while I have never taken a nap at my desk, I don’t see the problem with it. Anytime you can take a brain break, a movement break or another self-care practice for just a few minutes, you will actually make yourself more productive. As a result, people tend to think that someone who takes a nap is obviously a slacker or lazy, but that is simply not true and be sure check out Jeffrey’s books, including his latest improve every lesson with SEL or social, emotional learning this book and his previous publications can be purchased by visiting Jeffrey benson.org.
Speaker 0 00:44:44 Along with the relationship domain of self care, Jeffrey highlighted the spiritual domain. I think it is important to remember your why and reconnect. Why did you become a teacher or why do you do what you do? And I love the idea of hiring a coach from the a tool Gawande article. Jeffrey mentioned it is so true that there is a stigma around this, but there really shouldn’t be. Thanks for listening to this episode. Remember to subscribe and rate this podcast on your preferred player, the ratings help us grow and share the message of self-care. If you have comments, suggestions, or questions, reach out directly by emailing podcast at Dr. MC self care.com that’s D R M C self care and come join the cast party of Dr. MCs self care cabaret on Facebook and Instagram at Dr. MC self care or on my website, Dr. MC self care.com. Be sure to like subscribe and love me across all my social media platforms for the most up-to-date information on self care. See you next time. Stay well and do good.