What does being a healthy helper or healer actually look like? It took me a long time to answer that question after embodying being an unhealthy one for so long. All around me, so many teachers personified “to be of service to others” as being in servitude/held in captivity. So naturally, I emulated their precedent. But over time, I recognized the toxicity in giving your power away. I learned to be of service to others while keeping my boundaries and protecting my energy. With this change, I ignited my flame, and sometimes, exhausted myself. Yet, I no longer depleted my own vitality.
Learn from Your Elders
Not long after I accepted my first teaching job, I realized how much wisdom the veteran teachers contained. Throughout the years in the school of hard knocks, sharp turns, and abrupt stops, they learned how to keep their center. I marveled at how unshaken they were when the school system announced the newest program to incorporate to “save the school.” Much like tele-evangelists, the powers that be promised the formula via this new program to well-disciplined, high achieving, and eager-to-learn students. However, after a hard-fought year ended and the results didn’t match the fantasy created, that program ended. And a new one moved in its place.
Despite the obvious deception in the programming, my elders remained open to the novel approach year after year. They wanted their students to succeed and also wanted to be effective teachers. Eventually, they realized that snake oil is just oil. This oil may grease the squeaky wheel, but it doesn’t actually help you far on the journey. No “catch-all” program was the answer to the systemic problems in schools.
Naturally, the teachers grew resentful as all recipients of bill of bad goods from slick salespeople ultimately do. Rather than allowing themselves to be of service to others, they felt that they were prisoners of the “system” and the only way out was retirement.
Learn From Going Within
Once I became fully awakened and aware of the power within, I learned how to let the external environment around me be and determined my ability to be happy from my inner landscape. However, I couldn’t help but notice how obsessed others got with reaching retirement. By entering retirement, so many teachers felt as if they could actually be happy. Until then, they stayed and sacrificed their happiness by waiting for their last day of work.
Don’t get me wrong. Retirement bestows a beautiful, well-earned gift to educators. After years of unyielding dedication, you are rewarded with a lifetime salary. But if the ONLY reason you are staying in education is to get your pension, you give all of your power away to be happy. You create a self-imposed prison with very little joy. Honestly, there is no honor in being miserable. It just makes you miserable. Learn to say no to things you don’t want to do. Not sure about saying no? Read more here: https://tracinicolesmith.com/its-ok-to-say-no/
So, how can you stay in education and be happy? That answer becomes a personal journey for each person. You can keep your power by vetting small changes in your classroom. Rather than try to tackle the entire system, start with a new practice in your classroom. For more information, visit Human Restoration Project: https://www.humanrestorationproject.org/. You can find resources, research, and handbooks to find something that works for you.
To be of service to others ranks as one of the most noble aspirations you can have. My life would have a pronounced void in it if I didn’t serve my community. And, I knew when it was time to retire. And, because I focused on what I had control over, I feel free.