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In our discussion, Mandy and I (Chris) spoke about the dangers of the stigma surrounding mental health and its specific detriment to teachers and students. Often, teachers are put on a pedestal - being seen as heroic (or for some, godlike) - and facing trauma is both unrealistic to account for, as well as dangerous to the psyche of "teacherhood."
Furthermore, we talk about the steps teachers can take to ensure they are well equipped to deal with trauma in the classroom, as well as simple actions that can have drastic impact on students' lives.
Mandy Froehlich is the Director of Innovation and Technology in the Ripon Area School District in Wisconsin and author of The Fire Within: Lessons from Defeat That Have Ignited a Passion for Learning. This collection of stories from educators describes how adversity is met with strength and everyone grows as a result. Furthermore, Mandy is a Google for Education Certified Trainer, ambassador for Canvas LMS, a keynote speaker, presenter, and PD lead.
Chris McNutt: Hello, welcome to Things Fall Apart at the Human Restoration Project. I'm Chris. Thanks for joining me today. A special thank you to our patrons that make this podcast possible, two of which are Mike Laughlin and Skylar Prim. Thanks for keeping us afloat. You can find all of our podcasts, resources for free for educators, as well as all of our thoughts on our website at humanrestorationproject.org. You can also find a link to our Patreon to support us and keep us going, thanks in advance. Our resource, releasing at the end of this month, details grade-less assessment, everything from the benefits to going grade-less to a plethora of different assessment options, as well as ways to convert into actual grades of a school or district requires it. So look out for that. The resource we just released, called Don't Get the Wrong Idea, explores different myths and misconceptions that students have, such as how to get into college or the value of an SAT score. You can find that resource for students on our website. Mandy Froehlich is the Director of Innovation and Technology in the Ripon Area School District in Wisconsin and author of The Fire Within, Lessons from Defeat that have Ignited a Passion for Learning. This collection of stories from educators describes how adversity is met with strength and everyone grows as a result. Furthermore, Mandy is a Google for Education certified teacher and ambassador for Canvas LMS, a keynote speaker, presenter, and professional development lead. Thanks for coming on. I appreciate you giving up your time. I'm excited to talk to you about your book. So let's just start off with this first question just to kind of see where the discussion takes us. So it features 11 different stories from 11 different educators, including your own. And at the beginning, you reminisce on why you began the book. You talk about how there's a lot of responsibility on a teacher's shoulders, including your own, and therefore when we have struggles, it's overwhelming and it makes us vulnerable. Can you just go into further detail about what you hope people take away from the book?
Mandy Froehlich: Absolutely. There's a few things as people read the book that I hope they take away. And I really do think that people read it from a couple different kinds of lenses, while one might be that they've actually gone through something like this and one might be that they actually haven't. And so I think with those two different lenses, they're going to get very different things out of the book. But overall, I really want people to have the courage to tell their own story and to work on destigmatizing mental health. Their story is their story regardless of if they've gone through trauma or adversity or neither, which I don't know if there's many people that haven't, but whether they've gone through that, their stories are different. But all of their stories make up who they are. And usually stories can involve whether it's their own or somebody else's mental health. So really working on destigmatizing that so we know it's okay to talk about it. Another takeaway would be empathy for kids and just other adults going through these same struggles. So I was very cognizant of my story and trying to allow people into kind of the way my head worked when things were happening or what I was thinking. And I know a lot of the other contributors did as well. And so for me, the cognitive piece of knowing what somebody is thinking is really powerful in knowing how or why they're reacting and also can develop that empathy as well. So not all the stories are relatable to kids. I mean, there's obviously a professional adversity in there as well, which wouldn't be the same. But overall, kind of knowing that our kids are going through these stories as well, knowing that we're not alone, that it's been just incredible how many people who have reached out to me and I know to the other contributors as well and have said, your story is just the mirror image of mine. And for so many years, I lived with this, I'm totally alone. I can't talk about it because nobody's going to understand how I feel. And here I sat it and now all these people are like, oh my gosh, the same thing. The same things happened to me. I felt these same things. And it's made me feel less different and kind of created a community around that. And there's the piece in the book about how the brain works, working on trauma and mindfulness. And then I really want to make people aware of secondary traumatic stress and then hope that things can get better and that we can take positive pieces out of even the darkest things that happened to us.
CM: Yeah. And just to ensure that everyone listening kind of gets what's going on, the book is basically stories of you and other educators going through probably some of the darkest moments and how they've kind of affected your lives, recollecting on different issues of mental health and how they stem from serious problems, whether it be from parents or bullying in school or even from teachers and how that's affected your lives. Really, I think honestly, probably most people's lives, which is kind of sad that you brought up that idea of destigmatizing and how so many people have reached out to you. And I think that because of how much stigmatizing exists, mental health, as we are well aware, has gone under the radar. And I think there's a shocking number of people that are experiencing issues like this that are not seeking help or are just kind of holding it in because it's not something that people want to talk about, even though it's a major issue. And schools are extra guilty of this because schooling already has a layer in between teacher and student. People want to focus primarily on academics and how a child is doing based on a grade, but they're not focused as much on social and emotional wellbeing. I mean, that movement really didn't even surface until the 1960s. And even then it went away and now it's starting to come back again, or it's sadly being substituted for what I would consider to be like shallow mindfulness practice. So like doing yoga in the classroom, for example, I'm not saying that's bad, but it's not an overall philosophical look at the major issue, which is why are the kids not happy to begin with? And what structural changes can we make to school in order to make it more part of it's bearable, but also more loving, which school should be that kind of thing. You have to go there. It's not meant to be a prison, right? It's meant to be something that you enjoy doing. And that's not going to get solved if everyone just pretends everything's okay for everyone. It's sad, but it's true that anxiety and depression rates are rising, especially amongst teenagers and young adults. And there's a lot of different reasons why this might be the case. People point to social media, you're increasingly connected, but you're also more disconnected because you're not having that person to person moment. The political landscape is not going too great. And there's just a lack of focus on mental health issues in general, there's that stigma that exists. So based off your own experiences, you've already alluded to this, do you think it's easier than to talk to students and relate to the problems that they're going through based on the trauma that you've suffered?
MF: Yeah, I really do. And also adults with mental health issues as well. And people, I feel a little bit like people who have gone through a very traumatic experience have this sort of like beacon that brings them together. And a lot of times I'll find myself becoming friends with somebody who, when digging deeper, we have very similar circumstances, but it is easier for me to talk to anybody with those things because I know the right words to say. I know that assuming that, like I've said it before, if you have anxiety, I know telling you not to be nervous is not going to help. I also know that helping people find ways to self-regulate is super important. People need strategies to deal with these things, and part of the issue in dealing with these things for teachers and educators is that we are not trained to deal with these. We're not psychologists, we're not counselors, and we really don't even know how to provide such personal strategies for kids. And I agree, I think yoga, breathing, and those types of things are very, very low level of mindfulness. However, I think we have not provided people with what they need in order to do those things in the classroom. And this year, our school district actually hired a part-time mindfulness coach. She went for a certification, we spent quite a bit of money on getting her certified. And she's going to be part-time in the classroom, part-time mindfulness coach. And I'm really interested to see what she brings, because I have not personally been in her classroom since she had started the certification, but I have heard that the difference in her classroom is just, it's very, very, very different from before till after she has implemented the mindfulness. Yeah, and talking to the kids, I mean, like I said, I just know the right words to say. I mean, not all the time, none of us are perfect all the time, but for the most part, I can. I had a friend of mine recently whose sister tried to commit suicide, and she was obviously distraught and went through all of those kinds of feelings of what was she thinking and how could she do this? And so I tried to explain to her in the most academic way possible how my brain thinks of that kind of thing, how my brain works, and it's this constant battle between the logical and emotional. And I hope that by being able to work really hard in voicing how my brain works, that that helps other people understand the way their own bodies are working.
CM: To be completely honest, it's a tough read in a sense, not because it's difficult to understand, but because it's so emotionally heavy. I mean, these are things that we need to talk about, but at the same time, the reason why people don't usually want to talk about them is it's hard, right? It's harder than just reading a bunch of books and studying the benefits of mindfulness. You have to actually emotionally take in what other people are going through because you can't really empathize until you really know the traumatic events that exist, especially if you're not someone who has had as rough as a situation as many people have gone through in your book or as many, many, many students go through. And training someone to do that in a traditional PD environment seems like it would be quite difficult to do. It would be very difficult to lecture on or complete a worksheet on true mindfulness. You'd almost have to hear it from someone, someone's personal experience, which is what you're doing in your book. So it's a good read. But it's one of those things where it almost has to go back to teacher training and what is the goal of the teacher, right? In my view and in our organization's view, the goal of the teacher isn't to be the content distributor. Their goal is to be the mentor or the coach or the guide. They don't necessarily need to really know that much content information. More so they need to know how to learn and how to help people. Their goal is to be there to be the facilitator, which is so shockingly different than the traditional model of teaching, which would be someone giving a quiz every single Friday and people just kind of along for the ride. And especially as our world has become increasingly easy to find information on the fly, that's becoming less and less relevant to becoming a memorizer of facts. We need people that are emotionally capable to handle working with students almost like maybe non-certified guidance counselors in a way, especially since at many points, if you are a teacher practicing mindfulness in the classroom or very open emotionally, you tend to be many students guidance counselors. For better or for worse, I mean, I'm sure you've had as well plenty of experiences with students coming in and having to deal with some pretty serious issues and just being like, well, I'll try my best and then sending them to the guidance counselor as soon as I can, at least, not because I don't love them, but because that terrifies me. But it's important that we're able to at least try to help people because they're human beings. Of course, we would expect that we could help people in general. I don't want to tell your story because I think that's kind of awkward given that you're here. It's kind of a weird thing to do. But in summary, you had a lot of emotional issues growing up because of an abusive family or a family member. There's a point in your book where you talk about when you work with adults, co-workers, for example, you don't want them to be emotional or wildly like you like them to be very stable. You incorporate that into your classroom as well. You want to be like the solid thing that people can latch onto. That's pretty common teaching strategy. People always say that you're supposed to kind of be the face of what you want to do. But I brought in this quote and I sent it to you beforehand, but it's from John Holt. John Holt was, for anyone that's not familiar, a guy in the 50s, 60s, and early 70s who was a huge part of the unschooling movement. He was hypercritical traditional education and he said a lot of really interesting things. And a quote from his book, which is from How Children Fail, is almost not necessarily the antithesis of that idea, but I'll kind of let you hear your thoughts on this. So he says, there's a paradox here. Many of the adults who hide themselves from children pretending to be some idealized notion of quote unquote teacher might well say they do this in order to make themselves consistent and predictable to children. The real me, they might say, is capricious, moody, up one day and down the next. It's too hard for the child to have to deal with that changeable, unpredictable, real person. So instead, I will give them an invented rule following and therefore wholly predictable person. And it works exactly backwards. Children, unless they are very unlucky and live at home with adults pretending to be model parents, which may be a growing trend, are used to living with real, capricious, up one day and down one day adults. And with their sharpness of observation and keenness of mind, they learn how to predict these strange, huge creatures and how to read all their confusing signs. So in summary, he's basically talking about how being that kind of what he would say robotic kind of singular mood teacher actually does students a disservice. What are your thoughts on that quote?
MF: Well, I love this quote for so many reasons. And I think it's true. I don't think there's anything wrong with having the desire to be the one constant stable thing in some kids' lives. The reasons why we keep the mental health issues under wraps, I mean, it's really done with the best of intentions. I think that there are ways to show kids your emotional side without dragging them into some of the symptoms of a mental health disorder. There are ways to still show your emotion age appropriately to the kids without showing that. If you're working with little ones, well, I'm very, very nervous today. I feel like today I might need to take some extra deep breaths because my dog isn't feeling well and so I'm just a little feeling nervous about that today. Obviously age appropriately, but I always say that I have these core beliefs about education that I've kind of developed over time and one of them is that we need to model the behavior that we want to see. And some might interpret that as being like that kind of no emotion, robotic, being calm, cool, collected, organized, always smiling and happy as being what we want to see. But what I really want to see is the ability to self-regulate and I want kids to monitor their feelings. I want them to have strategies to deal with those feelings. They need to know when to talk to somebody and to be honest about what they're thinking and the only way that they're going to do that is if the teacher is modeling that. The kids are unbelievably smart and sensitive to the people around them and they're going to be able to spot a phony a mile away. It's a balance. It's a pendulum. You can't just be on one side where you're robotic and running. There needs to be emotion in education. It's why most of us got into it is because we loved learning. We loved kids, but it also can't be the completely emotional side of a mental health issue as well where you're actually dragging the kids down, obviously. It does need to be that balance.
CM: Yeah, I love that philosophy. I think that a lot of it just comes down to transparency. I know personally when I was in school, I remember consistently the teachers that were the most robotic, the ones that were always kind of on it, those were actually not the teachers I typically enjoyed having because one, they tended to be kind of boring. They just felt non-authentic. There's something very humanizing about going in front of your classroom and saying it doesn't have to be anything crazy. You're just like, I'm tired today. We're going to do this because I'm tired. That might sound like you're being a quote unquote bad teacher, but to me, that's just being a person. You don't have to be this superhero. You're someone who is relating to them as a fellow human being. That sounds so obvious to me in my mind, but it seems that time we've kind of held teachers on this pedestal. You talk about this in the book as well, that they can't show any emotion whatsoever because if they do, it's weakness. If you're the kind of person that's running your classroom in the sense that you're the authoritative ruler and you show weakness, that's going to be a big deal. Kids are going to revolt. If you are someone who is constantly human, and I'm not saying every single day you're going to go in and be like, we're doing worksheets today, guys, because I'm tired all the time. That would be ridiculous, right? There is a certain place for showcasing some form of emotion as well. I want to add this on. Those teachers that tend to always be on it, the days where they're not on it and you catch them on a bad day tend to be very destabilizing. I remember so many times those were always the teachers that had anchor management problems. It'd be like, happy smiles, happy smiles, happy smiles, and then week 30, the teacher would just flip out of nowhere. That was almost traumatizing. I remember it was just like, I don't know what to expect from you anymore, as opposed to the teacher that intentionally distance themselves and say, you guys are going to do this on your own today, which is, that's okay to me. That just makes sense.
MF: When I taught, I taught elementary school, and there were times where I distinctly remember we would be going through a really tough math lesson. Let's face it, if it's tough for the kids, it's usually tough for us too. Math was not my strong suit. We would go through a tough math lesson, and I'd be like, all right, guys, I need a break from this. Let's go play kickball for half an hour, and we would go play kickball. Every single time. I never regretted doing it, but every time I would feel guilty afterward. I'd be like, shoot, now I'm behind in my math lesson. How am I going to catch this up? What if the kids didn't get what they needed? I always felt guilty about it because the overall feeling is you keep going, keep going, keep going, keep going, and you never take those breaks. I loved laughing with my kids. That was one of my favorite things about teaching. You can't do that when you have put yourself on such a ... Even if your persona that you've developed is happy, happy, happy, are you seriously happy all that time? I wanted to be honest enough with my kids that they knew that if I needed help in a moment, that I needed to take that moment for myself. Every single time, without fail, my kids were there for me above and beyond any adult that was around me. They understood it, and were empathetic, and were sweet and kind. Like I said, those connections, that's why I got into teaching.
CM: The idea that you just brought up of that philosophy of quote, unquote, wasting time is incredibly valuable. Many research will show you that especially young children and adults, or adolescents I mean, need those breaks, as well as adults, in order to learn properly. The kids will learn more academics if you give them more breaks. You should be considering play as a core component of your classroom. People conflate that a lot of times with saying, well, I play review games, or my kids are up and around doing, whatever they call the, I can't remember what it's called, when there's posters on the wall and you walk around and you take notes on them or whatever. There's this idea of conflating being active in the class and taking breaks with something that's truly academic. There couldn't be something further than the truth. Going outside and just being outside for the heck of it, or playing a game, or spending a plethora of days on team building exercises and playing games with each other beyond just the first three days of school. I don't understand why a teacher would collect a note card with all these cool things that kids love to do on the first day of school, and then a month in, no one knows what ever happened to those note cards, because nothing of that's ever coming up in the class, it's just business as usual. If you're going to develop a true relationship with a child, you have to actually do things that people do in relationships. A parent is not constantly drilling their kid on what to do in their lives, they spend quality time with them. It would make sense that a teacher who is there for a pretty sizable amount of a child's life would be spending that time truly getting to know them through these experiences. That sounds like a very academic way of putting it, because push comes to shove, you're just being a person. That's what people do. It shouldn't be something out of the ordinary for that to be occurring.
MF: I think it's interesting though, have you heard of the Neuralink by Elon Musk?
CM: Kind of, but go ahead.
MF: I was speaking with some teachers and I had brought up this Neuralink that Elon Musk has come up with. When I learned about it, it's been about a year now, it was already established and everything, it's a growing company. What he wants to do is he wants to put a chip in the brains of people who ... He wants to start out with people who have disabilities in order to give them some of their functionality back that they've lost, but eventually put it in everybody's brain. It essentially works as a computer. One of his reasonings is that he feels like artificial intelligence is going to grow so quickly he wants to give the human race a chance to compete with it. He says, everyone's like, oh, 30 years out, nope, eight years, he wants to have it available for the general public in eight years. I don't know if this will really happen or not. The guy's pretty smart, so I don't put much past him. I had brought this up with some of my teachers and their first reaction to that was, well, teachers will become extinct, nobody will need them anymore. I thought to myself, if your reaction is that once kids know all the content, teachers will be obsolete, what are you doing right now to focus on kids' social, emotional well-being? Do you focus so heavily on content that you really wouldn't know what to do if kids had a computer in their brains? Because right now, most of them have computers in their hands. For me, my reaction to that, well, that's amazing because I get to work on deeper thinking skills and I get to work on relationships and social-emotional stuff and all of those things that computers can't teach us and I don't have to teach them the facts anymore. That's amazing, but if your first reaction to that is nobody will need me, then it makes me question what your focus is in your classroom.
CM: Yeah, that's a fascinating take. That's very interesting. For some reason, I can't get past the ... I don't know if you've seen Altered Carbon on Netflix, but it's kind of a dystopian reality of what that could potentially bring, but that has nothing to do with what you're talking about. I can't get that idea out of my head. There's a lot of dark consequences that could come from us starting to download Matrix-style ideas, but regardless, it was a good point. I'm curious then how we actually incorporate these techniques in the classroom because obviously, I don't personally think that most teachers do this in a devious or nefarious manner. I think that most of them don't understand that either one, that's not their role and they don't feel like it should be, or two, they don't really know what to do and they're scared of doing it, myself included. There's been many times where there's been issues where I've just chickened out because it's scary. A kid is losing it or crying or mad or upset. Your first instinct as an educator is to just send them to the guidance counselor and hope for the best and cross your fingers and then never talk about it again, whereas there are a lot of techniques that you can use in your classroom to get people to open up emotionally beyond just that logical thing that you're trying to get out normally. The first thing I thought of, and it's an activity I've done in my class many times, is an activity from Ashanti branch and it's featured in The Mask You Live In, which is also on Netflix, the documentary is really good. It's all about recognizing and empowering specifically male students, the documentary that could be used for anyone. The activity is students write on this mask they've created out of paper on one side, how they want the world to view them. Typically, kids will write like cool or nice or whatever. On the other side, they tell them to write down anonymously words that they are scared of people knowing about them or things they don't want the world to see. Then they crumple it up, they throw it randomly and kids pick it up and they read both the things that they want to see and things that they don't want to see. Usually, and I've done this in my class many times, 99% of students have something that you typically want to talk about on the other side of that sheet of paper. It's very moving, but it's also very depressing to see all the horrible things either students think about themselves or the things that have happened to them or just in general, the trauma that exists across human life. I'm curious then, practices such as that, are they good to introduce into the classroom? Are there specific ways that we should address emotional well-being without making the problem worse per se?
MF: I'm certainly no expert on SEL. Most of my expertise comes from just experiencing it. I think there's a few things that can be done. The first is just stepping back into the teacher role. Teachers need to be just as cognizant about what's going on with them as they are with their students because they cannot address the SEL requirements of the kids until they're taking care of themselves. If we are burnt out, if we have secondary traumatic stress, if we are going through some sort of adversity that we're dealing with, it's very, very difficult to then take on somebody else's as well. I think that that's one of the most important things actually that can be done in a classroom as a teacher, making sure that they are taking care of themselves. As far as the kids go, one of the things that I know that I was guilty of as a teacher, and since I've left the classroom, I've learned so much. I actually left the classroom because I was burnt out, but I didn't know it. I didn't know that's what it was. I've learned so much since then. In reflecting on some of the things I did, I would do anything to go back and change the little itty-bitty moments that I remember brushing a kid off. I had one year in particular where I had girls that were very ... They were kind of known as the drama girls, right? One whole entire class of girls who ... She was looking at me from across the room, tell her to stop looking at me, she was giving me the evil eye, she took my book, all of these kinds of things, and then it would continue out on the playground and they would come in. There were many, many times that I did something like this, so and so what happened, so and so what happened? Okay, you know you shouldn't do that and you know you shouldn't do that, say you're sorry. It was because ... Why? Because I had to get onto the math lesson or I had to ... I had a million other things to do. I had 10 kids waiting to talk to me and I just needed it to be done quickly, but it's those little things that we do like that, they impact kids forever and ever and essentially what I did there is I not only blew off their concerns, I made them feel unimportant, I didn't at all solve their issue, I did not teach them how to work through it, I did not acknowledge the hurt that they felt because we're adults and I can't tell you how many times I've heard adults say, well just wait until they have grown up problems, but perception really is reality and what they're perceiving their reality to be is all wrapped up in their friends and what their world is and blowing those kinds of things off, I was definitely not helping the situation because they interpreted that to be a real issue at the time and one of the ... I use this as kind of an example, I'll never forget when I was in sixth grade and this is what I try to do, I try to remember, I try to put myself back to when I was there. When I was in sixth grade I was kind of awkward and I went into a new school and I didn't have a lot of friends and these girls kind of adopted me as their own and I felt so lucky to have these particular girls because they were funny and at one point in sixth grade one of them pulled me aside and she said, Mandy, I need to take a moment to teach you how to tight roll your pants and she showed me that kindness, she helped me tight roll my pants and it's those little itty bitty things and now it's not a girl and not another teacher, but a teacher also didn't come up to us and say, what are you doing? Go sit down and you guys don't need to be talking right now. The teacher also didn't do that so it's sometimes those little things that we do and do not do that make the biggest difference in kids. You know?
CM: Tanner Iskra Yeah, there's so much to unpack there. I love that notion of people think that this is a grandiose idea, but a lot of it's common sense. I know in one of the stories, I can't recall the specific name, but one of the student or one of the adults remembers as a student, a situation where I believe it was where a teacher made them present in front of the class, their failing grade. The fact that they did poorly and how that was very traumatic to them and I think a lot of teachers for better or for worse, believe that you learn from failure in a very dark way. There's a big difference between, you know, acknowledging that you're not doing things well versus embarrassing someone to do better. And there's that mentality of, I don't want to overgeneralize, but there's that coach mentality of making someone do it because when they were a kid, you know, they just got pushed through their problems and that's not really truly how it works because sadly a lot of those people that went through those situations have a lot of traumatic problems. They just don't talk about them because they're too macho or they just want to keep it within. And I realize it's a giant overarching statement about what occurs, but there are a lot of situations in school. I remember so many times in middle and high school where myself or a friend or just anyone in my class was called out or singled out or embarrassed because of something they were doing which in retrospect was not a big deal at all, but because the teacher felt so in control and so just autonomous over their classroom that they wanted to demean others. And I don't know if that was intentional, but they just were, it's again that control factor in that way that they want to constantly move on to that next thing because there's that constant rush coupled with probably their own burnout and unlikeliness of enjoying their job much that day, it all just kind of manifests itself into a major problem that a lot of students and teachers are facing. And the other thing you said, which I thought was a really good point, was that teachers feel really burned out because of all the things that they're doing and because of that, the problems that they might have might exacerbate. They might one, quit or two, become more emotionally unstable amongst their students. They might just become very robotic and try to hide it or they might lash out more, become more of a dictator because they're just kind of done with it. They're just, their flame has extinguished. They no longer want to go through all those motions because they think it's too much. And ironically, a lot of the ways in which schools are trying to push for academic achievement are making teachers that are great teachers leave. For example, the first thing that comes to mind is grading. To me, grading is not really assessment. They're very much different from each other and the teacher that spends every single day grading a hundred papers and never has any time for themselves is doing themselves and their students a disservice. It's not making their kids necessarily amazing learners and it's certainly putting a lot of pressure on the teacher. To me, it's not normal at all for a teacher to go home and have hours of work to do. They might push themselves to do that because they're just interested in their craft, but it shouldn't be a requirement that every single day I go home and spend three or four hours on grading things. It doesn't make any sense. And I think that I would argue a majority of teachers feel like they should be doing that because the narrative has been put forth that teachers should be doing that or else you're a bad teacher. That seems to be just a major overarching problem that connects itself very heavily to emotional and social well-being.
MF: Right, absolutely. The other thing, too, is that we – I have this other book coming out later that it's called The Hierarchy of Needs for Innovation and Divergent Thinking. Basically what it is, it's an organizational structure to give teachers a better shot at being innovative because I think that they have these teachers so much on their plates, but we add more by not having the structures in place for them to be able to teach. If you walk into a school that has a really negative climate and the culture is just not very strong and you're trying to work in that environment where you're listening to teachers complain about kids and you're listening – you know that your administrator is not supporting you, you have all these other things going on in your head that's taking up kind of the brain space that you need to take care of other things. And I think that goes for personally as well if you are dealing with all of these other issues that actually could be resolved in climate and culture and leadership and things like that, you're not taking the time to deal with personal issues or you're working extra to make up for that or you're taking on extra duties in order to kind of balance that out and it's just not giving you the head space to deal with other things. So absolutely I think that's true and one of the major symptoms of true burnout is detachment from the things you love. So it makes sense that if you love teaching and it's what's burning you out, you're going to detach from it.
CM: Yeah, I mean that sounds fascinating. We'll have to have you back on to talk about that book when it comes out because that sounds absolutely incredible. Hey there, we hope you're enjoying the podcast. The Human Restoration Project stays alive because of generous donations by our patrons. Take a second and check out our website at humanrestorationproject.org for more podcasts, our blog, and all sorts of free resources that we've designed for educators. And if you love what we do, consider supporting us on Patreon. For as little as $1 a month, Patreon supporters receive goodies from being listed in the credits of our resources to early access to what we do. Thanks in advance. I want to move into really quickly the criticism I feel like would be most applicable to the book. And a lot of times when people talk about talking about depression or anxiety or even suicide, people conflate that with almost glorifying mental illness. And what I mean by that is people are probably familiar with when 13 Reasons Why came out, there was studies that somewhat showed a correlation to increase suicide rates or increased numbers of diagnosed depression because people were either acting out their sadness because it kind of related to them in a way, or because people started to talk about these problems, they were concerned that they might be more prone to act on them because it's coming to the forefront. So what would be kind of the response to that concern that the more we talk about emotional issues, the more likely those emotional issues might well up? So I guess I would question whether is it that there's more emotional issues or is that that people are becoming more aware and so they're then asking for help or seeking help or doing something to act out on that. And it's kind of the same thing like when we started diagnosing autism, right? All of a sudden, there was this huge spike in kids diagnosed with autism. Were there more kids with autism or were there more diagnoses of the issue because we knew what it was and we talked about it? I don't really know, but I do think that it's really important for people to understand that they're not alone. I think people often who have mental illness feel like their feelings are weird and I can tell you that I have thoughts run through my brain all the time that even I think to myself, seriously, that's what you're thinking about right now? And I deal with it myself, so I should expect those things. I really think that it's about bringing awareness to those types of thoughts and feelings and making sure that people understand that they're not alone and that there is help and that it is a thing. We can't hide this anymore. If I had a broken leg and I tried hiding it from people, people would be like, what are you doing? Why are you trying to hide a broken leg? I don't understand. It's important for people to understand it's a medical diagnosis. People need help for this and the more that we try to push it under the rug, the less likely that people are going to get the help they need. I'm certainly not trying to sensationalize mental health issues, but I do think that especially in education, it has been pushed under the rug for so long and we are going to have an entire generation of both kids and teachers who have these issues who just don't know what to do with them because we've spent so long not talking about them.
CM: I agree wholeheartedly. I would assume personally that the majority of young adults suffer from some form of mental crisis, in some way, shape or form, because there's just so many different things to be concerned with. You would just imagine that at some point someone has suffered some form of trauma and if they haven't, I would imagine that that amount of structure that they would always be okay would lead to some other emotional problems of some sort because too much of a good thing can sometimes be a bad thing as well.
MF: I do really, really. One of the things that I emphasize is that especially when it comes to trauma and adversity and things like that, that is completely perception. Their perception, again, is their reality and it is not our job to judge whether something should or should not be traumatic. It is simply our job to shift their perception, to try to help them with that, to try to shift their perception to see that maybe they need help or maybe they need strategies or maybe it wasn't, maybe give them facts so that it wasn't really what they thought, but it's not our job to tell them they're right or they're wrong.
CM: That to me should be the number one qualifier for a teacher, should be that they love their students and that's a strong word choice, but I do think that does really matter. There's a major difference between a teacher that went into the profession because they think that their content is so important that everyone has to know it versus someone who goes in because they really want to help kids. That's a giant difference and there's a place for people that are very much content-focused and I would argue that would be either professors or maybe even a curriculum designer, but not someone who is just instilling upon the minds of others that banking model of education where you think your sole goal is to invest in students for this greater outcome instead of seeing them as a whole person, that I guess what would be growth mindset, way of looking at it in general. What then do you feel is the overall next step, the next goal for teachers in the classroom for this mindfulness thing? What resources would they use? What technique could they incorporate tomorrow? What could they take away from this book or this podcast even that could make them better at what they're already doing?
MF: I really, really want educators to begin to figure out how to regulate their own emotions and how to be self-regulators and watch for changes in how they feel so that they can catch things early because I do feel like I am 100% that everything we do is for students, but in order to get there, we have to take care of ourselves and we have ignored that for a really, really long time. Being aware of things like how personal and professional adversity, just adversity, not necessarily trauma can affect the way you're thinking about your job or being aware, reading about burnout. I had this absolutely amazing interview with this brand new teacher. She was incredible and we were so excited to get her into our district, but the one thing that she said in her interview is she said, I know about burnout and I love my job so much that I don't believe I will ever have it. That's pretty naive. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I thought, well, that would be something her mama would probably be super proud of. It was a red flag for me because I was so there. I loved teaching and I never, ever thought there was any way that burnout would happen to me. Just making sure that they understand that burnout is a true thing. It's an actual thing. It's not just like being in a meeting too long and recognizing the effects from that. Also, the secondary traumatic stress is really important, knowing that just working with kids who have been through traumatic experiences can bring on symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder is just that idea where knowledge is power and making sure that you're listening to your body and that you know what the effects of some of these are.
CM: One thing that makes me think of as well, obviously, start with self-regulation as you're saying, but I think too about how teachers regulate their emotions towards students. Not seeing students' actions as malicious automatically. For example, a student is late to class, that does not mean that they are out to get you or that you should be mad at them. I mean, there's a time and place for discipline, but there's also a time and place for empathy as well and restorative justice and understanding the reason why it's a problem versus dishing out a punishment instantaneously or those sarcastic remarks like, oh, thanks for joining us today, Chris, that kind of thing. It just gets underneath kids' skins. First off, it will make them embarrassed and sad and probably not like you very much. It'll probably make the problem worse. Two, for a kid that is having a bad day or is going through some kind of problem, those kind of statements and those kind of overarching assumptions about what a kid is trying to do are going to hurt them a lot more than you might think from that very minor action. I'm not saying that every single classroom has to be kumbaya and teachers can't ever punish a kid in some way for doing something wrong, but there has to be a level of empathy in everything that you're doing and assume the best in many ways.
MF: Absolutely. Well, and what would a teacher say? I really think that those types of things like blaming kids for stuff like that, like they're doing it to them on purpose, I really do think that those are some of the first signs of becoming disengaged from the profession because our focus is supposed to be students. If you start blaming them for things like they're doing it on purpose, you have forgotten how you got to where you are in the first place. But the other thing is, how would you feel if you walked into a faculty meeting and you were five minutes late, maybe because you were working with a parent or maybe because you were going to the bathroom and you weren't feeling well or something and you walked in there and the administrator looked at you and said, well, thanks for joining us today. It's so nice of you to bestow your presence on us. What would you ever say if somebody truly said you would be dumbfounded and mortified and angry? Why would we expect kids to feel any different if we treat them that way?
CM: Yeah. Arguably, they would come out worse because they're not as used to it. I know how I would react. I get pissed. Me too. I mean, I wouldn't get mad at a student if they did the same. I kind of relate. That's a great point. Again, I would encourage anyone to check out this book. I think it's very well written. I think that the points are very well made. Again, it's not a happy read. I don't think you're going to read this and go like, man, I feel relaxed after reading this book. That's not that. I mean, I had to take a few breaks with this one. Again, it's a tough pill to swallow, but it's one that's needed. You have to acknowledge these things existing or else they're not going to go away on its own, just like any other major problem in the world. You can't just bury your head in the sand. It's a real problem. This book does a really good job at recognizing, one, that these problems are out there, but two, most likely, a lot of people relate to at least one of the stories that are inside.
CM: Yeah. Thanks for that. I really hope so. That was what I was going for in collecting some of the stories that I did. I know that there's more trauma out there besides being abused, having abusive parents or anything like that, and the contributors, I can't say it enough how incredible they are at allowing you into a very, very personal part of their lives. People have said over and over again, I feel like I've never met this person, and I know them so well just from their story, but that's what we were hoping for. We were hoping for they were going to show their bravery to give others courage.
CM: Hope you enjoyed this podcast. We want to connect with you and hear your thoughts. Follow us on Twitter, YouTube, Medium, and other social media, and be sure to check us out on our website at humanrestorationproject.org. If you want to support us in our endeavor of starting a movement towards progressive ed through high quality resources, consider supporting us on Patreon. Thanks again.