Jamie Mayes, AOE

To Teachers who Face Classroom Trauma: It’s Okay to Get a Therapist

In Uncategorized on November 20, 2019 at 8:00 am

DSC_0497It’s an uncomfortable situation to experience and an even more uncomfortable story to tell- the struggles of recovering from trauma experienced as a teacher. Whether the trauma is a result of student infliction or another workplace injury, not being able to perform as the independent, super-teacher you once were can be a challenge for educators. We are trained to cope with any challenge, to put our physical and mental health last and to be the last standing hero when everything else around us and our school is falling. Teachers are supposed to manage the class, grade papers, volunteer after school, give up planning periods, be innovative while strictly following the curriculum, wow administrators during an evaluation, and interrupt summer breaks for schoolwork, training, and summer reading assignments. The stress of such expectations is vastly underestimated and often ignored. Approximately 61% of educators admit that being an educator is a stressful job that often burdens them (Rubin, 2018). When trauma occurs, teachers are expected to recover as quickly as possible in order to tend to the matters of the school with little consideration given to what is in their best interest. As a matter of fact, if one can limp into the classroom, it is expected for teachers to perform with the same energy and enthusiasm as before.

The penalty of less than perfection after trauma can range from overzealous monitoring of teaching practices to a decrease in disciplinary support. In turn, the effects of trauma bear down heavily upon teachers, making it difficult for them to find balance in their classroom, feel a sense of comfort in their work zone, and even make important decisions about the pathway of their career. They either become too afraid to speak up about their struggles or become so rigid that they lose their skill and passion as an educator. For those who choose to remain in the profession, they may begin frequently missing work or being irritable and aggravated by the smallest issues (Rubin, 2018). Their frustrations can funnel into the classroom, making the learning environment tense. Educators are expected to wear a cape that is constantly free of wrinkles, without flaw and that is ready for action anytime. Yet, the truth is that trauma in school is just as damaging to teachers as it can be to students. The loss of a student, the stress to perform at all costs or experiencing a violent attack can affect an educator’s ability to be and feel their best in the classroom.

The stigma that a teacher who needs support is a weak teacher must change if the educational system truly hopes to retain teachers and see students excel. The American Federation of Teachers and the Badass Teachers Association completed a compelling study where educators admit that they frequently feel stressed on the job, they fear retaliation of the school if they speak up (2017). Educators can only help students reach their highest level of success when they are their best. The key to a well-balanced classroom is a well-balanced teacher who can provide proper instruction and give students emotional support. Connecting with a therapist does not make an educator weak; it makes them open to improvement, committed to their best mental health and the best teacher a child could have.

Dear teachers, we are super-beings, but we are not superheroes with supernatural powers. We feel things. We experience things. But we can overcome things. Sometimes overcoming can not be done alone. Just as we need paraprofessionals and co-teachers in the classroom, sometimes we need a partner to work with us through the challenges of school-related trauma and stress. There is a therapist or counselor who is waiting to hear your trauma, stress and worry with no judgment. There’s a future waiting for your greatness. You are not weak for making the call; you are strong for taking charge of your career and life. Teachers, despite the stigma, it’s okay to get a therapist.

The American Federation of Teachers & Badass Teachers Association (2017). Retrieved November 20, 2019, from https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/2017_eqwl_survey_web.pdf.
Rubin, B. (2018, September 4). The Epidemic of Teacher Stress. Retrieved from https://www.thegraidenetwork.com/blog-all/2018/8/1/crayons-and-cortisol-the-epidemic-of-teacher-stress.

Some People Belong in the “Business Only” Section of Your Life

In Culture, justice, life, media, reality, religion, Uncategorized on December 6, 2018 at 5:55 pm

Introduction

In a couple of weeks, the original FLOTUS’s autobiographical masterpiece will be my strictlybusinessChristmas gift to myself. I have been spending evenings watching discussion clips and listening to her share a level of transparency that has not shaken my soul like this since I last heard Nikki Giovanni in person. A few weeks ago, she made a statement that has forever stained my memory. Upon recalling the vicious rumors Donald Trump spread about her husband’s citizenship, she expressed her anger with how much danger he put her family in. Her final words were “What if that person went looking for our girls? Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family’s safety at risk. And for this I’d never forgive him.” At first, I was bothered by her statement; as graceful and classy as she and President Obama are, I was unnerved to hear she would never let go of that experience. However, I thought of the anxiety she must have felt as she wondered if her daughters would make it to school safely, whether someone would target her mother, or  whether her husband would become a martyr like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. How many nights did she stay awake trying to calculate the best moves to protect her family and herself? Then, I felt her. I connected to her and I understood the worries of a mother, daughter and wife. I would struggle with my anger too if the lies of another put my family’s life at risk.

Though I still feel that learning to forgive is a necessity for any situation, I drew a new conclusion about how I must handle people who have tried to “handle” me. For years, I have struggled to speak up for myself, often being a doormat for people, putting my feelings last and the needs and wants others first. So often, my mother had to urge me to speak up for myself and defend my honor, and I still found myself cowering in the corner. Life and age have changed me, though. After years of disappointment, internalized pain and lashing out on those who only wanted me to do more for myself, I had to change how I dealt with people. I had allowed everyone to be treated as friends or family, even when everyone didn’t treat me the same way. I had even allowed them into the colleague circle, pushing the ministry of teamwork and oneness, when they only sought to do for themselves. I had to move those people who violated my ethics, morals, personal space and life into a new category. There are some people I must be acquainted with by chance or default, but my dealings will be for business only.

What is the “Business Only” Section?

The “business only” section is reserved for people with whom we must engage but share no personal feelings for. In fact, we would rather not know them if it was our choice. However, by fate, they are present and unavoidable. With this person, you may have to conduct a financial transaction, work together for a company, be a part of a community project, attend church and work on a committee, communicate regarding children or occasionally celebrate a common individual.  Our mission, as stable adults, is to take care of what must be taken care of in a way that is polite, but professional. At times, dealing with “business only” people can be challenging. If you have a natural desire to care about others, you may muddle the line between wanting to develop a friendship and wanting to keep them away. However, at some point a “business only” person will remind you of why your paths my have crossed, but they will never interlock.

For years, I felt guilty about assigning people to the “business only” section of my life. I would try to mend broken relationships at the urging of others, carrying weight upon my back when my heart just could not be convinced to see a person for more than what they had been to me. However, the more I grew in self-love, the more I became protective of my space and my peace. When I became comfortable with being true to my emotions and less critical of myself for being real, everything in my life was healthy, including my heart.

Who Belongs in the “Business Only” Section?

We are in an era where living in a “Kumbaya” society is promoted. Be friends with your ex. The pop culture term “co-parenting” is more like “co-familying.” Bullies and victims come together as best friends.   The line of demarcation and separation have become so blurred. I am sorry, I don’t believe any of these things are necessary. I believe that moving on with your life involves finding personal peace with a situation, not with people. People may never do what you want them to or what they should do, so you must find peace in knowing who you are. I don’t believe we have to push people to hang out as family, when a couple has gone their separate ways. As a child, I never wanted my mother and father to dress up and play fake family together; I just wanted a good mother, and a good father, no matter where they were. It’s okay to not attend the party hosted by a friend of a friend or the “crew” who has not be a true friend to you. People claim that constantly blending together people who do not share the shame ideologies, practices or lifestyle is the best for everyone. However, I have discovered nothing can be further from the truth. We encourage people to dismiss toxicity from their lives but expect them to play nicely with everyone around them.  However, the “business only” section can include anyone with whom we must have constant contact but share no personal feelings or relationship with. In being the leader of the “business only” section of your life, you must establish the protocol and practices and consistently follow through; without such, people will always try to violate you. These days we spend so much time trying to create magical pictures, that we neglect the real parts of real life.  Those the lessons that mean the most and the ones that teach people who to cope. Friendships wont always last. Your exes won’t always apologize. Family will disappoint you. By circumstance you may have to still see them, but it’s ok to put some people in the “business only” section of life. Stop doing it for social media, and do it for yourself.

Conclusion

In searching for a more peaceful life, I had to ask myself things and remove some distractions. For a I had to keep everyone as an active part of my life, even if they were agitators, instigators or manipulators. When I couldn’t find a peace middle-of-the road, I was the only unhappy myself. I searched for ways to change what I didn’t break until the answer was so clear- at times, we just give out too much energy. Self-preservation is essential. Self-love is monumental. For so long, I struggled with seeking approval, making decisions on the merit of others. I tried to make everyone a friend, family member or a good colleague, but I cannot decide who people are. They do. I simply decide how they fit into the lifestyle I live. I stopped trying to create a long-term relationship and bond with everyone, and I welcome them to the “business only” section of my life. Have a seat.

 

Resources

Choi, D. (2018, November 09). Michelle Obama says she will ‘never forgive’ Trump for putting her ‘family’s safety at risk’. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/michelle-obama-never-forgive-trump-for-birther-conspiracy-becoming-book-2018-11

Who dat?…The Slaves

In Culture, justice, life, media, Race, reality, Uncategorized on July 20, 2018 at 12:05 am

A few weeks ago, I read an article I haven’t been able to get out of my mind. I will admit, I am a bit ashamed that I only recently learned of some information that I should have learned long ago. However, Louisiana is excellent for teaching about how Louisiana used to be the biggest part of the union and how significant the Louisiana Purchase was, but they are less apt to talk about the role of slavery and the role the slave trade played in establishing Louisiana. I have had to do quite a bit of self-teaching, but I am not so sure how I missed such an important lesson.

Most Louisianans infamously love our NFL football team. Whether they are having a winning season or a whining seachinnson (mostly the fans crying), most of the people of this state are faithful to the Saints. With adoration they speak of Sean Payton and they don’t believe the day of retirement will ever draw near for Drew Brees. If you say Saints, they automatically scream “Who dat?” If you check their phones, when they type in “Who” the automatic next word will be “dat.” One will have to search deeply to find non-Saints fans, and those individuals are usually subject to hard ridicule and questions of Louisiana loyalty by their family and friends. Though I am not a football expert, I am a lover of Louisiana culture. So before the Colin Kaepernick revolution, I had a natural desire to see our state’s team do well, and I would turn the game on in at least one room, even though I probably wouldn’t watch it.

The Saints are identifiable by the ever-so-present fleur-de-lis. However, this symbol has moved from the backs of football jerseys to the fronts of t-shirts and lines of decorative house ware. It is especially popular in Louisiana homes, serving a bourgeois symbol of class and style. For some reason, I could never take a full liking to this symbol. It reminded me of an open-banana, and it just did not appeal to me. It seemed to be nothing personal, but now I wonder if my subconscious was reacting to a deeper issue with the fleur-de-lis.

An old article from USA Today surfaced in my feed on Facebook, and I was immediately drawn in by the title. However, as I read each line of the article, feelings of surprise and shame crept over me. I had no idea that the fleur-de-lis had such a bloody past. What has been classified as a beloved symbol of pride, was also a symbol of ownership and punishment for my oppressed people. Not only was this practice set in place in Louisiana, it was a borrowed idea from practices in other French colonies (USA Today, 2015).  When slaves tried to escape for freedom, they were brought before court for a trial. The cruel punishment usually included branding the slave with a fleur-de-lis and “cropping” or clipping their ears to make their atrocities known to the world. They would also face other brutal physical punishments like having their hamstrings cut if they tried to run away gain (USA Today, 2015).

I am not sure if the association between a sport that boasts an 80% black male player population and the meaning behind the fleur-de-lis is accidentally ironic or purposely ironic, but I find it hard to even imagine black football players in Saint’s uniforms now. As I watch them run around the field scrambling for a ball, while fat rats sit in the top of the stadium waiting for the possibility of hundreds of millions to hit their bank accounts, I am uneasy for the Big Easy. Of course, football players are certainly not slaves; their work is voluntary, and they are compensated significantly for a profession they love. Still, the visual analogy is startling. I even question the meaning behind the name of the New Orleans team, because the true Saints who were forced to wear those symbols are mortars of this country who are rarely given honor for their blood, sweat, sacrifice, and unfair treatment. Last year, Mayor Mitch Landrieu made a significant move when he pulled down Confederate statues in New Orleans, but now I wonder when or if we will remove the brand from the backs of the Saint’s players.

This taboo subject is one Louisiana tries to keep hidden from the public eye. When searching for YouTube (the land of a videos about everything) and the internet, there was a limited number of resources available on this topic. Yet, the truth still exists. So, Louisianans, as you crack open the brewskies, buy a few footlongs and open a bag of potato chips this year, remember that the Saints are marked by a sign that punished a group of people for wanting freedom from the harsh conditions of slavery. When you get the urge to yell from the barrels of your chest, “Who dat?!,” remember the slaves were the one who knew freedom would never belong to them. The symbol that many so honorably boast and brag about, is one that was used for public humiliation, shame and painful punishment for many years. People continue to say we should let the past be the past, but until this country stops hiding the past and making excuses for its presence in the present, we must speak on the truth behind so much of American culture.

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