This past year has been difficult for leaders, educators, students, parents, and activists alike, yet, it seems like they aren't really discussing how they are getting through it—or how they are helping kids get through it. I caught up with Precious Allen to find out how she's been practicing self-care and caring for others in the midst of this pandemic.
How have you been taking care of yourself—physically, psychologically, spiritually, etc.?
I have not been taking care of myself physically and I promised myself that I would. I started the year off eating healthy and working out because I was rejuvenated from winter break. However, once the school year started to pick back up, I lost sight of my goals and fell back into the habit of devoting the majority of my time to taking care of my scholars and their families.
I try my best to take care of myself psychologically. Since the pandemic, I’ve had to see a therapist to help me cope and navigate through everything that’s happened; from COVID-19 to trials and riots. It’s been a lot to process along with trying to balance other areas of my personal life. I also try to pray and meditate when I can, but that has also fallen by the wayside.
What are your best strategies to manage the stress of pandemic learning?
I'm at my best when I am with my scholars. I center the majority of our day around social and emotional competencies. My greatest focus, this year, is self-awareness, social awareness and self-management. With everything that is happening in the world, I try my best to help my scholars to be able to process their feelings and name their emotions. We do a lot of learning through activities that feel like games, but there is actual learning taking place. We also do lots of dancing, telling jokes and laughing. It helps to lighten the mood and to make our day a bit brighter.
What have you learned about yourself this year? What adjustments have you made?
I’ve learned more about the power of showing empathy. Expressing empathy to my scholars, families, and community has been one of the greatest tools that I’ve utilized during the past year’s current events. I’ve been able to build strong, long-lasting relationships with many stakeholders in education, in addition to being able to meet my families where they are. This growth mindset has allowed me to make adjustments that were necessary for providing equitable support within my school community.
How are you managing the stress personally?
Full disclosure, I have probably been to one too many 'Happy Hours.'
What's your plan to make it through the rest of the school year?
Currently, I am thinking of ways that I can continue to make my scholars feel special, seen and heard during our time together. We engage in spirit weeks, talent shows, and arts and crafts. To help reduce “Zoom fatigue." I try my best to provide mental breaks and create a space for expression and creativity. This gives us something fun to look forward to and it has created many fun memories for us all.
How do we even begin to show appreciation for educators this year?
I think that the most effective thing that an administrator, legislator, representative, etc. could do is to listen to the experts who are in the trenches on a daily basis. Teachers are treading uncharted waters and are trying to deliver the best instruction—and experiences—possible. Our universities trained us to drive cars, however; the pandemic forced us to learn how to fly an airplane overnight. Teachers have a wealth of knowledge that can assist in driving education while politicians and others in the sector work to reimagine school. It should be a priority for them to refer to the experts in education—teachers.
What are great administrators doing?
Great administrators are listening to their teachers and are expressing empathy to its fullest potential. Such administrators are also allowing teachers to teach in their own element and style. Teachers are always being told to differentiate instruction for their scholars, but how often are administrators differentiating coaching for their teachers? Great administrators are not creating a one-size-fits-all environment for their teachers. They are letting their teachers flourish, develop and grow into their craft as educators.
Lisa Hollenbach is Senior Digital Manager for Education Post. Prior to joining Education Post, Lisa developed digital and content strategy for Teaching Channel. She served on the Bill and Melinda Gates Teacher Advisory Council from 2014-2017 and was active in the planning and execution of several Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching (ECET2) convenings at both the regional and national level. Lisa attended both private and public schools in Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University and holds a bachelor’s in secondary education social studies, a bachelor’s in public policy, a minor in women's studies and a master’s in community psychology and social change. A former educator, Lisa taught for more than 15 years in both traditional public school and public charter school settings. She also served as a leader of her local and regional teachers association from 2001-2016. Lisa has worked with several universities throughout her career and is currently an adjunct professor at the Pennsylvania State University, teaching courses in sociology, psychology, education and their intersections. She is passionate about helping education advocates share their stories and creating an equitable education system that serves all students.
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