One morning, last May, my colleague David came to my office door with a proposition: “I listened to this podcast you recommended and the host interviewed a woman named Elena Aguilar about her book on teacher resilience. Do you want to read it together?”
David was referencing Cult of Pedagogy Episode 95 in which Jennifer Gonalez interviewed Elena Aguilar about her new book Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators and her workbook that compliments it. David was in his 3rd year of teaching at the time and had just learned that he would be moving from teaching Grade 4 to Kindergarten! I was in my 3rd year as a K-8 literacy coach and my role was expanding to include high school. Onward found us just when we needed it!
David and I agreed to meet monthly on Saturday mornings at our local Starbucks to share and reflect on each chapter. We sat in the same corner by the back door. Oftentimes fellow colleagues would wander in and look in surprise as they saw us together, books sprawled out on the table between us. We were greeted with “Don’t tell me you two are studying on Saturday!” When we explained that we were reading about teacher resilience, they shared what keeps them going in their career.
On those mornings, we discussed a chapter from the book (each chapter explores one disposition that cultivates resilience per month) and then shared the workbook pages that resonated the most. A few include:
- Sharing our core values, our skills and passions in work and outside of work.
- Comparing our Myer’s Briggs results and sharing how we see each other.
- Reflecting on meditation and breathing techniques that work for us.
- Telling our life stories and reflecting on what we learned and how they shaped who we are.
- Reflecting on our school culture and brainstorming ways to build community there.
- Sharing goals for self care. For me, knowing I was going to meet with David helped hold me accountable to get more sleep, exercise more and eat less sugar.
- Discussing ways to avoid taking things personally and find common ground when responding to disagreement with others.
- Reflecting on how we use our time during the day and set goals for devoting more time to the things we value.
- Supporting one another with change and using the Spheres of Influence to discuss what we can control and influence.
- Celebrating events, accomplishments and the bright spots in our work and lives.
Connecting In Between
David and I frequently checked in during the time in between our monthly meetings. Our lunchtime conversations would slip into an exercise we had completed in the Onward Workbook or a discovery we’d made. We texted podcasts back and forth that relate to resilience and mindfulness. A few include:
- Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor the brain surgeon who had to relearn how to live after her stroke. She told her story to Oprah in her podcast: Supersoul Sunday
- Wes Moore’s talk on the difference between your job and your work, also a Supersoul Conversation.
- Amy Cuddy’s Ted talk “ Your Body Language Shapes Who you Are” and her phrase: “fake it ‘til you become it” has reshaped the way I view my life and face challenges.
One of the greatest gifts of this year has been the birth of my friendship with David. I had always considered David a professional kindred spirit. We both love the workshop model and strive to be responsive teachers. We worked closely as teacher and coach. But delving into our past, our beliefs, and our stories requires and creates trust.
We found commonality in our passions. Watching a tennis match for him is like watching a ballet performance for me. I gained an appreciation for the sound of the ball hitting the racket as I related it to the music of a pointe shoe gracing the stage. We have begun socializing outside of work; getting together with our spouses and introducing one another to circles of friends outside of work.
And so we move onward, vowing to continue getting together on a regular basis, sharing articles and podcasts and inviting more teachers to join us in this work. After a year with Onward, it is clear that the power of this work is not only to build resilience but also to bring people together.