Being a Mindful Educator After a Tragic Event

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In the wake of the tragic events that our country has faced recently, I was asked to write something to help support all of us as we maneuver through these experiences. These events have impacted me personally, as my nephew was present at a shooting that took place in his school this past September. I remember the feeling of terror of not knowing if he was ok or not and the immense sadness for the families that were facing horrible realities. This has weighed heavily on my mind and I worry very much about the impact these events are having on our hearts and souls.

The feelings we have are real. Acknowledging not only our pain but the pain of others is so valuable to human connection.

Feeling fear is a natural response when life becomes unpredictable and scary things happen. It’s human to want to shut down, protect and bubble wrap against the fear of the possibility of something else horrible happening.  And … we must remember to not let fear be the thing that drives our bus.  That lack of predictability is terrifying at times and can drive us to do and say things to manage that fear that aren’t helpful.  The thing I want us to remember is what we do have control of, what we can manage and predict. This is critical when life deals us some scary realities. Lacking control is scary and sets us into a tailspin. Remembering to regulate and focus on what we can control is critical. These are things I know we can control and commit to being:

Compassionate: “that non-judgmental awareness of the suffering of others, and ourselves, with the desire to relieve that suffering.” Having compassion for all who are impacted by the “not-ok” joins us as a human race.

Grateful: Remembering to be grateful for the many things we do have and for the relationships that help us heal. Find something every day to be grateful for. Acknowledge it. Own it. Appreciate it.

Kind: Remembering to treat others with kindness and respect. Everyone deserves to feel valued and important.

Give Grace: We don’t always know what is happening in the minds and hearts of others. Remembering to give grace sends a message that we care and recognize that we are managing life’s messiness in the best way we can in that moment.

Team Player: We are a team in this effort to educate our children and empower them to be awesome. NO one should feel alone in these efforts and we cannot do it without each other. We are all resources and we need to rely on each other for support.

See Strength: I believe that there is good in everyone and we must remember to look for that. I have never met anyone who has thrived and overcome adversity who was solely reminded of their deficits. Seeing strength in others gives them permission to see themselves as capable and worthy of awesome.

Have Hope: I believe in the good of others. I truly do, and I believe we all have good within us. Reminding ourselves to have hope and trust is not easy, especially during these challenging times. And…we have the opportunity to instill faith and hope in others. I truly believe that when we can do that, good things will arise. Many of you plant seeds of hope everyday in the minds and hearts of your children. We don’t always get to see the fruits of our labor and we must believe that we are making a difference.

Give yourselves a cookie: take time for yourselves. Do something that refreshes and refuels you.  In order for us to be good for others, we need to be good to ourselves. Remember those things our brains and bodies need to manage stress in effective ways (eating healthy; drinking water; sleeping; human connection; challenge; and breathing).

Give out some cookies: Now more than ever we need to give out some cookies—do something kind for someone else—help to fill up others cookie jars. Don’ be afraid to hug or high 5 someone; give out a compliment; or to engage in an act of kindness.

Let’s unite and remind each other that our world is good, and it is full of good people. We need each other now, more than ever. Be mindful of those suffering around us and intentional in our practices and use of our words.

In the midst of not always being able to control the mess and scary of life, we can wish well for others. Just think, if you knew that someone or many someones out there were wishing you well, wouldn’t that make a difference? To know we are not alone and that others want nothing but amazing for us is so empowering and can help us heal. I love this mindfulness exercise and I use it often in my trainings. I came across it years ago in Richard Fields book, Quotes and Weekly Mindfulness Practices and it was submitted by Dr. Roshi Joan Halifax (Chapter 15, Page 47). Dr. Halifax encouraged us to think of someone who is weighing heavily on our hearts and to offer them these three lovely thoughts. In her words, these are my wishes for you:

“May you be free from this suffering…

                        May you be safe…

                        May you find peace.”


Kristin Souers is a licensed mental health counselor who has devoted her whole career to working with kids and families affected by trauma. Her recent publications, Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom(ASCD, 2016) and “Address Trauma with Calm, Consistent Care: Strategies to Help Educators Avoid Burnout While Keeping Students Learning-Ready” (Principal Magazine, March/April, 2015) have strengthened her influence on education.

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