A Soft Space to Land
In thinking about bullying, I wondered what exactly I could share. I contemplated this a while because working as a teacher for an independent study program–where students only come on-site two to three times per week–this issue exists, but is more covert. I knew it was there, hiding like a ghost in the ether of social-media or, worse yet, in the homes of students without someone they could trust with their developing emotions.
Bullying is a Convoluted Topic
What drives someone to aggression could be a form of displaced anger, need for love, or need to be heard. It is inexcusable, but there is a root there; a root of which we must get to before students head into adulthood and become bullying employees or bullying parents. This is a truth. Anger and resentment persists and, not only does it persist, but can grow like an unmanageable weed in the body. We have to let students blossom with guidance and support.
Here’s where I segue into our role as teachers. Because we are healers, too. This is a PSA to those just entering the profession. A profession, I think, that does not get the credit it deserves. After all, education is the incubator of society. As the shape and mold who they become just as much as their families do. With being a teacher, comes a burden to carry. Let me explain. Akin to Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried,” we too carry the weight of the world on our backs. This weight, much like a soldier in battle, is the weight we carry for our students and for society. It is an incredible job, an emotional job, the carrying and the caring profession. If you are here for the right reasons, you want to save them. You want to put on your cape in the morning or wave a magic wand and make all their problems go away. As we learn and experience their lives and their stories, we know it is not that simple.
The Simplest Thing You Can Do Is This: LISTEN
Listen and do not react. I remember one particular incident where a student was constantly pushing back and there was a lot of “attitude” there. She was a 7th grader with emotional needs and difficulty focusing due to ADHD diagnosis. The resource specialist I work with had a conversation with me about this “difficult” student. She said, “It can be hard to receive any negativity from students and if we distance ourselves from them this creates a barrier.” She said one thing that helped her was a conversation she had with a school administrator who said,
“We don’t know what their home lives are. We don’t know if they can speak their mind at home, if they have a voice, if there is abuse. It can be rough to experience any rude comments or pushback, but switch the way you think about it.”
“Think about it as You are the soft space for them to land.”
Instantly, this changed the way I viewed the situation. I viewed it as her needing an outlet, needing the freedom to project. So, I let her. I allowed her the space. And, guess what, eventually–over time–there was a shift in our relationship, too. Respect is earned and, sometimes, it is after they realize you are safe.
-Erica Nowak, 7-11th Grade Teacher Independent Study
A Big thanks to Miss Nowak for sharing her strategies to create a soft place for our students to land. It is all about earning respect, listening, and being present. Miss Nowak is not only an incredible teacher, but also a superhero! She is saving one child at a time, by showing up with open arms.
Miss Nowak, we are grateful to have teachers like you who care and create a safe place for them to learn and explore. You make this world a better place!
Sending you love and positivity,
The Bulldog Team