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Educator Friend: What Do You Want to Be Acknowledged For?

educator well-being end of school feelings self-care teaching Jun 25, 2020

by Katie Raher, PhD

At this point, we’ve officially hit summer, so I’m pretty sure that most everyone is officially done with the end of school finally. On the flip side, we’re still not officially done with shelter in place or the uncertainty of all that is COVID-19, and we’re clearly still battling oppressive structures in our society, with racism being at the forefront.

In one way or another, we’ve all had a pretty rough go the past few months, and some have had a particularly rough go. I also know that every single one of you has been doing the very best that you can, given your circumstances.

And that deserves some acknowledgment.

Each of you deserves to be acknowledged for your resilience, your strength, your endurance, your dedication to children, and more….which brings me to my tools for you this week.

These tools were inspired by my dear friend and colleague, Isabelle Bridges Boesch, who is a Mother’s Empowerment Coach, and who I’ve had the pleasure of learning from. In her circle I’m a part of (where mothers, and any woman who struggles to prioritize herself as educators often do, practice putting the Me back in Mom-me), we recently did what’s called an Acknowledgment Train.

In this train, someone asked me, “What do you want to be acknowledged for?” to which I responded. The person asking me the question witnessed me and then reflected back what I said, making me feel quite heard and validated. Then we moved through our virtual circle and spread the acknowledgment all around, so that every single person in the group felt seen, heard, and validated – something every single human wants and deserves. This brings each of us so much well-being and fuels us to further build our resilience and keep on giving our gifts to the world.

Here’s the thing though. Whereas most of us normally enjoy receiving compliments for our efforts – especially if Words of Affirmation are one of your main Love Languages as they are for me, we generally just wait to see if someone gives us positive feedback. Even when others do think we’re doing a great job, that doesn’t mean they will give us those words of affirmation, especially if that’s not within their natural comfort zone. And with this past school year, there weren’t the normal end-of-year parties and celebrations that allowed for a bigger focus on acknowledgments.

So, my big questions are…  

Why wait for others to maybe tell us that they see us and that they notice our efforts?

Why can’t we self-generate more words of affirmation and give more self-love?

And of course the core question here is…

What do YOU want to be acknowledged for?

Perhaps it has to do with all the technology you learned to support your students, maybe it’s because you managed to get dressed a couple times a week (COVID goals), maybe it’s because you keep asking your body what it needs, maybe it’s because you are doing the heavy work of breaking down your implicit biases…. However big or small, you deserve to be acknowledged.

Now I’ve got two ideas to make sure you actually get acknowledged….

  1. Talk with a loved person you live with or call up an educator bestie, and tell them you want to do a mini-acknowledgment train. If they don’t want to be acknowledged, all good. You can still ask for what you need, and because they love you, they should be willingly on board. Tell them to ask you, “What do you want to be acknowledged for?” and explain that it will be extra powerful if they then recap it for you, so you feel seen, heard, and validated. Then, once they ask this important question, respond with all that rings true for you. Allow them to reflect back all they heard, and take in that acknowledgement with all your heart. Breathe it in to the top of your head and down to the tips of your toes. If your loved one wants to be acknowledged too, you can now return the favor. Savor the opportunity to do this for someone else as well.
  2. You can also create this acknowledgement train right inside your own mind. Sit up straight, put your hands over your heart, and close your eyes if it feels comfortable. Ask yourself, “What do you want to be acknowledged for?” Sit and listen to the messages within. Then reflect back, in the same way an educator bestie or loved partner would do for you, “I see you for… I acknowledge you for…” Soak up all that self-acknowledgement and self-love. You deserve it.

What other ways work for you to get filled up for the acknowledgment you deserve?

How might we use these tools to support children's confidence, well-being, and self-love as well?

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