Every time of the year brings its challenges. This month is no exception. We can feel nostalgia with the change of seasons. Shorter hours of daylight can signal our bodies that we need more sleep. Our energy and enthusiasm may ebb.
Meanwhile, we continue to struggle to address our students’ learning needs. We may be dealing with behavior issues that accompanied students back to in-person school. We may also be facing more adult conflicts and troubling interactions than we recall from the past.
Yet, there are actions we can take to counter these feelings and lift the spirits of our colleagues and staff. During times like these, we need to hear that what we do matters, that others understand what we are experiencing, and they want to support us.
We need to get beyond glib sayings and meaningless phrases if we hope to have our words be heard and accepted and have an impact. Our messages will matter most if they include three crucial dimensions:
- Attention: People want to know that we notice what they face, what they are doing, and how what they are contributing matters, especially to us.
- Understanding: They want to know that we grasp how difficult, frustrating, and exhausting some tasks, responsibilities, and situations are, even if there are limits to what we can do immediately to lift the burden or resolve the situation.
- Support: When we genuinely offer our support – whether tangible, emotional, or symbolic – we can lighten the load, make the work more worthwhile, and leave people feeling appreciated.
So, what might be some messages we can share that will make a difference? Here are five examples to consider and build on as your own:
- I know that you are working hard right now. Is there something I can do to help?
- I noticed how you worked through a difficult and challenging situation. I appreciate and admire the flexibility and creativity you demonstrated.
- I have an idea about how to address a challenge we face, but I would appreciate your insights and advice before a decision is made.
- I have noticed how your team seems to be pulling together despite the situation you face. Thank you for collaborating and continuing to search for the best answers.
- I appreciate the insight and commitment you demonstrate in response to the student behavior incidents we have faced recently. Thank you for the sensitivity and wisdom you have shown.
There is no question that many of the challenges we face are enormous, longstanding, and systemic. However, we all do better when we notice, understand, and support each other. In fact, we may be surprised by the impact we can have when we commit to face our challenges together, work together, and search for solutions that will make a better future.