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Reading time: 7th protocol
In Hello World issue 17, Cat Lamin, certified Raspberry Pi teacher, talks about how building connections and sharing the load can help us become better educators even in times of great stress:
“I felt I had to play my role”
In March 2020 the world changed suddenly. For educators, we jumped from classroom teaching into a completely new landscape without having any idea of what the future would look like. When generous teachers provided free resources, I felt I had to do my part. Suddenly an idea occurred to me. In September 2017, I decided to be brave and submit a talk to PyConUK to talk about my mental health. After that, several people in the audience shared their own stories with me or let me know that it helped them just to hear that someone else was struggling with it too. I realized that in times of pressure we need an opportunity to speak, and we had lost those opportunities. At school, we would go to the staff room or a friend’s classroom for a quick break, but that was no longer an option. People felt isolated, scared, stressed and had no one to turn to.
I realized that in times of pressure we need an opportunity to speak, and we had lost those opportunities.
The first Global Google Educator Group Staffroom: Mental Health Matters was opened on March 14, 2020. The goal of Staffroom was to give teachers a safe space to talk about how they were feeling under the overwhelming weight of school closings. To say it was a success would be an understatement as teachers from Australia, Malaysia, the US, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Europe and more are joining the calls!
“For me, the Staffroom is a place and a time to get in touch with other teachers from all over the world. I remember seeing the calendar invitations by email and always thinking I should join but was scared to do it. The first time I did it, I listened first and I realized that my struggles during the Pandemic online class were the same as anywhere else. ” – Pily Hernandez, Monterrey, Mexico
Which Wilhelm are you today?
In those early days we only gave teachers the opportunity to talk. The format of our meetings was simple: What’s your name, where are you from and then an icebreaker question like “What color do you feel?”. or ‘Which song represents your current mood?’ It wasn’t long before we hit upon a formula for success by creating our own “What picture are you today?” Picture scale (see the picture ‘Which William’ below!). The use of the picture scales allowed people to really express their feelings. Often someone who had been chatting happily would explain that they actually had difficulty staying afloat because a stupid picture allowed them to be honest.
Which is William she today?
One of the key messages from Staffroom was that many people dealing with technology in schools felt alone. After years of suggesting teachers use technology, they were suddenly blamed for not properly preparing schools. They struggled not necessarily knowing what to suggest to teachers with technology difficulties as they grappled with their own personal lockdown situations. Hearing other people around the world experiencing something similar opened their eyes and took a lot of weight off their shoulders.
“As someone who benefited from having personal connections and networking opportunities, I was hit hard by the ban. Staffroom has really helped maintain these connections and has become such a lovely safe place to talk to and connect with others. ”- Abid Patel, London, UK
We varied the tone of the sessions according to the needs of the participants. For the first few months, we shared our lockdown situations and our different experiences around the world. We were able to share advice and tips, as well as best practices for delivering content and things that had gone terribly wrong since switching to distance learning. Or we discussed food in different countries around the world (did you know that in Australia fish and chips are made from shark?) A staff room). Other days we discussed how difficult it was for us to teach, isolate, or live in general during a pandemic.
An honest environment
One of the things people kept mentioning was that Staffroom was a safe place where they felt like they could share, listen, and be understood. We made it clear that nobody has to speak unless they want to. It was important to me to always be completely honest about my own mental health. As a person who had suffered from depression and anxiety in the past, it came as no surprise to me when I was diagnosed with both in late 2020 and I was fortunate enough to get virtual therapy. I shared my story with the group, which allowed participants to be more open and talk about their own struggles, which in some cases led to their own diagnosis and much-needed support.
“The staffing was the best step outside of my comfort zone that I have ever made. I have met educators from all over the world and learned that in this world of education there is more that unites us than divides us. ”- Frederick Ballew, Minnesota, USA
People would join Staffroom to share new jobs, engagements, or even relocations, but likewise would join after losing a loved one or hearing from a schoolgirl who was sick in the hospital. Staffroom has become a safe haven for teachers, coaches, IT leaders, and just about anyone involved with technology in education. It’s a place where we can bond through shared experiences, share a joke, ask questions, get ideas, and even plan our future.
Don’t underestimate the power of connecting and sharing your story.
Besides Staffroom, I’ve also created a website that allows teachers to share their mental health stories and feel a little less alone (mentalhealthineducation.com). I continue to run staffrooms on a regular basis, albeit less often. Eighteen months ago we needed the opportunity to talk three times a week, but now we meet two or three times a month instead. Current staffroom dates can be found at www.globalgeg.org/events. However, if there is one thing that you take away from this article, it is this: Don’t underestimate the power of connecting and sharing your story.
Lamin is a cat Raspberry Pi Certified Educator, CAS Master Teacher and Google Certified Innovator, who works as a freelance trainer and coach, supports schools with digital strategy and enables teachers to use technology more effectively. She received the Mental Health Champion Award from Edufuturist for running this regular mental health teacher’s room.
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