This journey started in the fall of 2018. Susan Evans had attended a national conference and heard Elena Aguilar speak on educator resilience. Aguilar had written a book called Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators. Each chapter of the book introduces habits and dispositions that support teacher well-being and self-care needs for each month of the year. Susan wanted to teach a class using Aguilar’s book and the accompanying workbook and invited me to join her as a facilitator. We decided to offer a class that met once a month for an entire year. Each month would focus on a different chapter in the book. Susan and I both thought that this professional learning topic was important enough to offer it for college credit and Hastings College agreed. Therefore, teachers taking the class were also able to get 3 Graduate-level credit hours if they participated the entire year. In June of 2019, we met with our first group of participants. Little did we know how important this work was going to be by the end of the course.
That first summer, we met once a month during the day and at night during the school year. Each month we covered a new chapter, starting in June with Know Yourself & Purposefulness and finishing the year with Celebrate and Appreciate & Trust. Teachers were able to either attend in person at ESU 10 or they could connect via Zoom. That all changed, of course, in the spring of 2020 when we went to Zoom only. This course went from something that was important for educators to learn about, to essential skills for coping with the pandemic. During this time we expanded from once a month classes to weekly check-ins for class participants and also provided 5 self-care webinars for other area teachers. In May of 2020, we had 18 educators complete the course and received positive feedback about the timeliness of the topics.
The year-one participants encouraged us to continue to offer the class, so Susan and I decided to start a second year in September for 2020. Twenty-three educators actively participated this second time around. Since we wanted everyone to be safe and healthy, we chose to have all the night classes via Zoom. The teachers that attended the once a month Zoom meetings were actively engaged and willing to be open about the challenges they were facing as educators. By the time summer came, Susan and I decided to change from a once a month class to a 2-day workshop since Susan Evans decided to retire. During the final two days it was enjoyable to watch the relationships that had been built via Zoom expand in-person.
With over 40 educators taking part in the workshop, and Susan’s retirement, I decided to take a year off from facilitating this course. I wasn’t ready to jump into it alone and didn’t know if teachers wanted a full year workshop again. I decided instead to shift it towards incorporating some of the self-care activities and topics into inservices provided on site at schools.
After taking a year off, I decided to try to offer the Cultivating Resilience workshop one more time to see if there was still interest. I reorganized it into 3 separate sections, each worth 1 Graduate-level credit hour through Hastings College. Since the 2-day workshop the previous summer had gone so well, I decided to offer the first section with a similar format. Fourteen educators attended the first section in July of 2022. We covered the first 3 chapters in the book with the hope that teachers would have a few more strategies to promote and maintain their resilience as they started the new school year. In the fall and spring, 8 educators have attended the night classes that have covered the rest of the book. These night classes have been effective ways to continue to build the educator well-being that is needed to be an effective and content teacher.
This four-year journey has been enlightening as a Teaching and Learning Coordinator. I have learned that it’s just as important to practice self-care as it is to teach educators about it. I’ve learned that this is a constant path, we are never fully done improving ourselves. I’ve learned that teachers do amazing things on an almost empty tank and it is exceedingly important to take care of their minds and bodies. When they practice self-care not only can they show up as the best versions of themselves, they also can better communicate to leadership about how districts can adjust to meet the social and emotional needs of students and staff.