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Comfort in Connection

by Mary Jo Liew ASEBP | October 1 2020

These are the days of virtual conferences, but did yours ever come complete with a live DJ? I can officially cross that off my bucket list and I want to tell you all about it—the conference, not the DJ, that is.

I recently had the opportunity to attend the RELIT conference with Dr. Jody Carrington and it did not disappoint. Dr. Jody Carrington, author of Kids These Days, ignited a fire for those doing the ‘holy work’ of educating our children. The entire event was inspiring, and I want to share a few takeaways from the speakers that really resonated with me.

Acknowledgement and Comfort
Jeremy Allen, a grief and loss expert, spoke with compassion to prepare staff for returning to school after one of the most challenging years in teacher history. He described grief as “our emotional and behavioural response to loss, not to death”. He spoke on the importance of regularly creating a space to talk about what he called the “happy-crappy’s” of our day, at a time when we are emotionally regulated. While you may have your own terminology for talking about your day, talking about your “happy-crappy's” creates a regular opportunity to connect on the good and the not-so-good of a person’s day. Creating a space to share and connect in this way can help others feel valued and supported. At a recent team meeting, I used this concept to create a space to listen and share with others. While we can’t take away the challenges from someone’s day, we can listen to others and provide compassionate support. Think about how you could incorporate this concept with your colleagues at lunch or after school?

Know your Why
When times are challenging and you need to be brave, Laurie McIntosh, educator and author, and Dr. Jody Carrington suggest remembering your why and “know it in your bones”. In stressful times, we sometimes focus on the negative and forget what drew us to our profession in the first place. Before the start of the new school year, I had a conversation with a friend who was worried about how she would be able to teach given the challenges of the new year. When she thought about her purpose and why she decided to become a teacher, she knew being in the classroom with the kids is where she belonged. Dr. Jody Carrington shared, “Purpose rides shotgun to passion”.

Laughter is the Best Medicine
Joe Dombroski also known as Mr. D, a teacher and a comedian, shared his tips and tricks for making the classroom a place where children want to come every day—a place for fun and laughter. Not only does he try to create an atmosphere of fun, his motto is that every student should feel valued. Watching Mr. D. made me want to be a kid in his classroom. While engaging students to learn in a fun and welcoming environment seems like a win-win, how can you translate this to staff wellness? The benefits of laughter are well known. Laughter can decrease stress, soothe tension, improve your mood, and even increase your immunity. It really is the best medicine. While we might not all be natural comedians, spreading joy could be something as simple as sharing a daily joke. As wellness champions, consider asking yourself if there are ways you can bring joy and humour to create a culture of wellness back to your school.

From the importance of creating a space to share your ‘happy-crappy's’, to remembering our why, to finding laughter in our everyday, social connection is at the heart of it all. You can’t have workplace wellness without social connection. The article Broaden the Focus: Social Connection and Workplace Wellness shares some great tips for making connections in the workplace. For more activities to improve staff wellness check out the Sandbox activity, Creating Social Connections.

“In the end, or the beginning, all we want to know is that we matter,” Dr. Jody Carrington so eloquently states in her book, Kids These Days. Think about someone you haven’t connected with in a while. Send them a message, call them on the phone, or even mail them a note. Chances are you won’t regret it, and they will be happy to hear from you too!

Did You Know?!
October 1st is a special day—not only does it signal the second month of the school year, (yes you've made it this far!), it marks the five-year anniversary of The Sandbox. Five Years! Can you believe it?!?! The Sandbox originated from the need for a collaborative space for wellness champions to share resources, ideas and events on workplace wellness with others across the province. While we couldn’t have done it without our partners, it's you, our wellness champions, that have made The Sandbox the success that it is today. Happy birthday, Sandbox!

Mary Jo Liew

Mary Jo, or MJ as her family and friends call her, is an ASEBP workplace wellness consultant with a passion for all aspects of mental and physical wellness. When MJ isn’t at work, you can find her chasing after her two boys, or out for family walks with her goldendoodle dog. In her quest for balance she can be found teaching at her local barre studio, or working on testing the perfect cookie recipe.