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No Time For Compassion Fatigue

Hello Educators. I hope you are managing well and have made it through another week with a sense of grounding and ongoing resolve as we continue to navigate our current context.

Last week I received a text from a fellow parent about scheduling a get together between our children. They were trying to plan an outing and it appears that I was holding up the plans since I hadn’t yet made a decision. Although the text was as friendly as it always was, I found myself a bit annoyed because it was a bit too much as it always was. Too much had transpired and was still transpiring between our last correspondence and this one for it to be as familiar and regular as it was. I was left wondering if our willingness and desire to return to normal would be one of the barriers to arriving at a true movement that brings about transformation…in our own lives and in how we touch students.

I began to wonder how soon this familiarity might begin to set in for most not directly touched by the ongoing events occurring. When might compassion fatigue set in causing the number of those engaged in the work of social justice to begin to dwindle? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines compassion fatigue as…

apathy or indifference toward the suffering of others as the result of overexposure to tragic news stories and images and the subsequent appeals for assistance.

The incidents that are occurring seem to be hitting a fever pitch with a recent story of a college student being pulled out of a car and tasered while getting caught up with the traffic of protesters in Atlanta. If we are listening to the news, we are being bombarded with an onslaught of negativity and it can begin to feel almost impossible for the tide to shift. For those of us who are living out this reality directly, apathy and indifference are not an option but for those who remain fairly untouched by the events and whose lives are carrying on as normally as the pandemic will allow, it can become easy to revert to what feels normal.

I believe that protests and other visible demonstrations of support are critical to elevating awareness in a way that individual actions may not. It, however, cannot simply be a checklist item. It must be both…and. Both that, and the push to learn new practices to bring into our classrooms that elevate a sense of identity, agency, and belonging for all students. Both that and our willingness to shift power to students and allow them to provide feedback that shapes the type of learning they experience. Both that, and our ongoing uncomfortable self-work to recognize how privilege, imbalance of power, and inequities have deepened the divide between students who succeed and those who do not. Both that and our willingness to speak up when we recognize that policies within our schools and districts are further harming and marginalizing students who are historically furthest from opportunity.

As school is either closed for the year or finishing out the final weeks, depending on where your school district is, I challenge us all to take a bit of time while the students are away to determine how we will ensure that when they return, they find us and their learning environment changed for the better. What can we do to ensure that over the next two months we do not fall into a cycle of planning for academic rigor in the fall with a lens of apathy towards the context we are in? What are some of the ways we can reimagine learning spaces which say to students…” we see you, you matter, and your voice will help shape the experiences that you have”? Here are a few ideas to jumpstart the time away from students without falling into the wave of apathy:

  • Stay informed but not inundated with the news. Plenty is happening daily in our country that is directly aligned with our push towards equity for all so stay aware and informed but do your best to recognize if your news intake is hindering your progress towards change personally or collectively.

  • Identify the specific areas that you would like to focus on over the next two months and find resources to support growth. I would suggest a personal and professional goal that can ensure that you are prepared for the upcoming school year.

  • Create space for your healing and wellbeing. Before the elevated focus on race and racism, the pandemic was our focus and it too may have had a dramatic impact on you, your loved ones, and your life overall. Take some time to tend to what requires tending. Unplug as needed. Engage in healing practices that support you.

We cannot give to our students or this cause what we do not have within us so let’s commit to doing the necessary work to be well enough to make a radical and meaningful difference when they return. Over the next few weeks, we’ll begin diving into specific areas within education and identifying ways in which to address them as an awakened educator with a lens of equity. Join me next week as we discuss student discipline, its direct link to ongoing racial disparities, consider foundational shifts that can support minimizing challenges in this area. If we want to change the face of education, we have to look at all facets and discipline is a big one.

Remember, if you would like to stay a part of this conversation; be sure to subscribe by clicking this link and submitting your email address on our page where it says…” never miss a thread.” As a reminder, we would love your ideas and turning this blog into an interactive discussion so feel free to share your ideas on how this might work best for you. Feel free to drop ideas into the comment section. Hoping you have a week filled with bright moments.

In Solidarity and Love,


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