With the holiday season upon us, it’s always fun to reflect on what makes this time of year special. We asked the Children’s Institute staff what were their favorite holiday traditions growing up, and as an adult what do they look forward to. There are a few clear themes, the stuff we always think about at Christmas, yummy treats and presents. It’s also clear that as we get older, but even as children, we appreciate this time of year for the chance we get to see our loved ones and enjoy spending time with each other.
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year” . . . or is it? Whether you work with young people in schools, afterschool programs, or early education centers, for many children, the holidays bring with them stress and anxiety. Often the young people we work with are worrying about money, family situations, gift-giving, being “different” in their beliefs or traditions, and loss. All of these factors can cause children to feel anxiety or sadness at a time when the mainstream media (not to mention their family and friends) is screaming, “Joy! Happiness!! Merriment!!!” As educators, what can we do to help them embrace this season with hope rather than trepidation?
Last week, Children’s Institute hosted their biennial Community Update and Coterie Induction. The Coterie inductees were Deborah Johnson, Dr. Jeff Kaczorowski and the late Gary Lazenby. What is a Coterie? Webster’s Dictionary defines it as an intimate and often exclusive group of persons with a unifying common interest or purpose. Children’s Institute defines it as a group of special friends whose contribution to Children's Institute is ongoing and significant; whether it be intellectual property, financial property, volunteerism, or a combination of the above.
A study from the American Federation of Teachers was released on Monday of this week, revealing that teacher stress is on the rise, and remains at rates startlingly higher than the general workforce population. Almost 5,000 respondents took the opportunity to reflect on tensions in their workplace, some randomly sampled from the AFT’s union membership and most voluntary respondents through social media channels. Cumulatively, 61% of these educators find their positions to be “always” or “often” stressful. More than half of the respondents reported a full week’s worth of poor mental health days every month, perhaps because they are being “bullied” by administrators or students (27% report incidents of this nature). On the whole, educators feel they have less impact on policy decisions and professional development content, and less control over their classrooms. They see more instances of verbal aggression among students and the majority of them do all of this on 5-7 hours of sleep a night.
At the start of our Programs & Services area staff meeting yesterday, I stood at the head of the table – pausing, looking and listening to the incredible team getting settled – checking in, laughing, sighing, deep breaths – taking a few moments to be together and recognize that we are in the fall season that brings a demanding focus and intense service to schools, agencies and communities. Significant work is already accomplished and it’s only the beginning of the new school year!