It’s Friday morning and I’m still going strong! Our presenter was Joseph Hendershott an expert on working with “wounded youth.”
He started by explaining what compassion fatigue (CF) is. He compared and contrasted it to “burnout.” CF is different in that it comes from not feeling capable to deal with other people’s trauma. Burnout comes from conflict or dissatisfaction. CF comes from repetitive, emphatic response to pain and suffering by absorbing and internalizing the emotions of clients. It’s common with doctors, nurses, EMTs, and even lawyers. Teachers get it when they aren’t necessarily equipped to deal with the range of issues some of our students bring to the classroom.
CF typically affects teachers who do their jobs well. It affects teachers who actually have certain positive personal attributes. They tend to be perfectionists and become emotionally involved with their children. It also tends to affect those whose identity is strongly tied to their jobs.
Having these positive personal attributes, coupled with having a tough job, puts teachers at risk for CF. We discussed the most frustrating things about being a teacher: paperwork, the feeling of never being finished, lack of training, conflicts with administrators, pressure from testing, teacher evaluation based on student tests, being held accountable for the performance of students with problems beyond our control, and teaching unmotivated students. All of these and more make teaching a tough job.
So how do we cope with it?
-First, recognize that it exists
-Live a balanced life; don’t make teaching all that you are
-Attend to your physical health, intellectual stimulation, introspection and social interactions
Joseph made it clear that CF is unavoidable, especially for conscientious teachers. The key is coping with it in healthy ways.
This session was OK. Personally I don’t think I suffer from CF; I get stressed out from time to time, but I’m always careful to take time each day from myself and for my family. I deal with high needs kids on a daily basis, but I realize that my job isn’t to fix their entire situation; my job is to teach them and ensure that their classroom is a stable, organized and predictable place. And I can do that.