Caring is …

It’s 2am, I should be sleeping but it’s not happening. In less than 9 hours I will be back at my family home. Incidents in my personal life have made me reflect on what I see as a key aspect of being a human being. I try to show this in my personal and professional lives.

Caring is …. An emotional response to others.
Ok in your personal life, but are emotions allowed in our professional selves? I’ve previously been accused of being “too soft” and it’s true I can be a “softie” but at the risk of my emotions being hurt not those around me. As a teacher can you respond emotionally? I believe it is a key part of us that we can show in being true to ourselves. We are not immune to circumstances and / or events that may affect fellow staff or our students. If our reaction is seen as not responding does that make us less caring? As professionals we come across a wide range of issues, many outside our own experiences or possibly even comfort zone, is it not human to be seen to react and model how we might cope with issues that arise. Chris Waugh (@Edutronic) gave a very personal presentation at the recent PegdagooLondon Teachmeet. Chris matched experiences in his own life with how we have a responsibility as leaders of young people to show how it is ok to be different from each other and accept that society is full of differences, it does not make us less of a society for them.

For me Friday 8 March 2013 was a significant moment in my experience of caring. My siblings (3) and I ,along with our families, have been trying to support our parents as they have aged and been affected by a range of circumstances. We have tried to show our support by returning the care we were shown when younger. Growing up and growing older are rarely easy and flexibility in approach has proved a key factor in caring.
My parents faced a dual dilemma – my father had been kept in hospital after a checkup for an emergency operation. My mother was at home without her main carer. Support was needed. As my siblings and I are geographically spread, the nearest – I and family headed to Kent for a weekend of “caring” for “Granny” and maybe “Grandad”.
The weekend stretched out to 5 days of personal caring for my mother who is affected by at least two conditions that limit her physical capabilities and visiting my father in hospital until his release after the weekend. The “caring” was emotional as health issues rose to the fore; staying in contact across international boundaries by text, Skype and e mail to keep family in the loop; dealing with organisations; seeking professional guidance; seeking a place for my mother to stay for a period of respite at least. A tiring time ensued. “Caring” was physical in supporting my mother in every aspect of her daily routine – the most we had ever had to do. It was draining in seeking places to stay after some research for places offering suitable services; it was visiting my father resting in hospital glad that the phone call we often dread had heralded a new chance rather than a life extinguished.

“Caring is ….” Hard! After physically and emotionally draining days and a supportive workplace I returned to my classroom on Thursday. I taught but also accompanied classes to our Prayer week room run byy local church and youth workers. In this, it’s third year I find comfort in having the time to step back from the hourly burly of our daily lives. I am not a Christian but the time to reflect is valued. Every year I read anonymous notes that reveal the suffering many of our students have outside the classroom and I am always touched by it. My first visit was hard, the slowing down, the chance to think almost overwhelmed me, a distraction – recording the words used in the presentation to the class recorded in “CloudArt” a new wordle type app for iDevices – a display image for the RE department to use:

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The second lesson was easier and this time I focused on two displays, the world wall and heart wall:

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Did I need to care? Yes because one of the second class was affected by loss and I was able to support him outside the room so that he could bring his emotions to a calmer point. How did I feel afterwards – emotionally and physically drained. Luckily forms it is therapy where I have admin. Time which I was able. To get on with, thought a measured pace. Friday saw me teaching a lesson to explore student perceptions about poverty alongside the now traditional non uniform day for Comic relief and Red Nose Day. More personal significance as I vividly remember the first RND 25 years ago while I was studying my PGCE.

Now…? Well hopefully some more sleep before my trip this morning. This time to koi one of my siblings to check onDad, jobs around the house, visit Mum and some possible “minefields” of conversations about the future. Am I ready for it? Yes and no. I will return to home on Sunday afternoon and I must rest so that next week my caring can happen and I retain some energy for myself physically and emotionally.

Is this the post I thought I’d write about caring? Possibly I have to admit my mind is not fixed on what it would include. If it raises questions and reflective thoughts from some who read it then good but I admit it is a personal cathartic post as much as anything else.

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2 responses to “Caring is …

  1. I think it is something a lot of people in their 40’s and 50’s are now increasingly having to come to terms with.

    I’m luckier than some – I live 20 mins walk from my father and have, with my sister, nursed him back to semi-independence over the last six months.

    There are many things that happen – parent/child role reversal; the grind of helping with daily tasks (luckily I first worked in a mental hospital as an assistant nurse over 30 years ago so it was no shock); the emotional roller coasters; the curtailing of your own time and the strategies you have to employ to keep resentment/guilt/depression at bay. To see someone so vital and full of life suddenly descend into a dependence for survival in day to day living.

    Small events that may blow up into crisis if not focused on – this is where teaching helps – your antennae about people are well and truly out. And in my father’s case building in ways of teaching him to cope for himself and relearn stuff he’s had knocked out of his head with the fall or caused by medication.

    It’s a long, slow sisyphean process; a long haul but it makes life richer – why else are we here but to help others and that’s the basis for why we are teachers surely – one of the reasons we gravitate to that profession. So no, Andy, your’e not soft – what you are experiencing in increasingly the norm for our agegroup and it is part of the process of living and dying. After all that is all our futures…

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