[Editor’s note: This is the 11th installment in Jennifer Abrams’ ‘Personal Development’ column for eSchool News. In her columns, Abrams focuses on leadership skills for anyone working in a school or district. Read more about the column here.]
In 1995, Robert Kegan, now emeritus professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, wrote a book entitled In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life. He asked—given all the complexity surrounding us—if we had what it takes to live healthy and successful lives. Since then we have seen a plethora of books trying to help us work through the personal and global challenges we face on a day-to-day basis. Jennifer Garvey Berger and Keith Johnston wrote Simple Habits for Complex Times: Powerful Practices for Leaders, Elena Aguilar just published Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience for Educators, and Laura van Dernoot Lipsky is coming out with The Age of Overwhelm: Strategies for the Long Haul.
In addition to supporting ourselves, we as educators also learn more to support students. We are more trauma informed with Debbie Zacarian’s Teaching to Strengths: Supporting Students Living with Trauma, Violence, and Chronic Stress, and gritty with Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. These two texts are the start of the booklist that one can access to help students with their social and emotional development. With all the challenges we face in today’s world, we need to prioritize our own emotional and psychological well-being too.
In my next book, tentatively titled Swimming in the Deep End: Four Key Leadership Skills for Aspiring and Emerging Leaders, I talk about the essentialness of cultivating habits of self-care. We need to consider our self-care to be a part of the change work we do in schools, to be more physically capable and to be both emotionally strong and psychologically sound. This work isn’t an “add-on.” It’s an essential element to school reform.