Teaching, Inspiring, and Mental Health

I received a Facebook message from a student I taught 20 years ago!!  It started, “I’m not sure if you remember me.” She said that I had come to her mind the other day so she decided to search me out. She said,

“I want to let you know that you were a wonderful teacher to me during high school and your positivity, encouragement and excitement for learning had a profound effect on my outlook on life.”

She went on to update me on her many learning adventures (from missionary work to law to marriage to motherhood & 4 educational degrees).  She ended the message saying,

“I wanted to thank you for helping to shape my young, curious and stubborn mind…You encouraged adventure and often told me that I had the power to follow any dream my brain could conjure. It turns out you were right.”

I actually do remember this student well. She was funny and clever and brimming with religious faith. What I don’t remember is doing anything extraordinary where she was concerned. When you teach high school you may have upwards of 90 students a semester. It is almost frightening to think about how much of an impact we can make, without knowing it.

I have been in a bit of a funk lately. I have been procrastinating, eating more, exercising less, and wearing a feigned smile most days. I can’t put my finger on why.  It was so beautiful to have a student reach out to me with such profoundly complimentary words when I am feeling so blue.

But it was a rude awakening as well.

Even during our down days, our students look to us for encouragement and for support.  It is for this, and many other reasons, that we need to take care of our mental health.

This #IMMOOC episode with Dwight Carter really speaks to vulnerability of leadership, but the importance of mental health as well and it really resonated with me this week.

I think it’s important to make sure that we are at our best, but that when we aren’t, we talk about it. The learners we serve are way too important and so are we!

What are some of the strategies you use to stay well?

3 thoughts on “Teaching, Inspiring, and Mental Health

  1. Lori Lisi

    Hi Jen! Your story resonates with me, as well. Today, as I was leaving Cora’s after having breakfast with a friend, l paused to hold the door open for a cute little girl who couldn’t have been more than 3 years old. As I stepped aside to allow her to follow her grandmother, I turned to watch her as she passed by me because she reminded me of the joy that young people bring to our lives. What happened next brought me to tears! Once the little had safely passed the threshold and was reunited with her grandmother, I turned to leave but was met with a body at the door that refused to move out of my way. Stunned at what I thought was deliberate rudeness, I look directly at the woman’s face, only to hear her say with such affection in her voice, “Mrs. Lisi, oh my God, I can’t believe it’s you.” To which I immediately replied, “Tracy, how many years has it been?” We embraced and she turned to her mother and her daughter and said, “This is my high school English teacher…she was the best teacher I ever had.” And, then she proceeded to tell me that a group of them (now 36 years old) had gone for dinner and each was reminiscing about our English class. She said they laughed and cried about all that had happened that year. She said that whatever the day brought they could always count on my smile and my compassion! You’re right, Jen, we don’t often realize the impact of our smiles or our positive attitude, but both are gifts that keep on giving…a great leader helps people feel better for having been in his/her company! Thanks for the reminder…Keep smiling my friend!?

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  2. Karen Corbell @corbellhiak

    Aloha! You are on to a very important aspect of being an adult professional…the need to be real sometimes. Sharing our humanity can lift both ourselves & others. Thanks for sharing!

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