Nourish and Forge Wellness

health and life coaching for those experiencing stress, transition, and overwhelm

Tag: trust

Lessons from My Expat Life: Say Yes

The expat life starts with a yes that feels like leaping into an abyss.

Yes. I will sign that multi-year contract, person I met yesterday. I’m pretty sure I would love to work for you.

Yes. I will sell or give away most of my earthly possessions.

Yes. I will move ALONE to a new country where pretty much everything is unknown and trust that I’ll figure it out.

The first lesson I learned from my expat life: learn to say yes. 

Saying yes is not a comfortable thing. Often, it includes some level of risk and responsibility. However, saying yes is the way we humans break new ground. It’s how we find new capacities within ourselves. It’s how we continue to expand.

My first expat yes was at the Search Associates international teaching job fair in San Francisco, February 2012. After three sleepless days of interviews and research, I signed a two year contract to teach at Korea International School. I had never been to Asia before. It was a breathtaking moment that changed my life forever.

That big ol’ yes was followed by so many more yesses. Some comfy-cozy, others super uncomfortable.

Yes, I will move around the world with only two suitcases of stuff. Yes, I will attempt to start learning Korean (a language so difficult, I often teared up during my lessons from sheer frustration). Yes, I will break out of my introvert shell and go out when I’d typically stay in. Yes, I will connect with others, letting down my walls more quickly than I would at home, because I left all my support peeps back in Colorado.

Yes, I will explore (almost) fearlessly. Yes, I will communicate through body language and pointing in public (because I have to). Yes, I will break bend the rules, even when my rule-following, first-child, perfectionist brain wails, “nooooooooooooo, don’t doooo it!”

I will say yes to travel. I will say yes to staycations. I will say yes to getting uncomfortable.

I will say yes to negotiating a deal to coach CrossFit part time to mostly Korean clients in a Korean gym in exchange for a membership, even though it terrifies me. Then, continue to force myself to say yes every time I walked through the doors.

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That’s me, coaching a CrossFit class of mostly Korean men. Annnnd mostly through body language.

I will say yes to learning how to speak up, lead, and be brave. Yes to caring less and less about what others think about me and more and more about if I’m at peace with my actions. Yes to accepting the good and the ugly parts of me that are opened up and splayed out clear as day through the expat experience.

Yes to continue to work on myself, even when I feel like giving up. Yes to knowing that the dark days come and go. Yes to realizing that here, I’ve had my sparkliest highs and my blackest lows. Yes to the conclusion that expat life is fu%&ing hard, but intensely beautiful.

Yes.

Now, I say yes to sharing my personal experiences with others because I believe the more we talk to each other about the hard sh%& in life, the better we get at it and the less alone we feel. Now, I say yes to sharing what works for me, because maybe it will work for you, too.

My expat life has taught me to say yes, when it’s easy and when it feels impossible.

It has taught me that leaping into an abyss is not a bad thing.

In fact, it might be the choice that changes everything.

 

 

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Teachers: One Mindset Shift Guaranteed to Decrease Stress and Increase Joy

Seriously?! I just clearly laid out the directions. They’re on the board. We did a comprehension check. We’re five minutes into work time and they’re giggling and pointing at their computer screens. WTF?! Why aren’t they doing what I said?

I remember in my first few years of teaching, having a constant stream of frustration sprinkled with swear words running through my head from bell to bell. The source: students in my classroom not following my directions or doing what I had laid out for them (thoughtfully, in advance, with the best intentions for their learning….seriously….wtf?!).

Let me tell you (and my teaching peeps can chime in here) — this sort of existence is exhausting.

It is mentally and emotionally draining and just plain soul-sucking. By the end of the day, trying to control manage facilitate the learning and interactions of young humans in your classroom becomes a lost cause.

At some point, you just throw up your hands and say, “I give up”. You survive till the bell. Crank out some grading. Prep for the next day. Go home. Drink a glass or three of wine. Bitch to your teacher friends. Brainstorm. Wake up. Try again.

Now over the years, we teachers learn to take fewer things personally and have fewer emotional reactions to what goes on in the classroom.

I’ve always been strong at classroom management, but it took me years to cultivate a different INTERNAL reaction to mirror my calm exterior in order to decrease stress and minimize energy leakage.

It boils down to one simple mindset shift: be curious.

Yep. That’s it. Be curious.

It is actually the opposite of most of our instincts, which is to see what is happening, make an assumption, followed quickly by a judgement, followed up by a snap decision and action.

Generally, my assumption has been that my students are off-task for whatever reason and that is bad. I then would quickly interfere, urging them to comply through a verbal warning, a dreaded “teacher look”, or a conversation in the hallway.

(Note: I’m always thoughtful of a child’s dignity and do my best to never publicly shame or punish.)

With these methods, I had a high success rate. However, my attempts to get them back on track through coersion always ended up feeling like an empty victory. And I still felt drained at the end of the day.

So here’s the shift I’m asking you to take. Before you get stressed and force them back on track, get curious.

Here’s how you do it. Remember this phrase: Slow down, C.I.D. (pronounced “kid”). Just a few, simple steps, and you will be on your way to more joy and less stress in the classroom.

  • First, SLOW DOWN. 
    • When you notice things you don’t like or expect in your classroom, pause. Like a reaaaally long pause. Bring awareness to what is happening in your head. RESIST making ANY assumptions or judgements.
  • Next, get CURIOUS.
    • Begin to wonder what’s going on. Say to yourself, “I wonder…” without any judgement or evaluation whatsoever.
  • Now, INVESTIGATE.
    • Watch from across the room (make sure you’re not scowling at them, but sneaking peeks neutrally). Wander over. Eavesdrop. Smile and ask a question related to either class or what they are talking about. Ask directly what they’re up to—middle schoolers are incredibly blunt, honest creatures when you are direct and they aren’t scared of punishment. Take this opportunity to learn something new about them. (As I’ve practiced this, I noticed that the assumptions I would make without investigating are often wrong. Students are frequently asking questions or discussing a personal connection they are making to the work. Just as frequently, they are not. And that’s totally ok!)
  • Last, DECIDE.
    • Ok, after getting curious and investigating, you think you have a handle on the situation. Now, you get to decide how to wrangle them back in like the awesome brain children that they are. After chatting with them about that totally gross Youtube video for a minute, find a creative way to connect their conversation back to your content. Or share a story about yourself that connects to the situation. Or share a time when you’ve struggled to stay focused and a method that works (or whatever circumstance your dealing with). Or even simply lead them back in to the work with an overly dramatic, awkward segue and a big, cheesy smile.

Here’s why “Slow down, C.I.D.” works.

It takes power out of the equation. I am not convincing them to get refocused through coersion. I am meeting them where they are at. I am interested in who they are, what they are doing, and why. I am noticing and validating their needs, as well as reinforcing my own. When you take power out of the equation, the stress disappears.

It breeds connection. When I take time to listen, observe, and chat with my students (even especially when it’s off-topic) it builds trust. It builds relationship. It helps me know them better, which enables me to connect my content to them more effectively. It helps them know me better, which results in higher engagement in class.

It’s joyful and fun. Teaching is way more joyful and energetic when we spend a little time on silliness. Hearing the latest pop culture gossip or telling a funny story gives our brains a needed break (it’s science) before we get back into the work. “Slow down, C.I.D.” provides perfect windows for silliness, because kids will never be perfect and there will always be opportunities to connect and then practice the sly redirect. *cheesy point/mouthclick/wink move*

So, next time you are feeling stressed or drained due to things in class not going the way you expected or wanted, try out “Slow down, C.I.D.”

  • Slow down before reacting.
    • Get CURIOUS
    • INVESTIGATE
    • DECIDE

I still get to use this every day of teaching. For the sake of teacher entertainment, let me share today’s shenanigans. We had about 25 minutes of drafting time today in my 8th grade English class. I was conferring with students, feeling like I had this Friday in the bag—students were engaged, on-task, and writing their tails off.

Then, I came across this vision in the back corner. Yes. He was dead asleep with his body contorted into angles I didn’t think were possible past infancy and with his face smashed solidly into the wall. (His nose was bright red from the pressure when he woke up.) I mean…c’mon, people. This is hilarious.

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Due to the trust and relationship built our class from “Slow down, C.I.D.”, he readily admitted he only slept two hours last night (and most nights this week) because he’s up all hours, gaming. We had a good laugh, and I resolved to “invite” him to work at the standing desk area for future sleepy days (and advised him, for the sake of his growing body and brain to get some sleep tonight).

I’d love to hear from you. Shoot me an email or comment below.

What other parts of teaching stress you out or drain your energy and joy?

What strategies do you have in place that help reduce stress and increase joy in the classroom?


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