Bumps, bruises, cuts, and scars dot my skin. They serve as little reminders of the life that has been lived on the outside. Whether visible to others or not, I cannot look at them without recalling most of the moments and misadventures that caused them. I see these marks as near misses and continue to add more to my collection whether it is in the kitchen, workshop, or enjoying time with others.
Call this post ‘fractures’?
In my half century plus adventure time, I have not broken many bones along the way. Other than most of my fingers, a couple of ribs (which made baseball and golfing really tough that year), and my nose back in grade 6 playing football on the school team, I have been very fortunate not to ever be fitted with an itchy or cumbersome cast – although there is still time.
My collection of near misses and minor breaks have taught me quite a bit. I have to take my physical existence seriously when it comes to my actions and inactions. Perhaps my injuries are the products of inattention on my part? Perhaps I let my guard down with what-could-possibly-go-wrong thinking? Perhaps I needed to pay closer attention going forward? Somehow I am sounding like my parents and teachers and it’s bringing me back to the purpose of this post – fractures.
There is not a single one among us who enters the classroom each day without fractures. You see, we have all endured down times, loss, failure, and disappointment at one point in our lives or another. Whether physiologically or psychologically, fractures come along with life’s other certainties such as death, taxes, and dishes(without apologies to Ben Franklin). What we make of our fractures is often where we find our strength and determination.
If a bone breaks, the body begins the healing process immediately. Once something goes snap, the cells organize themselves to start the repair process. Interestingly enough, it is not like your brain is the boss yelling at the workers to do their jobs or go faster. At this point it is along for the ride because the body already knows what to do. The brain just takes the credit. “My what a nice job we did healing that tibia over the past 6 weeks.” Despite attending to the remediating a reconstruction project, the body can still get about other daily cognitive business, but when someone’s mind or spirit becomes fractured, the body is often likely to deteriorate in the process until healing and restoration are complete. So why is this so hard?
Fractures in our personal and thought lives are never usually front and centre though. Adding to this mystique is the elusive nature of mental health in general. Our fractured spirits are not easily seen by untrained minds and are often interpreted as rude behaviour or that maybe you need a time out to gather your thoughts. This is also common in our students. It is also compounded because, many times, they are processing emotions that seem difficult to articulate due to confusion and fear of being judged, cast out, mocked, or all of the above.
The Ontario Grade 6 Health Curriculum gives us some solid teaching and learning points that I have really been trying to build into the life skillsets of students in and out of our class time. Interestingly enough, this teaching really meshes well with the book The Tools by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels which happens to be my current personal read, but that’s a blog for a different site.
So often we are faced with situations that are followed by a barrage of feelings and much more often than not we find ourselves reacting rather than responding. As our lessons have progressed, students have learned to assess the situation, identify their emotions, and then use strategies for resolution. Yet, even with the skills we are implementing into our daily interactions, the struggle to be honest and free of fear about our fractures and feelings is really hard to reckon with one another. This goes for teachers just as much as students.
We need to step outside of our comfort zones which double as camouflaged cages of social media level perfection and problem free happiness. We need to normalize that life is messy at times and that things can be and become broken. If we take time to pick up the pieces and put them back together there is a chance that these fractures can be mended.
In many cases the silence is even more deafening when it comes to issues of mental health in the classroom. Judging by recent news reports in response to the provincial budget causes me to believe we are in for more and more fractured students slipping through the cracks in our schools.
Yes, we can acknowledge it, but more often than not we are still too fractured as a society to truly support each other when there is so much need already. The keys has been and will continue to be in the hands of educators. As we walk through the hallways and curate our classrooms, take time to help the fractured around you by making time to acknowledge them (yourself), listen (talk with someone), and help them (yourself) heal.