Behavioural Norm > Care for Self & Others
Caring for others involves compassion and empathy. Caring is reflected in listening and responding, following through to completion (it is one thing to want to do something, quite another to get involved enough to do it), compassionate reaching out to a group member who feels out of place, coping with excluding and judgmental language, honouring the commitments and insights of others, and understanding and responding with feeling.
Caring for self (ie being attentive and responsive to self needs, as distinguished from vanity) is also a reflection of empathy. It is difficult to teach self-care if the teacher is not practising it.
Educators and other service providers are notorious for ignoring their own needs, impacting their physical and emotional health, and compromise their ability to work effectively with students. Empathic self-care encompasses the whole definition of the word. The time and emotional pressure of doing a job that seemingly has no end, with pressure to serve on every level, can cause educators to make poor choices in this regard.
Maintaining a daily ritual of self-care that allows for no distractions is a solution. And what is helpful to maintain the ritual is at least one fellow professional to commit to being a care buddy, a person to check in with, if only as a reminder that one isn’t alone.
Care for Self & Others Outcomes
Recognizing Self Worth
An activity presented in The Full Value School book (Chapter 11) is called Accepting Yourself. Students develop a list of their strengths as members of the class. After reading from the list, the rest of the class is invited to add to it. Students often find the acceptance and disclosure of positive attributes as being quite difficult. They have been told that this is bragging, egocentric behaviour. In fact, we are most often our own harshest critics and the self-recognition of strengths with further affirmation from a group of peers is the essence of caring for self. It is the recognition of the unique qualities we bring to our interactions with others and a public affirmation of these strengths.
Recognizing Personal Needs
Through the practising of caring for one’s self, students understand the importance of nurturing one’s own needs as a foundation for being an effective caregiver. Doing for others without this recognition ultimately leads to resentment and a deep sense of loss. Students learn that to care for self is not selfish, but rather essential to leading a balanced emotional life. This also means teaching students the value of taking time for personal growth and renewal.
Another word for this is altruism, which is selfless attention to the needs of others. This behaviour is most often demonstrated by students who understand the importance of self-care providing them with the emotional strength to extend themselves to others without the need for emotional reciprocity. This is where heroic deeds come from. Activities associated with this Full Value Behavioral Norm provide opportunities for demonstrating self-sacrifice at many levels.
Personal & Social Responsibility
In working within a social group, using agreed-upon norms/values, students learn that they are part of a larger system where the individual moving parts affect the whole. At the middle and high school levels Care for Self & Others can be connected to our democratic structures. Programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as well as the requirement to pay taxes to fund schools and social services all represent the personal and social responsibility reflected in this Full Value Behavioral Norm. Developing this social/emotional outcome contributes to a citizenry that more fully participates in society because they understand the need for shared responsibility.
This is the realization that taking care of oneself supports taking care of others. Unresolved anger, harbouring hurt feelings from an interaction, or not taking care of one’s physical self can all impact the ability to care for others.
Teaching the skill of resonating with the emotional life of another is critical to building and maintaining intimate relationships. Many of the activities used to teach Full Value in this book provide opportunities for students to practice this social/emotional outcome.
The way we treat a very good friend is how we should be treating ourselves. We would never speak to a good friend with the words we use in our heads to evaluate our own behaviours. Being incessantly self-critical does not help us grow. Compassion is empathy put into practice. When a student witnesses a peer struggling with their ability to succeed and lends a helping hand empathy and compassion are both at work.
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Extracted & adapted from The Full Value School: A Social-Emotional Learning Community