Teacher Tool #2

Having Unconditional Self-Acceptance, and Unconditional
Other Acceptance for Students

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The role of Shame in a teachers life
Shame is what people feel when they believe they haven't
lived up to expectations in some way.  Regret and remorse
come from wanting to do something or to be a certain way and
not doing so.  Shame comes from thinking you should have
done something, or should be a certain way, and not doing
so.  It's called "shoulding" on yourself.  We all have all kinds of
expectations placed on us by others, and we place even more
on ourselves.  That means plenty of opportunities to feel
shame.  There are more expectations of, and even demands
being made of teachers today than ever before. That means
even more opportunities to feel shame than in the past.  

Shame can play out as anxiety.  Anxiety is what most people
really feel when they say they're stressed out.  If we think
we're not living up to expectations in some way in our class-
rooms, it's easy to start generating anxiety about not doing so
in the future.  A teacher could even start to dread going to
work, or start to worry needlessly about their job status. That's
going to become even more likely if tenure laws continue to
be attacked and changed to take away the due process
protections teachers have been used to.  

Shame can also play out as anger.  If you think you're not
living up to expectations as a teacher, you're more likely to
perceive what students do, or don't do, as a bigger threat to
you, and your job security.  It's common for teachers to
imagine things happening that haven't yet when students
misbehave.  For example, to imagine that if a student talks
back and you don't deal with him/her sternly, you'll get more of
it from other students, lose control of your class, others will
find out, think you're a bad teacher, and it will affect your
evaluations.  Teachers are even more likely to imagine  such
things if they are already believing they aren't living up to
expectations, and generating shame because of it.   

Shame also makes people want to keep their thoughts and
feelings a secret, for fear it would make them look bad in the
eyes of others should they learn about them.  It makes them
less likely to seek or accept help that might be available to
them.  Student teachers or new teachers often struggle, but
refuse to let anyone know they are for this reason.  Even
veteran teachers can go through periods when they do.

Shame, and the anxiety it often leads to, can make teachers
start to react or overreact to their circumstances,  It can
negatively impact their performance in the classroom.  It can
make them start to contemplate leaving the profession, and
giving up the job they worked so hard to get..  
Unconditional Self-Acceptance
The solution to shame is learning to have Unconditional
Self-Acceptance or USA.  The way I suggest people do that is
to start seeing whatever they think, feel, say or do as being
understandable given what they've been through, and what
happens.  Put others through exactly what you have been
through, and they'd probably end up thinking, feeling, saying
and doing much the same.  

Just imagine if we took 100 babies on the day you were born,
and from that day forward put them through every single thing
you've been through.  Most teachers know about "bell
curves".  No matter what you look at about human beings,
there will always be some at the top of the bell curve, some at
the bottom, and a whole bunch in the middle.  Put 100 other
people through exactly what you have been through, and
some might be doing better at this point, other worse.  But
most would probably be thinking, feeling, saying and doing
pretty much the same.  You might even be doing better than
most would have.  We'll never know because we didn't run
such an experiment.

It's human nature to compare oneself to others. However,
comparing yourself to others is like comparing apples to
oranges in many ways because of our life experiences.  
Understandable also means that you'll never be the first or
last person in human history to think, feel, say or do
something. There are plenty of opportunities to make
mistakes with students, especially the most troubled and
troublesome ones. Been there, done that.  If you do, you'll
never be the first or last teacher to do so. You'll always have
a lot of company. Mistakes get made every day in classrooms
all across the country. That should tell you that making
mistakes is not only part of being a teacher, but part of being
human. Everyone knows no one is perfect, and everyone
makes mistakes. People just lose sight of that at times.  

Another way to have USA is to choose to believe that we all
do the best we can at the time given what we have been
through before then. There are often times when we could
have done better, but we do the best we can at any given
moment. Beating up on ourselves won't help. It just makes it
harder to face and fix what might need fixing.

Dr. Albert Ellis used to encourage people to see themselves
as FHB's or Fallible Human Beings.  To me that means that
we all at times think, feel, say or do things that make our own
lives, or the lives of others, worse instead of better.  It's part
of being human, and nothing to be ashamed of.
Unconditional Other Acceptance
Unconditional Other Acceptance for your students comes from
taking the same attitude toward what they think, feel, say or
do - to see whatever they do as being understandable, part of
being human, and what we'd expect if anyone else went
through what they have.  It means that they'll never be the first
or last young person to think, feel, say or do what they do.  It
means that they do the best they can at the time given what
they've been through. Finally, it means that like us, they are
just FHB's or Fallible Human Beings who at times think, feel,
say or do things that make their lives worse instead of better.
There are many advantages in having UOA. For example,
you are less likely to take what they do personally. You are
less likely to needlessly generate  a dysfunctional amount of
emotion, react and make mistakes with students. They are
more likely to come to you if and  when they need help of
some kind. You can hang in there for them longer than you
might otherwise be willing to do. You're more likely to view
any misbehavior as a challenge or opportunity instead of a
problem. Your time with them is more likely to be rewarding
and satisfying rather than troubling.
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