EVERYONE, and I do mean EVERYONE, is overwhelmed with the current circumstances in our world. It is extremely important to be gentle with ourselves when it comes to personal expectations regarding our work production. But first, we have to STOP comparing ourselves to what other school counselors are doing on-line. We are like apples and oranges.
As we scroll through the vast resources, ideas, and technology available on-line it becomes overwhelming to the point of being paralyzing. This is a stressful time full of unknowns. We have to stop feeling like "slackers" just because we haven't done all the cool things we see other school counselors doing. We have to give ourselves a break. Each of us has to respond to the needs of our students within both our personal and professional limits. Not every resource is something that will work for all us. We must find the jewels that have been shared and determine what works best for our situation. We all have challenges to face and we must accept what those are or we will continue to feel defeated. So take a moment and look over this list of 19 reasons why Comparing Ourselves Virtually Is Detrimental and give yourself break. How many of these reasons apply to you?
1) You're a single parent. That sums it up. You can't manage it all on your own. Period.
2) Your relationship with your significant other is strained. You don't need any more stress.
3) You have pre-school age children or children with special needs. They demand your attention. Working from home ranges from difficult to impossible.These are uncertain times and our tension and anxiety can be felt by them. Do what you can, but be present for your children.
4) You are a caregiver for a sick or elderly family member. Family first. ALWAYS!
5) Personal physical and/or mental health. We have to remember everyone has a story. Many of us may be struggling with our own immunology, physical, or mental health challenges. Stress can create havoc in the body and the mind. Those who have successfully managed digestive issues, migranes, anxiety, or depression or any other health conditions previously, may find these conditions exacerbated. Oxygen mask, full cup.
6) Support Systems. Some of us have a great network of familial, personal, and professional individuals we can turn to with questions and encouragement. Some of us are new to our districts or schools and don't know where to turn. For those with strong systems in place, is there someone who may need your support?
7) EXPERIENCE. Some of us have only just begun our career in school counseling and some of us have been at it for a while. Experience is a valuable commodity no one can give you. Those who have experience are able to make the virtual adjustments to their programs more easily because they see how the virtual stuff transitions into what they already do. Our newest colleagues are going to need lots of support and encouragement. New folks please remember, you can't build an entire program in a few weeks. One step at a time. Keep reaching out!
8) Personal resources. We don't all have the money to buy postcards, stamps, and books. Some of us are losing a 2nd income. It's okay to use what you have or whatever is free.
9) School resources. All schools are not created equal, especially when you talk about the funds available for school counselors or students to get the materials or resources they need. Again not all have money for postcards, stamps, books, chromebooks, ipads, etc. and it's okay.
10) Technology Devices. Do you have a school issued computer, specified communication platform, or other tools for creating a virtual school counseling program? Do ALL your students have devices? How equitable is virtual learning/counseling in your district? Who are you unable to reach? This varies in how we are able to provide services for our students.
11) Internet access. Rural, urban, and suburban, wifi is not equally accessible or reliable. Many thanks to internet providers who have offered free services, but for some areas it is still not possible.
12) Your school population. Rural, inner city, urban, suburban, lacking devices, families whose first language is not English? Each school is varied and comes with their own challenges. You know best what yours need and the unique way in which to reach them.
13) Building Administration. Some are trailblazers, eager to have you set a course and go for it. Others want to take a wait and see attitude and are hesitant to make a move because they have no direction from the district or their boss is overly cautious.
14) School District. Just like building administrators, some lead the way, some micro-manage, and some say just wait. In many districts you are at the mercy of their decisions, resources, and district based technology platforms.
15) Student Information Systems. Some of us have access to our student data bases where we can easily access addresses, phone numbers, and parent and student emails, others do not.
16) Differences in States/Country Government. Each of our 50 states and their 50 different Governors and 50 different DOE's are handling this crisis in their own way. This goes for those in other countries too. These decisions impact how our local school boards and building administrators expect us to respond. What works in one state/country may not be allowed in another.
17) Creative vs. Analytical. We are all wonderfully different. Some of us see a creative opportunity and can't wait to get started. Others need to sit back examine the situation and make careful plans for how to move forward. I am thankful for creative minds who love to share with us all. BLESS them!
18) Introvert vs. Extrovert. For some of us making videos is terrifying. That's not our jam. And then, there are those of us who love sharing this way with our kids. Do you!
19) Techological Expertise. Some of us are digital natives and some of us are digital immigrants who are still learning to speak the language. There is a lot of unexplored technology out there and much new content to learn. Be patient with yourself.
There are no doubt other reasons why comparing ourselves during this pandemic is detrimental and discouraging. But for now, it seems these 19 are more than enough reasons to stop feeling guilty and comparing ourselves to each other. School counselors, teachers, parents, and students are all feeling a loss of control, stressed, and a sense of helplessness. There is no need to overwhelm ourselves and those we serve with MORE just because we feel like we aren't doing enough.
So to my talented, empathetic, creative colleagues, do what you can within the limits of your own circumstances. Be kind to yourself, follow the guidelines for your school or district, and do what you are reasonably able to do to maintain work/life balance during this stressful time. But most importantly, remember you are enough!
BE SAFE, BE HEALTHY!