Context, Community, and Compassion

Written by Greg O’Loughlin, High School Teacher and Founder/Director of The Educators’ Cooperative on January 12, 2021

We weren’t sure what to do. The first of our nightly Collaborates Calls of the new year was scheduled for 7:00pm, January 6th, and the attempted coup at the United States Capitol was still a developing event. Would it be insensitive to meet? Would we seem out of touch? Would others want to join a call in the midst of such uncertainty?

A dozen teachers from the Nashville and Memphis areas answered those questions when they Zoomed in to create the type of community that serves and supports the processing, learning, sharing, and connecting that is essential in moments like these.

Our guest for the call was Bela Herring, Foreign Language teacher and the founder of the Mindfulness School of Nashville. When we’d scheduled the call, our hope was that we’d be able to provide a reminder to teachers that we are more able to support our students when we ourselves are centered and able to respond to changes thoughtfully and with compassion.

It’s true, we are. We also found ourselves with a great need to navigate our own heads, hearts, and adrenal glands with thoughtfulness and compassion.

After reviewing the biology of mindfulness – cortisol, amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and the vagus nerve, we were all caught up on the mechanics. The teachers on the call were still hungry for more information about the roles of classroom communities, of accountability partners, of ways to practice independently, with others, and more, all in service of being ready to face and serve our students, who deserve centered, loving, thoughtful teachers.

Not one of us alone can create the type of response that will heal the harm done, but we do have a responsibility to take care of ourselves individually so that we can be caring, thoughtful, and compassionate when faced with the seemingly impossible concurrent tasks of processing breaking news and creating and supporting the types of responsive and caring classroom communities that our students need to do the same. 

The coming weeks, months, and years will require us all to be able to talk about and support challenging, frightening, complex conversations with our students. We teachers need the type of professional support and community that prioritizes the practices that make these conversations possible. The Educators’ Cooperative is making that happen, not only every night on our Collaborates Calls, but also throughout the year with The Culture Corner, with EdCampNash, and with our Antiracist Teaching, Learning, & Leading from the Classroom panel series.

We’re better together and teachers are not only at the heart of the types of community responses that will help us get better, but are also at the center of the work of supporting the development of the hearts and minds of our students. 

The Educators\’ Cooperative is a non-profit organization that provides a professional learning community for K-12 teachers. Created for teachers by teachers in 2016, EdCo provides professional development and support for educators to collaborate across sectors, disciplines, and career stages. EdCo aims to revolutionize teacher development and leadership by focusing on the essential agency, autonomy, and common ground all teachers share. EdCo is based in Nashville, Tennessee with a reach far beyond that physical location and potential for replication in communities throughout the nation. When educators collaborate, the future of education is greater than the sum of its parts.   

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