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Empathy, Empowerment, and Equity in Our Classrooms

I recently attended a teach-in at a local university, where I heard an artist speak about her discouragement with our divisive social and political climate. She stopped working because she couldn’t muster any inspiration or creativity and holding on to positivity seemed increasingly difficult. After several weeks of being unproductive and listless, her mentor invited her to coffee and gently nudged her to talk about why her work was at a standstill. After pouring out her heart, her concerns, and her fears, her mentor responded with, “Artists have always created their greatest works in times of greatest conflict.” This conversation inspired her to harness her anger, frustration, and discouragement and channel it into meaningful and powerful creations.

It occurred to me while listening to her that it is in times of greatest conflict that teachers accomplish their greatest and most influential work. 

Regardless of where we are personally on the political spectrum, we cannot deny that as a country, we have experienced a huge increase in recent months in harassment, bullying, and hate crimes and we all have some students who feel confused, upset, fearful, and marginalized. It’s exactly at times like this that teachers make their biggest difference and have their most influential impact on students’ lives. Students watch carefully and listen closely, and even our most innocuous words can affect them for years to come. This is a time for teachers to rise up, be the change we wish to see in the world, and teach our students that we all can and must do better!

Teaching can be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually depleting in the best of times . . . even more so in the toughest of times. First and foremost, take good care of you! If your tank is empty and you are running on fumes, you cannot care for others. Here’s a few reminders to help you take good care of yourself during difficult or stressful times, especially seasons of prolonged or ongoing stress or crisis:

Next, help students develop healthy coping strategies when they feel marginalized, angry, afraid, or bullied -- or anytime they are dealing with drama, crisis, or a difficult situation. Here’s a guided journaling worksheet that can help:

Click here to download a free copy you can print.  Consider keeping a stack of copies in a quickly accessible location so students can grab one and fill it out any time they need to cool down, cope, process, or come up with an action plan.

Finally, check back here on the last weekend of every month for more tips, ideas, strategies, and free resources you can use to help teach empathy, empowerment, and equity in your classroom. This month, I wanted to give you resources to help you and your students care for yourselves during tough times. In the coming months, I'll provide more resources specific to teaching, implementing, and integrating empathy, empowerment, and equity.

Bonus! I’m teaming up with TpT colleagues who are as passionate as I am about these values and providing teachers with a vault of free resources to help integrate them into your everyday teaching. 

Check out the collaborative blog posts below for more ideas and resources, comment and let us know what types of materials we can provide to help your students and to save you precious time, and let’s keep this important conversation going!

Dr. Robyn McMaster Scholarship

In March of 2014, I had the privilege of meeting seven other Teacher-Authors at a local library to discuss our work of creating curriculum for other teachers across the country. The Teachers Pay Teachers colleagues at that meet-up eventually became the planning team and co-organizers of the Northeastern Regional TpT Meet-Up, an event that is now attended by hundreds of TpTers who travel from 25+ states and 3 Canadian provinces.
Dr. Robyn McMaster joined us at that first meet-up (pictured below), and became a friend who was near and dear to my heart and the hearts of so many other TpTers.

Robyn worked with Dr. Ellen Weber of Brain-Based Tasks for Growth Mindset, but her TpT work did not stop there. Robyn was a tireless advocate of high-quality teacher-created resources and the opportunity to supplement teaching income and provide for families that Teachers Pay Teachers offers educators. She befriended dozens of TpTers, encouraged them, and supported them by posting their resources on Pinterest.

Robyn left us unexpectedly on July 7, 2016 and I miss her presence on this earth every day. Those who knew Robyn remember her dearly as fun, funny, caring, kind, and loving. If you crossed her path, you walked away energized, inspired, and knowing you had a true encourager cheering you on to success as you found and fulfilled your purposes on this Earth. Robyn believed that love helps people find and follow their calling, and all those who knew her -- whether for minutes or for a lifetime -- felt genuinely gifted with love, kindness, and support.
Twenty years ago, Robyn started working with Dr. Ellen Weber and the Mita International Brain Center. Robyn was passionate about using brain-based approaches in novel ways that engage students' individual interests and abilities. Her passion to help all children learn and all teachers teach fueled her spirited work with Mita.
Robyn and Ellen worked together for more than two decades, and their extraordinary friendship and dynamic work have had a local and international influence on brain research and brain-based educational practices that will affect teaching and learning for decades! You're familiar with Ellen and Robyn's work if you're familiar with Making Change Easy (Novelty with the Brain in Mind Book 2).
Robyn loved and supported teachers as architects of our future, appreciating their hard work and devotion to children. TpT colleagues who knew and loved Robyn cannot imagine a more meaningful or beautiful way to honor her life and her work than to help that work continue and move forward. We're raising funds to establish the Dr. Robyn McMaster Scholarship, a scholarship that will be offered yearly to keep alive Robyn's work at Mita!
100% of the funds collected will go to the Mita International Brain Center to carry forward Robyn's beloved work and passion. Your donation will help Mita continue to train progressive teacher-leaders and provide brain-based resources, approaches, activities, lessons, assessments, and curriculum units to students and teachers across the globe. If you'd like to contribute, please click here to visit the "Dr. Robyn McMaster Scholarship" Go Fund Me page.

Thank you for helping us honor Robyn and continue her life-changing work and her legacy! 
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