12. Building Compassion-Based Relationships with Caregivers

Introduction

Throughout this section, caregiver is used to represent parents, legal guardians, grandparents, and whomever is the primary caregiver for a student.

The opportunities educators have for relationships with students’ caregivers can leave them vulnerable to compassion fatigue too. The drivers of compassion fatigue around caregivers can be very similar to those that drive compassion fatigue around students. When we come to understand the trauma families face, try to meet unrealistic expectations of those relationships, and/or feel ineffective in building positive relationships with caregivers, it can lead to behaviors that are signs of compassion fatigue. We do not have to look far to hear educators blaming caregivers, using the home life as an excuse for lowered expectation of students, and not wanting to get to know the family context of their students. Of course, the same is true in reverse. It is not uncommon to hear caregivers blaming educators for the challenges their children face and spending time building fences rather than bridges.



Applications

Key Activity

Compassionate Connection to Caregivers Activity – activity for a staff meeting

Wellness Practice

Bringing It All Together Through My Hands — An activity to summarize compassion and self-compassion found in the document to distribute in the information section of the toolkit

Circle Agenda

Staff Circle Agenda, Section Twelve

Supplementary Activities/Handouts

Communicating with Caregivers When There is a Challenge – Handout and possible role-play activity

What to do when I feel attacked by a parent? – Professionally Speaking Article
This is an example of setting compassionate boundaries with caregivers.

Video of Teacher Care Meetings Strategy – Collaborative school, parent and student meeting to support positive changes

Stages of Change Applied to Caregiver Conversations


11. Wellness and Resilience Strategies: Heart

Introduction

In the compass model, the four sectors, Mind, Spirit, Strength and Heart, not only contribute to your overall wellness, but also provide guidance on strategies to help build your compassion resilience. Heart is one of the sectors. This section will take a deeper look at our emotions, and our relationships, both with ourselves and with others. We will be invited to focus on our self-compassion as we seek to be compassionate in our relationships with students, families and colleagues.



Applications

Key Activity

A Self-Compassion Exercise (10min)

Self-Compassion Self-Scoring Scale (Dr. Neff)
If Self-Compassion Scale was completed in Section 2, use DPI’s emotional regulation plans listed in the Supplementary Activities/Handouts section as your key activity asking staff to complete one for themselves.

Wellness Practice

Mindful Self-Compassion Break

Circle Agenda

Staff Circle Agenda, Section Eleven 

Core Content Visual

Colleague Conversations – Use this Visual and Display in Staff Break Areas
Posting this visual in common staff areas will serve as a reminder of content covered to staff and perhaps serve as a future conversation started for deeper reflection among staff members. 

Supplementary Activities/Handouts

Department of Public Instruction’s Emotional Regulation Plan
Use DPI’s emotional regulation plans asking staff to complete one for themselves.

 


Links

Links Specifically for Leadership

Fostering Relationship Building among Staff

 

Additional Resources

This article explains the importance of communication: 7 things to avoid, 11 things to keep in mind.

This article offers a brief introduction and tips for developing better communication skills through structured dialog and communicating your trust distinctions.

For more excellent resources on self-compassion go to Dr. Kristin Neff’s website

 

10. Wellness and Resilience Strategies: Strength

Introduction

In the compass model, the four sectors, Mind, Spirit, Strength and Heart, not only contribute to your overall wellness, but also provide guidance on strategies to help build your compassion resilience. Strength is one of the sectors. Strength encompasses stress resilience and care for the body. Stress resilience allows us to maintain a level of calm as we encounter the inevitable stressors of our job. Developing our ability to care for our bodies and listen to the signs that our bodies give us, support our whole health and minimize any unhealthy responses to stress. Becoming stress resilient and caring for our bodies often require assistance from others. Help seeking is a key skill for both of the areas in the strength section of the Wellness Compass.



Applications

Key Activity

Listening and Responding to Stress in Your Body (10-15 min)

Wellness Practice

Care for Body – Develop Your Plan (10-15 min)

Circle Agenda

Staff Circle Agenda, Section Ten

Core Content Visual 

Choose Nourishing vs. Depleting! – Use this Visual and Display in Staff Break Areas
Posting this visual in common staff areas will serve as a reminder of content covered to staff and perhaps serve as a future conversation started for deeper reflection among staff members. 

Supplementary Activities/Handouts

Writing and Sharing Staff Resilience Stories (30-60 min)
One of our pilot schools for this toolkit experimented with an activity that went so well, they want to share it with other schools. Staff were asked to write a short story about an obstacle they faced and overcame. The stories were submitted anonymously and shared with students by random staff in various classes. The next day the homeroom teachers led a community building circle to talk about what the students had heard and what it meant to them.

Why it is so hard for teachers to take care of themselves

Dr. Kelly McGonigal’s TED Talk on How to Make Stress Your Friend explores a perspective shift on stress.


Links

 

Additional Resources

This article discusses the stages of change applied to emotional resilience. The website offers many brief articles on topics included in this toolkit.

9. Wellness and Resilience Strategies: Spirit

Introduction

Spirit is one of the four sectors of the compass model for self-care. Each area contributes to and helps build our compassion resilience. Spirit encompasses connecting to our sense of purpose with intentionality, exposing ourselves to resilience in those we serve, and recreating ourselves through rest and play.



Applications

Key Activity

Sharing Stories of Resilience (5-10 min)
Institute the regular practice of sharing stories about current and past students’ resilience.

Wellness Practice

Developing Your Professional Mission Statement (15-30 min)

Circle Agenda

Staff Circle Agenda, Section Nine

Core Content Visual to Display in Common Staff Areas

Rest and Play Reflection – Use this Visual and Display in Staff Break Areas
Posting this visual in common staff areas will serve as a reminder of content covered to staff and perhaps serve as a future conversation started for deeper reflection among staff members. 

Supplementary Activities/Handouts 

Book study (30-60min)


8. Wellness and Resilience Strategies: Mind

Introduction

“Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration, and resentment.” – Dale Carnegie

“The calm and balanced mind is the strong and great mind; the hurried and agitated mind is the weak one.” – Wallace D. Wattles

The four sectors of the compass model -Mind, Spirit, Strength and Heart- not only contribute to our overall wellness, but also provide guidance on strategies to help build our compassion resilience. Before delving in further, you may want to take a self-assessment of your current wellness practices (attached). Hold onto this and notice if any that you marked as “this never occurred to me” change as you encounter the next four sections of the toolkit.

Mind is the first sector we will explore. Being resilient in this area is exemplified by being well-organized, engaging in meaningful work, and being fully present in the moment. As we learned in Section 1, mindful self-awareness is a contemplative practice of being intentionally aware in the present moment. We have practiced strategies to enhance our mindfulness in various sections of the toolkit. Mindful self-awareness is a key skill for the Mind Section area as well as those that follow: Spirit, Strength, and Heart.



Applications

Key Activity

Appreciative Inquiry Reflection on Competence (15 mins-45 mins)

Wellness Practice

Wellness Compass Practices Assessment

Circle Agenda

Staff Circle Agenda, Section Eight

Core Content Visual to Display in Common Staff Areas

Mindsets – Use this Visual and Display in Staff Break Areas
Posting this visual in common staff areas will serve as a reminder of content covered to staff and perhaps serve as a future conversation started for deeper reflection among staff members. 

Supplementary Activities/Handouts

Power of the Positive Word (15 minutes-30 minutes)

Practicing Mindfulness – The Body Scan and Pause (3-10 minutes)


Links

Links Specifically for Leadership

Name and Celebrate Staff Competence

Showing appreciation to your staff and fellow co-workers is a part of a healthy, productive, and encouraging work culture. Here are some options to encourage appreciation and focus on the specific competencies of staff or staff teams that combine to produce your school’s positive outcomes.

  1. Create a process where staff can nominate each other for staff appreciation
  2. Create and maintain an ongoing list of assets of your team or workplace — Something everyone can add to and see in the teachers’ common gathering space
  3. Develop a gratitude board, or employ other strategies to foster a workplace attitude of gratitude, such as the ideas provided here

Additional Resources

Link to resources, videos, and tools to learn more about and develop a growth mindset.

Short video on using mindfulness in teaching practice.

7. Staff Culture

Introduction

“The only thing we have is one another. The only competitive advantage we have is the culture and values of the company. Anyone can open up a coffee store. We have no technology, we have no patent. All we have is the relationship around the values of the company and what we bring to the customer every day. And we all have to own it.” — Howard Schultz, CEO, Starbucks



Applications

Key Activity

Create Positive Staff Culture Agreements (15-30 minutes in small group and 15-30 min in large group)

Example of Staff Culture Agreements

Wellness Practice

Strategy for Self-care – STRENGTH – Stress Resilience
In order to offer a non-anxious presence with our colleagues, students, and their families, we need to be able to recognize the times when we cannot! In other words, we need to be able to recognize when we need either a new perspective or a break. Often our bodies let us know. The first question we might ask ourselves is, what am I telling myself about this situation and what is another possible story? Here’s a fascinating TED Talk on making stress our friend (also referenced in Section 10).

And, sometimes we really just need a break! It is helpful to have a plan for what we can do and who can assist us in finding a way to take a break. Of course, all of this is successful only if we allow ourselves the vulnerability of needing a break and, if appropriate, asking for help.

Circle Agenda

Staff Circle Agenda, Section Seven

Core Content Visual to Display in Common Staff Areas

What Do You Want to Say About the Culture of Staff? – Use this Visual and Display in Staff Break Areas
Posting this visual in common staff areas will serve as a reminder of content covered to staff and perhaps serve as a future conversation started for deeper reflection among staff members. 

Supplementary Activities/Handouts

Support Begins With Empathy! (10-15 min)

 


Links

Links Specifically for Leadership

How to Avoid the Contagion Effect of Sharing Tough Stories between Colleagues
Read the information about low impact debriefing strategies and decide how to share with staff.

Additional Resources

Excellent blog with examples from schools working on improving staff culture.

6. Compassionate Boundary Setting to Build Compassion Resilience

Introduction

“Without boundaries, you will act, sleep, work, groan, feel used and fulfill basic responsibilities rather than make choices to live and love fully, to work hard and nobly, to fulfill your purpose and to contribute passionately to your world.” (Black, J. and Enns, G, Better Boundaries: Owning and Treasuring Your Life. Oakland, CA. Raincoat Books)



Applications

Key Activity

Helpful Adult Behaviors (20-40 min)
This activity is a highly valuable activity to do with school teams or schoolwide at a staff meeting. It will also prepare you for the Staff Culture section of the Toolkit.

Wellness Practice

Preparing to Write Your Mission Statement

Circle Agenda

Staff Circle Agenda, Section Six

Core Content Visual to Display in Common Staff Areas

Tips for Setting Compassionate Boundaries – Use this Visual and Display in Staff Break Areas
Posting this visual in common staff areas will serve as a reminder of content covered to staff and perhaps serve as a future conversation started for deeper reflection among staff members. 

Supplementary Activities/Handouts

Compassionate Boundaries Reflection (15 min)


Links

Links Specifically for Leadership

Leadership Support for Boundary Setting – Guided Discussion (15-30 min)
The leadership team will address key questions after participating in the Helpful Adult Behaviors activity with the whole staff or a small group of staff members.

Additional Resources

Self-Help Alliance, Building Better Boundaries, 2010

Brené Brown video on boundaries and empathy

5. Expectations from Self and Others

Introduction

Many of us give the very best of who we are every day, yet all too often struggle to feel like our best is good enough. Understanding and at times challenging our own expectations and perception of others’ expectations is key to identifying and transforming unrealistic expectations that compromise our ability to approach others with compassion and extend that compassion to ourselves. In this section, we identify the expectations we have for ourselves and for others and question whether these expectations are helpful for us or holding us back.



Applications

Key Activity

Clarifying Expectations (20-45 minutes)
The purpose of this activity is to examine whether our individual expectations are aligned with collective understanding. 

Wellness Practice

Developing Positive Affirmations

Circle Agenda

Staff Circle Agenda, Section Five

Core Content Visual 

Expectations Discussion Prompts – Use this Visual and Display in Staff Break Areas
Posting this visual in common staff areas will serve as a reminder of content covered to staff and perhaps serve as a future conversation started for deeper reflection among staff members. 

Supplementary Activities/Handouts

Setting Helpful Expectations (20-30 minutes)
Many times, our expectations do not align with our own wants, needs, and values, but rather, represent things that are socially expected of us or things we are conditioned to believe. This exercise helps us set intentional expectations that are rooted in our values. 

Supporting Appropriate Expectations when Sharing Student Data with Parents


Links

Links Specifically for Leadership

The recommended activities provide ways to make workplace expectations more transparent and encourage healthy expectations among staff.

  1. Provide staff with access to Caregivers’ Bills of Rights (1. Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project and 2. aPlaceforMom) which provides affirmations that help combat negative self-talk and expectations; bonus point for creating your own version with staff. Here are two examples from workplace and family perspectives:

    Example 1

    Example 2

  2. Read the following article entitled “How to communicate employee expectations effectively” and after doing so, answer the following questions:
    — What efforts can you undertake to encourage regular and ongoing conversations with staff regarding expectations?
    — How can you more clearly communicate expectations to staff?
    — How can you affirm what you, others, or your team are doing well to meet expectations?
    — How might you encourage mentoring relationships and collaborative relationships among staff at your school?

Additional Resources

To find out more about the negative consequences of “shoulding” on ourselves (and how to avoid doing so), check out this resource from the author of “The Positively Present Guide to Life.”

Handout with Tips for Clarifying an Expectation Concern
Assists staff in clarifying the what, why and how of an expectation across different levels of positional power.

4. System Drivers of Compassion Fatigue

Introduction

As we have discovered in the previous sections of this toolkit, the goal of compassion resilience can be reached with the application of personal skills and perspectives combined with organizational policies and practices. In this section we will focus on the systemic factors that can negatively impact our compassion resilience and explore our response and potential role in making positive change.

We all work in imperfect systems. When we look outside of our own system to those that we rely on to provide for the health and well-being of our students and their families, we find more imperfection. The first step in lessening the negative impact of the systems in which we live and work is naming what it is about the systems that contributes to our compassion fatigue. The second step is to discover which items on that list we can change, which ones leadership can and will address, and which ones we would best be served by letting go.



Applications

Key Activity

What Can I Control? Activity Write-Up

Toolkit Facilitators and Leadership Team, Please Review Prior to Implementing What Can I Control? Activity
The following is a review of system factors that lead to compassion fatigue and those that are protective. Keep these factors in mind as you facilitate the combined staff and leadership activity, What Can I Control?, and if you are on the leadership team, use this information to prepare and respond to the activity.

What Can I Control (Demo Video)
Watch Sue McKenzie Dicks walk through the What Can I Control? activity with a group of staff. This video only includes Sue leading the Drivers of Fatigue portion of the activity. If you lead this activity, we encourage you to also include the Drivers of Resilience portion of the activity outlined in the circle agenda and activity directions below.

Wellness Practice

SPIRIT: Humor and Core Values
Reflect on what are you doing when you feel most alive – most like yourself?

The majority of people when asked this question do not immediately go to a situation at work, but rather a place outside of work where they feel most alive. If that’s the case for you, when is a time at work when you feel most alive?

When you go home from your workday, do you have a tendency to share what happened in your day that left you feeling most alive or what was most draining? Our bodies experience the stress we relive in our conversation to some degree as if we were experiencing it again. Sharing the hard parts of our day may be needed to be understood and validated. We can become aware of when it moves from helpful to hurtful. We have a choice about how much time and on what we focus when talking about our work. One practice to play with is to include what made you feel most alive in your day as you talk with friends and family

Circle Agenda

Staff Circle Agenda, Section Four

Core Content Visual 

System Drivers – Use this Visual and Display in Staff Break Areas
Posting this visual in common staff areas will serve as a reminder of content covered to staff and perhaps serve as a future conversation started for deeper reflection among staff members. 

 

3. Compassion Fatigue: Connection to Trauma, Stages and Assessments

Introduction

In this section of the toolkit we will delve more deeply into the concept of compassion fatigue; how it connects to our understanding of trauma, the stages that one might experience if compassion fatigue is not addressed, and how to assess our levels of secondary trauma, burnout and compassion satisfaction. As we grow in our understanding of the extent and impact of trauma on the students we teach, their families and our communities, our ability to maintain an open and compassionate approach can be challenged. Compassion fatigue can develop slowly overtime and go unrecognized. This section gives us insights that can guide us to take proactive measures to prevent its progression.



Applications

Key Activity

Stages of Compassion Fatigue – Cats Cycle 

Wellness Practice

“Just Like Me” Exercise

Circle Agenda

Staff Circle Agenda, Section Three

Core Content Visual

Stages of Compassion Fatigue – Cats Cycle – Use this Visual and Display in Staff Break Areas
Posting this visual in common staff areas will serve as a reminder of content covered to staff and perhaps serve as a future conversation started for deeper reflection among staff members.

Supplementary Activities/Handouts

ProQOL Self-Assessment Tool

The ProQOL is a 30 question, self-administered, self-scored, free assessment. This is included in the document to distribute for this section. Facilitators should make time for participants to complete the assessment during their time together or ask them to complete ahead of time.

It can be used on a regular basis as a self-check-in, offered in conjunction with supervisory or mentoring consultations, or as a basis for small group discussion. Please note that it is available on the ProQOL site in many languages. We do not recommend ProQOL’s are collected after being completed by participants, but rather used as a reflection tool.

Facilitators should be prepared to offer resources to staff whose ProQOL outcomes point to significant levels of burnout or secondary traumatic stress. Each district has employee support protocols and resources. Be sure you know those and remind staff that they exists and how to access them.

 


Links

Links Specifically for Leadership

Organizational Assessment Tool

Research links organizational culture to staff experience of compassion fatigue1. One strong predictor of compassion fatigue is lack of clarity about the vision and mission of the organization. Leadership’s ability to align staff toward an overarching goal is an important key to staff job and compassion satisfaction.

Creating a trauma-informed culture of support for staff enhances their ability to provide such a culture for the students and families they serve. The STSI-OA is an assessment of the organization’s culture related to preventing and minimizing secondary trauma. The score is calculated online for your organization. Discuss results with your leadership team and consider one action to improve your school’s support for staff related to secondary trauma. http://www.stsinformed.com

1. Condrey, Katherine M. The Relationship between Compassion Fatigue and Organizational Culture. Diss. George Fox University, 2015.

Additional Resources

DPI’s Trauma Sensitive Schools Modules

Ross Greene’s Website

Cats Stages of Compassion Fatigue Video

Secondary Traumatic Stress Informed Organizational Assessment

Cultivating Compassion – Commonalities Practice