Support for Catholic teachers in the current crisis is more important than ever. What can teachers do to maintain their own mental health and wellbeing while juggling family, online learning expectations and more? In this episode I explore a simple idea called, ‘shrinking your world’ that can make a big difference to the daily experience of any teacher.
Catholic Teacher Wellbeing In a Crisis.
Today’s message is a chance to reflect upon the stresses of daily life and how using simple cognitive approaches we can make major shifts in how we experience life.
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Catholic Teacher Wellbeing In a Crisis.
Well, hey everybody. Jonathan Doyle with you once again for the Catholic Teacher daily podcast. Welcome, welcome, welcome. Regular listeners, new listeners, welcome aboard, and of course as always make sure if you like what you’re hearing today hit the “subscribe” button. Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, hit “subscribe.” The other big thing of course is go to onecatholicteacher.com, and there’s tons of boxes there you can pop an email address in and make sure we get stuff to you every single day. Onecatholicteacher.com is the new website. We’re still building it out, so if you get there the podcast tab’s got stuff, the books tab’s got stuff. We’re still adding stuff as we go, so don’t freak out if you go, “Where’s this, where’s that?” Just have a quick look around, check out the podcast page. Every podcast we’ve got is there.Other bits and pieces, why did I call it onecatholicteacher.com? Because after all these years I’m convinced that one Catholic teacher can make a massive different in the life of any young person, their families, their community, the wider world. It only takes one Catholic teacher, so come and check it out, onecatholicteacher.com.
Did you hear yesterday’s interview? We had some sound issues because of the coronavirus affecting bandwidth coming out of the US. But a fantastic interview with Steve Virgadamo from New York. Please go and check that out. He talks about leadership, school culture. There’s so many great things in that podcast. That’s yesterday’s episode, April 6. Now, today it’s on my heart firstly just to check in with you all. I hope you’re all going okay with this coronavirus lockdown. My thoughts and prayers really with people in America at the moment, in New York particularly. It is probably our favorite city in the world. Karen and I get there usually once a year, and it’s just, we love that city. We really do.
When we first got there I remember we got out at Penn Station and we didn’t have a phone. Our phones weren’t working at that time. We’d just got into the States, and we were trying to find this driver who was going to pick us up. We’re thinking, “How are we going to make a phone call? How are we going to do this?” We just asked this nice couple that walked past, and they were just lovely. They gave us their phone. We could have run off with it, it could have been terrible, but the generosity and the warmth of New Yorkers was fantastic. So, our thoughts and prayers really with you at the moment, particularly this week as you go through it looks like the hardest part of this coronavirus curve.
All right, what have I got for Catholic teachers today? I want to share with you something useful. I have been getting heaps of exercise with the corona crisis, so if you follow me on Instagram, JonathanDoyle47, JonathanDoyle47 on Instagram, you’ll see the photos from this morning. I just got up early for morning prayer, prayed my rosary, and then up on the trial run in the back of the house and the sun came up and the photos are amazing. You can see them on Twitter too, I put them on Twitter this morning. That’d be in Catholic One. That was the best, it was just beautiful.
I was listening to a great podcast, and I was listening to an interview with a guy called Andy Stumpf . Andy is a former US Navy Seal, and he was talking about an aspect of their training where what you call shrinking their world. It’s a really interesting idea. He said that the intensity of their training and their selection process is so overwhelming that so many people drop out, and he said really the reason many of them drop out is that they focus on the whole thing. It’s a long program, and they’ll be suffering, and freezing cold or hungry or tired, and their brains are all focusing on, “How am I going to get through six weeks?” He said the guys that succeed are the ones that shrink their world, by which he means they just get through the next hour. They just focus on getting through today.
I really like this idea of shrinking your world especially when it comes to Catholic teacher wellbeing in a crisis. Why? Because I think at the moment the anxiety that comes for many of us comes from worrying about a vast number of things: our families, our employment, our economy, our society, our leadership. We’ve got to get good at shrinking our world. So, if you’re a Catholic teacher in lockdown you’re doing it tough right now. Why? Because you’ve probably got your own kids at home as well. Karen and I, I’m always talking to people about this, I’m saying our vocations are how God uses life to make us holy. So, if you’re anything like Karen and I we’re very busy, active people, and our business is quite complex globally. Here we are trying to do all this stuff while simultaneously trying to teach our kids and manage our kids, and our kids are very close in age and still very young. The stress that can creep up, I mean Karen of course, not for me. But you get the point.
Impatience and Frustration
I find for me the big one is impatience. I struggle with impatience and frustration, because I’m always trying to do something. I’ll be working trying to get something done, and then … Yesterday my 13-year-old daughter, she needs help with stuff, and it’s this constant interruption, and I just start to get so frustrated. I realize that I have to live what I teach, which is that the frustration, the interruption, is simultaneously a gift. It’s a gift to growing patience and trust, and allowing God to just sanctify me in that moment, to choose patience and presence over the immediacy of what I’m trying to do. I just want to say all of you, as you go about this work of teaching and evangelizing through any online work that you’re doing with your own classes, that you’ve got to shrink your world. You’ve got to shrink your world down to the people in the room, the people in your house. Don’t worry too much. Don’t worry too much, shrink your world.
I want to give that an interesting spiritual, scriptural basis. I pray the church’s morning prayer every day, the Divine Office, and have for many years. You pray the Our Father as part of that, and then of course praying it with the rosary. That line, “Give us this day our daily bread, give us this day,” you notice that it doesn’t say, “Give us tomorrow, tomorrow’s bread.” It doesn’t say, “Give us next Tuesday, next Tuesday’s bread.” It says, “Give us today our daily bread.” Jesus understood in teaching, of all the prayers he could have taught us, all the things he could have taught us to pray about, he wanted us to pray for, to request the grace necessary for today.
So as a Catholic teacher, as you go about your work there is grace sufficient for today. There’s grace to plan the next online class, there’s grace to sit through the next Zoom meeting, there’s grace to manage your own kids and stress in the process. Just as Eric Stumpf the Navy Seal talks about shrinking our world to what’s right in front of us, I think there’s a correlation here with this daily bread concept. So don’t worry about next Tuesday, don’t worry about what’s going to happen in three months. When are the students going to back? When are things going to get back to normal? Who knows? He’s given you grace for today. He’s given you grace for today. That’s the gift. So my friends, shrink your world to the things that truly matter today and trust God for the grace to get through them.
Staying Focused on Evangelization in Catholic Schools
God bless you for what you’re doing in your online learning space. I know many of you are pivoting really fast to do this. It’s very new for you, it’s exhausting. Thank you for what you’re doing. Can I encourage you to pray with your students online? Do not lose the evangelistic lens, because we are not functionaries, we are not service deliverers. We are not just another profession. We are forming young people to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Yes, that includes academic excellence and it always will, and yes, it includes pastoral guidance and athletics and sport and music and art and drama, but don’t waste this opportunity. If you’re on an online call with your students, if you’re emailing them, pray with them. Send them little encouraging scriptural quotes, send them little videos that could be a blessing to them. Don’t allow this time to be lost in terms of supporting young people’s faith.
It’s Holy Week as I record this. What could you send your students today? Or their families; think of the chance that you could send stuff to parents and say, “Hey, pray this with your kids.” God bless you for doing that. It’s a very precious thing.
All right, that’s it for me. Come and check out onecatholicteacher.com, and what else? Oh, my new book. Yes, my new book. My new book, I’m so proud of it, and you’re an educator if you’re listening to this, so do me a favor. Go to jonathandoyle.co, dot C-O, dot co. Jonathandoyle.co, go to the books tab. My new book Finishing Strong has just come out, and I’m so proud of it. It’s a book for students and teachers. Teachers read it and you’re just going to see how this is going to bless students. If you’re a parent yourself and you have children, read this book. It’s distilling 20 years of my live seminars to hundreds of thousands of young people, and I put it all in a single book with some great stories and practical stuff and reflection exercises. Go to jonathandoyle.co forward slash … Oh, sorry. Just go to the books tab. Make it simple, go to the books tab on jonathandoyle.co, you’ll see Finishing Strong. Grab that.
All right, last thing. Please share this with someone. There are so many Catholic teachers in your network. Would you share this podcast with them? Why? Because this afternoon at 4:00 I’m interviewing from London a fantastic specialist in teacher well-being. Then tomorrow at 4:00 I’m interviewing one of my favorite Catholic educators from London. I’m going to keep interviewing great people and bringing great content to Catholic teachers, and I want more and more people to be hearing this.
I’m going pray with you quickly, and then I’m going to finish. Father God, thank you for every teacher listening right now. I pray for them in the storm, in the storm of coronavirus right now, the storm. Remind them Lord of that beautiful scripture where the disciples thought that Jesus, you were sleeping in the boat. You were always aware, you were always present. You were never going to let them sink. So Father, I just pray for every single Catholic teacher. Sustain them in this difficult season. Bless their families, their children, their work. Bless their mental health. I just pray Lord for freedom from depression and anxiety for these teachers. Help them to, Holy Spirit, inspire them with ideas for well-being. Get them out walking and get them doing things, Holy Spirit, that are going to keep their spirits up as they serve so many young people. I entrust every single one of them to the blessed heart of Jesus and to the Blessed Mother. I just trust you all into Mary’s proud care and intercession at the moment.
All right, friends. God bless. Make sure you’ve subscribed, sign up on onecatholicteacher.com. Share this with people, and I’m going to have another message for you tomorrow.