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Listener Episode 2: Overcoming Teacher Guilt

Description: In this new listener episode, Dr. Boogren provides advice on responding to teacher guilt.

Listen Now:


1. Explore the Unlocking Us episode Dr. Boogren references here:

2. The following are some great sources for PDF versions of a ta-da list you can use electronically or print to complete by hand:


The Self-Care for Educators team cares about the content-accessibility for all educators. If you have trouble accessing the audio for the podcast, the transcription has been provided below.

Transcription: Hi, and welcome to episode 36 of Self-Care for Educators. I am your host, Tina Boogren, and today I want to tackle a really thoughtful question that I received, via Twitter actually, from Chris Anderson. So, Chris reached out to me, and he said this, "I recently reached out to staff to see what they were struggling with. One of the responses by multiple people was teacher guilt. How would you respond? Or what advice would you give to support them?"

I took a deep breath and wrote back and I said, "Oh my goodness," you guys, "This is such a good question. I want to know how they define guilt ... guilt over what?"

To which Chris responded, "I think it's guilt over feeling like they are not doing enough to reach all kids. That they are not living up to their own standards for their teaching. That somehow even off after all they've learned and done during the pandemic, that it's not enough." And you guys, I just, I want to ... I want to just hug you if you relate to that deeply. And, my guess is most of you do. I just, I want to give you such a big hug, and I want us to sort through this. Guilt is such a ... It's a really hard emotion. Guilt is the, the idea that we've done something wrong, and what I want us to do first and foremost, is stop thinking that.

You guys, there's nothing to feel guilty over. Oh my goodness. We're living through a pandemic. This is a giant FFT. FFT means "F-in' First Time". It's from Berné Brown. She talks about FFTs in her podcast, Unlocking Us on episode one and, in fact, revisited the topic just a few weeks ago. And, it's so powerful, and it just is so important for us to remember right here. So, the idea of an FFT is a "Frustrating First Time". It is that the first time we do something, we're not usually good at it. And as adults, we can't stand that most of us have kind of curated our lives to get to a place where we don't have to do things we're not good at anymore. And, we didn't have a choice this year.

We got the rug pulled out from underneath us, and we had to do all sorts of new things. Some of which went okay. Some of which probably went better than expected and some of which ... not so great. And, that's just life, but when it comes to working with kids and facing first situations that we don't have control over ... And, we've lost predictability around that. It's just, it's beyond frustrating. It is. It's a horrible feeling. And, I think that's a lot of what ... this question is coming from. And so, I'm going to offer up the three pieces of advice that Dr. Brown talks about in her podcast that I think are really helpful. And then, I'm going to add just a few of my own thoughts.

So first, she says normalize it. So when you recognize, pause and recognize that you are in an FFT. Right? To stop and be like, "Oh wait, no one prepared me for this year. We didn't know this was coming. I didn't really know what I was doing. This is all brand new to me. I've never used technology in this way. I've never had to teach in this way." Like to say, "Okay, that makes perfect sense that maybe it didn't go perfectly as planned."

Number two, ... the notion that this isn't going to last forever. I think that that's huge. Right? To put it back in perspective ... It feels like forever right now, because we're in the world's longest school ... It doesn't feel like just ... This is like month 37 of the year 2020. But, the truth of the matter is we are going to get to the other side of this. It will not always be this way.

And, the third thing she says is to reality-check our expectations. We're not going to have the same quality of instruction this year as we did a year or two ago. And, that's really hard for a lot of us, but when we allow ourselves grace, and we recognize that, that can be really, really helpful.

So again, you know, recognize when you're in it. Put things back in perspective. Reality-check your expectations. And then, what I'm going to want you to do is: I want you to create a ta-da list. A ta-da list is exactly what it sounds like. It is a celebration list. What are tricky brains do, especially when we're tired, and my guess is you're really tired right now, is our brain likes to point out lots of negatives. Right? This isn't going well, and, I goofed this up, and I thought I'd be doing this, and I'm not doing that, and this person's doing this right ... All of those pieces. So, to fight against our brain, I want you to literally sit down, and I want you to write a ta-da list.

Ta-da list is all the stuff that I kicked ass on during this year. Right? I figured out how to do Zoom. I reached out, and I made contact with every single one of my students. I was able to do things that I didn't even know what the definition was a year ago. My family ... I am taking care of my family. On and on and on ... Personal, professional, relational, all of it. I want you to create a ta-da list. What I'd really love is if you work with staff to create a collective ta-da lists. Maybe you each create your own, and then you share. Maybe you make a whole list as a staff. Maybe you, like, make a list with your students. Right? So, that's my ... I really want you to sit down and create a ta-da list. I'd love it if you would share that ta-da list, even over on the Facebook page. That would be amazing. Let's celebrate. Let's celebrate.

And again, ... in terms of, I guess this kind of loops back to putting things back in perspective, the reminder is: we're living in a pandemic. And, I know we're worried about achievement gaps and slides and losing content, but at the end of the day, for me, the most important thing is really you guys were modeling to students right now, how you live through a crisis, how you handle the totally unexpected, how you dust yourself off and pick yourself back up again. And again and again, when things are hard, that's what students are learning. They're getting certain lessons from home about that. And, they are most definitely looking at you and the adults in the school, and they're getting a message there as well. So, part of the reminder is when we get really worked up, I think a lot of the guilt can be around getting worked up because maybe we're not as far as we thought we'd be, or students are picking up certain concepts in certain ways. And again, I'm going to loop you back again to the ta-da list to recognize ... Let's dig a little bit deeper and let's think about how students are feeling. Let's think about the legacy that you're leaving. Let's think about all of the lessons that they are learning, that you were so beautifully modeling to them.

And, even if right now you have that feeling of like, "Oh, I'm not sure I'm modeling beautiful lessons." Here's ... a reminder we can start right now. We can start right now that. Kids are resilient. ... That we can show up in different ways. Maybe you want to do a little survey of your students to ask them what have they learned? What is their ta-da list? I think that's going to help you feel a lot better. What are they hopeful for ... the rest of the remainder of the school year? What can you help with? You know, we do a lot of surveys at the start of the school year. It's a good time to kind of bring that back again and check in. ... What are those questions that would really help you maybe stand on solid ground? Again, put things back in perspective. Recognize all the celebrations. Give yourself some grace. Allow you to kind of take that deep breath again and truly let that guilt go. Let the guilt go.

I can't wait until, I don't know, a year or two years from now when I get to jump on this podcast and say, "You guys, do you remember that school year? Oh my gosh. Think of what we accomplished." I mean, I think it's going to blow our minds of actuality of what we pulled off this year. And by we, I mean, you. It's all you. You guys, like the work that you're doing is incredible. It's just hard to see right now when we're in the middle of it. So, I want you to really, really take a deep breath. I want you to be so thoughtful about that voice inside your head. And, I want to, I want you to make sure that you are talking to yourself as you would talk to someone that you love. I want you to remind yourself that you are enough. You are worthy, you are kicking ass this year, and that I am so stinking proud of you. You're amazing. You are absolutely amazing.

A huge thank you to Brooke for making this happen. Marzano Resources and Solution Tree for this job I get to do. And you guys. This episode is coming with a big, huge, very safe, but really, really long bear hug. You are amazing. And, I am so very grateful for you, my bad-ass Self-Care Squad.

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