Anthony Semann from Australia was booked to be the keynote speaker at the Early Childhood Ireland conference last April. I had heard great things about Anthony’s insights and was looking forward to both his keynote and masterclass. Then of course Coronavirus hit and the Conference, along with so much else, fell victim to the Covid lockdown.
So, I was delighted to hear that DCYA asked Early Childhood Ireland to arrange a webinar with Anthony Semann on the theme Because You Matter: Caring for self in order to care for others. The webinar took place on July 23. It was quite a treat!
There are so many things to think about from the content of the webinar as more Early Learning and Care settings reopen. In this Scéalta I’m going to share a few of the main ‘take-aways’ for me.
Avoid too much exposure to the news: I found myself nodding in agreement as Anthony said this. We have so many sources of news these days and it can be difficult to sort out what is reality from what is fake. Social media is great but can be a quagmire of sensationalism. During the past few months in particular, one could get very scared reading reports on social media about the spread of Covid 19. For example, a few weeks ago, I read on Twitter about Donegal being packed full of tourists on buses. As it happened, I had been in Donegal for a few days…and didn’t see a single tour bus! Being well informed is, of course, important, so confine your sources of information to well trusted news websites or programmes and tune out the rest. I have heard of people who purposely watch only one news bulletin in the day on television and then avoid tuning in to any more. This helps us avoid becoming anxious or stressed about the veracity of what we read or see.
We are never in competition with the children: Sometimes people feel the concept of self- care, of fixing your oxygen mask before that of children, can sound selfish and putting our needs ahead of those of the children. Anthony was so reassuring on this point. He said that putting the needs of staff on the agenda will not mean their needs override those of the children. Listen to the anxieties of staff, support them to sort out what is real from what is fake and ‘contain’ them emotionally. He spoke about the fact that our feelings are real, but it doesn’t mean it’s a reality. I found this very helpful. He gave an example of a person’s fear of flying being real. A fear of a plane falling out of the sky is not real. The feeling is real and needs to be understood, but the thought that a plane will fall out of the sky because I am on it, is not real. Our care of the children will be the better for us feeling heard. And remember you, as a manager or leader, need to find of source of reassurance for yourself too.
Negative baggage can make us miserable and destroy our performance: Anthony went on to quote Amanda Gore saying that ‘holding resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.’ I find myself coming back to this again and again. We can easily turn bitter at things other people have said or done to us. They may not even know sometimes that they have upset us so much. They may not have meant to upset us. They are off living their lives, while we hold on to the hurt, the slight, the bitterness. And we are only hurting ourselves more in the process. Anthony said, ‘We have to learn to let go…and learn how to let come’. This can be easier said than done, but maybe reflecting on the fact that it is hurting us more than the person who we are upset with might help us to let go.
Finally, in response to a question about supporting staff to develop these skills he said that we have never walked the path that someone else is walking. We cannot know what it is like for someone else. He spoke about the key being to demonstrate these skills and said that people will never change if they feel they are being taught a lesson. To help people to grow we need to be their ally and a gentle mentor.
For all of us, in whatever capacity we work we have the potential to be gentle mentors…be it with colleagues, parents, and children. What a lovely aspiration to aim for.
Many thanks Anthony, and we sincerely hope that Anthony will get to make the journey to Ireland in the future. I for one will be in the front row!
You can view the webinar recording here.