Let’s go through a little scenario. You have a student in your classroom who is going through a hard time. There are lots of behaviors. Big behaviors. Frequent big behaviors. Behaviors that are dangerous to your student and others. You are trying all the things. Intervention after intervention result in only temporary success –  if any. You leave each school day exhausted, frustrated, and burnt out. These problem behaviors aren’t decreasing. And surprisingly one of the hardest things to deal with in this situation is the guilt. 

The Guilt 

Please tell me I’m not alone in this. We want the best for our students. We want them to do well. We want them to learn. And when we feel like we aren’t accomplishing that, it can be easy to feel guilty. I have so been there. And I have had an incredibly difficult time getting over feeling guilty. I felt guilty that I couldn’t figure out an intervention that worked well for a student. I felt guilty that my other students barely saw me (sometimes for weeks) because I was basically a one on one with a student going through a tough phase. I felt guilt we weren’t hitting IEP goals. I felt guilty my staff got hurt. The guilt was heavy and I carried it everywhere.  

No amount of guilt can change the past and no amount of worrying can change the future.

It took a long time for me to slowly but surely put that guilt aside. I maybe never got rid of it completely but I was able to lessen the pressure of that guilt so it wasn’t weighing me down. Feeling guilt will not change what has happened. The bad day, the meltdown, the incident in hallway – happened – me feeling guilty about it wasn’t going to change it. I felt like guilt was my only option. I either felt responsible and mad at myself or I didn’t care. There is a whole lot in between those two options. You can care and take action and make a plan without feeling like this was completely your fault. Bad days will happen. A crisis will occur. The perfect storm of triggers will line up and wreak havoc within your classroom. Your success will lie in how you bounce back. How you learn from the situation is what is important. 

Write it down. 

Like many of you, I am a list maker. I love a to-do lists. It makes feel calm – like I won’t forget anything. I realized that this strategy may be helpful after a bad day. Instead of going home and worrying and feeling guilty – I’d reflect and make a plan. It had the same effect that making a list would have. I felt calmer – like I wouldn’t forget anything. Actively writing down what things I had no control over helped me immediately feel less guilty. Download my handout with my favorite post-incident reflection questions. Keep a few copies in your desk. Next bad day, take 5 minutes to jot down a few notes. 

Sasha Long

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