Staying Connected – Fabiana Casella Talks About Self-Compassion

Have you ever wondered how some teachers seem to do it all? Not only do they care for their students, but they also put their heart and soul into their relationships with friends and families.  Fabiana Casella is this type of teacher. Seeing the work she does with her online teaching communities (visit her blog, The Goal-Minded, Globally Connected Educator, to see what I mean), I wondered how a teacher who gives so much also manages to give to herself. I am grateful that Fabiana generously offered to share her story and strategies on the Teachers Talking About Self-compassion series for all of us to learn from.

Fabiana’s Red Thumb for Love

I am from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I´ve been teaching English as a foreign language for more than twenty years plus the six years I taught English as a second language and Spanish in the United States. I personally think there are no coincidences in life. I believe there is something superior to us that leads us to where we best fit, so I would like to share some aspects of how I moved between Argentina and the United States, and how this relates to my story of self-compassion.

In 2001 there was a big economical change in Argentina but my family and I, especially my husband,  had started to feel the transition a couple of years before that specific date. There are certain moments in your life when you have to make decisions and think what is best for you, so that was why I applied to teach at a high school in the United States and got accepted. My husband, my only son back then (Martín, 4), and I moved to North Carolina, USA. We lived there only for three years as I was an exchange teacher. Then, after the permit to work expired, we moved back to our country. But soon after that, I was offered the job again, and we moved back to the American South again! Hurray! We had had in mind to stay longer than the three years permitted by the exchange program to take advantage of the kind of life and benefit for our son, who was already bilingual and doing so well at school. I was so grateful to be able to offer him this life.

I have to admit that that was a turning point in our lives, especially in my own life as a person and as an educator. I have never realized that what I was experiencing was emotionally related to “self-compassion”. I had obviously felt it but never thought so deeply about the fact that being compassionate about others as well as myself would bring me so much self-reflection and inner peace. As an educator who had been trained in one country, and then to teach in another culture, I had to adapt my thinking, my way of teaching and… should I say almost everything as a world citizen and international educator to succeed? I am not so sure if success is the right word to describe my experience, but maybe victorious is more suitable. I made good friends and had wonderful students who taught me that although life is not the same around the world, living and dying happens everywhere. In this way my mind and my eyes were more ready to think and see beyond that very boundary that I had been immersed in before. Reflecting after my classes and talking to my fellow teachers, as well as administrators, was absolutely enriching to my heart.

Have I learned enough? Definitely not!  Have I changed my way of thinking and seeing things? Absolutely, yes!

Since then, I have been trying to make connections and keep in touch with the international community of the best educators and thanks to the Internet, I was able to do so. That was a blessing. That was what helped me overcome the isolation I felt when I came back to my life in my home country. Believe it or not, staying connected helped me to re-build myself and find another way of seeing my life as a teacher: I try to blog, interact and keep on learning on a daily basis. Moving out of the country had its purpose in my life and now I understand, thanks to the faith that guides me day and night, I am back for a different reason. I would have never started blogging and sharing if I had remained in the same place all my life.

By giving I feel I get more and more everyday. As I always say and fully believe (as a music lover the lyrics of this song always inspire me):

… in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

The Importance of a Smile – Marisa Pavan Talks about Self-compassion

I felt joyously compelled to ask Marisa Pavan to write for the Teachers Talking About Self-Compassion series. Her ability to connect and make you feel welcome in the sometimes unfriendly online world is something everyone should experience. Marisa is a strong supporter of the Self-Compassion for Teachers Facebook page, and I wanted #RedThumbForLove readers to experience this support as well. When you learn about her and about how online savvy she is with her teaching/learning community (scroll down to read more), you’ll understand why I’m grateful she agreed to share her experience with us.

Marisa

In what country or countries do you currently teach or in what countries have you taught?  What subject or skills do you teach or have you taught? 
First of all, I’d like to thank Josette for having invited me to share my post in her blog. She’s always a source of inspiration for me and I enjoy reading her posts.

I’m a teacher of English as a Second Language, a translator and an interpreter. I have always taught English as a second language in Argentina. I have taught speaking, listening, writing and reading skills to students at different levels for 25 years now.

At present, I teach several groups of teenagers at intermediate and upper intermediate levels and I’ve noticed that even when they are almost the same age, their attitude towards their learning process varies. These classes are a source of inspiration to me not only when I plan their lessons but also during the teaching-learning process. I do my best to be flexible enough so as to adapt what I have planned for them to their attitude, likes and dislikes.

What strategies do you use to practice self-compassion/self-care? 

To practise self-compassion and take care of myself, I do yoga and meditation. I attend a yoga class once a week and I do yoga every day at home as soon as I get up before having breakfast. I feel my day starts in a different way. I’ve read a definition of yoga that I’ve found meaningful: “Yoga is a way of reinventing oneself; it is a way of finding out who you are; it is a way of being self-compassionate so as to be able to feel compassion towards others.”

I’ve practised guided meditation many times and if I need to balance my chakras, I take a Tibetan bowl session with a therapist.

In addition, I’ve read books on Mindfulness and I read blogs on spiritual topics. Some of the latest books I’ve read and recommend are:

Why is self-compassion/self-care important to you in terms of the work you do as a teacher?

As far as I’m concerned, I’m convinced that if one is kind to oneself, then one is able to be kind with others, in my case with my students and colleagues.

I live in a challenging society in my country, in which in general values and respect towards oneself and the others are being lost and I do my best to live according to my values. The most common social issues that affect personal development in my country are high levels of urban crime generally perpetrated due to the urge to obtain drugs, poor housing and other social concerns such as poverty are widespread. Added to this, members of the national government are accused of being corrupt and supporting illegal deals.

Given this situation, I feel blessed to be in contact with people with whom I share views on life.

Once I read “the one who never smiles is the person who needs a smile the most.” I’ve always felt respected by my students as a human being and I think that it is because I respect them, even when they sometimes don’t study enough or don’t do their homework. And it is through kindness and smiling that I try to create a rapport with my students in a relaxing atmosphere and they always seem to feel comfortable in my classes. It’s not that they do what they want to but I negotiate with them, offering a rationale for what they need to do in order to improve their skills.

Many psychologists believe that the crisis teenagers are facing at present are mainly connected to the lack of adult models most of us had in our teenage years. So in our capacity as teachers we should show them the importance of responsibility, respect to oneself and others and kindness.

More about Marisa

Marisa Pavan

For quite a while, I’ve started using modern technology in an attempt to help my students become independent learners. I share a Google+ community with each different group, where I upload material for students to practise, videos, songs and I also invite my students to participate, join challenges and share their views.

As sources of communication, I’m on Facebook, Twitter @Mtranslator, Linkedin, Google (chat, hangout) and I’ve got a blog: Linguistic consultancy.

I use social networks to interact with educators from all over the world and I’m honoured to be a mentor in iTDi
——
Be sure to catch her at any of these forums. I first met her through iTDi, and I am very grateful for this encounter. Thank you Marisa!