Creating a Space for Self-compassion: Rose Bard

About three years ago, my concept of teacher development completely changed. This is when I became a member of the online community, International Teacher Development Institute (sign up here to become a member of iTDi). Here I met teachers from all around the globe with an immense passion to learn and to grow by sharing their ideas, fears, and hearts. One of these teachers is Rose Bard.

Rose’s generosity of heart comes through the words she writes for her blog ELT Diary. Among many thoughtful topics, she writes about global citizenship for language learners, and about creating a supportive dialogue of learning between her and her students. This dialogue also extends to her teaching community, and Rose’s desire to add her story to the Teachers Talking About Self-Compassion series is another examples of this big-heartedness.

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? 

A lot of people when they read my name assume I’m a foreigner, but I’m actually Brazilian. I lived in England for 5 years though and when I came back to Brazil, I was offered a job in a language school. After taking the proficiency test and going through an in-service training, I was hired full time. That was in 1998 and I’ve been teaching English ever since.

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

Being kind to myself is recognizing everyday that a human relationship is a complex one, and yet the most marvelous. Every interaction might be filled with assumptions about ourselves and others and I learned through the years that we need to be patient, but above all, love with all our heart, soul and mind. I’m a follower of Jesus and I take his words very seriously. Reading his words and the words of inspiring people helps me care for myself and exercise self-compassion. I know I can count on others to help in the way and that keeps me going.

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

Another struggle of human dimension is the fear of failure, and mistakes are often magnified by this fear. It’s common for someone learning a foreign language to feel odd trying to make new sounds, figuring out things they never heard or seen before. It’s hard to find a learner who doesn’t have this awful frustrating feeling of not knowing. Especially when we become more self-aware of things around us and about us, not knowing something leaves us with this uneasy feeling. Being aware of this as a language learner myself, I bring to class this topic and reflect with learners. Group work I feel my job nowadays is to support them more than anything by creating an environment where we focus on doing what is good for learning. Therefore, I want this space not to feel threatening so they can exercise self-compassion for themselves (click to tweet) and compassion to others. By creating this space, I’m also exercising self-compassion for myself because most of the struggles we have as teachers is related to the relationships we build inside the classroom while dealing with learners expectations and beliefs about themselves and others.

Making errors is an important part of the learning journey and we make many while trying out something until we can learn to do it well. Making sure that learners understand that is paramount for a fruitful life as lifelong learners. My goal becomes to inspire them while they learn from me, with me and others. And by being kind to their peers, they also learn to practice self-compassion and I see this as key for personal development as a language learner.

Kristin Neff’s definition of self-compassion is a perfect one for me.

Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings.

Seeking that for our own lives eventually becomes part of our own practice as a teacher. Knowing that others need it as much as we do, makes the whole world to be seen differently.