Teacher as Container

I’m groggy because I was woken early and then made the mistake of going back to sleep for the hour or so before my alarm rang at 5:45. My sleeps lately are fitful, at best. Oh the joys of end of year!

We began our first ministry exams this week. This week my role has shifted somewhat, from teacher to invigilator. I’m no longer working with content and structure but with time and stress management. For some of my students, these exams are their last for others they aren’t so sure. The stress is palpable.

A few years ago, when I was working on my Masters project in Human Systems Intervention – a project where I consulted with a small school to help them rediscover their focus – I read an article called Consultant as Container: Assisting Organizational Rebirth in Mandela’s South Africa. This article comes to mind often as I work with high school students, especially given the kind of work that I do. The premise is that when the consultant is able to work with clients in a way that they absorb their feelings of anxiety, despair (*insert emotion here*), they (clients and consultant) are able to address those emotions and work together towards change.

I definitely absorb student emotion. That’s part of my job, especially at exam time. For students who are so stressed that it is presenting in behaviour (from tears to sleeping in to violence) I meet with them individually in a separate room and try to get them to talk it out. I tell them to get it off their chests, leave it in the room. I’m not going to judge, I’m just giving them a chance to share their stress so they don’t need to deal with it all on their own.

I am starting to distinguish between my own anxiety or stress and that of my students – or maybe I am trying to convince myself that I’m not as stressed as I feel in order to keep sane for the next few weeks ;)


  • Tracy Rosen says:

    Interesting comment. Once we understand where the emotion is coming from – both ours and theirs – emotional situations can become so much easier to handle. Of course, I’m not saying that I don’t get caught up in emotion at times! Though I am finding that I am able to recognize why I may be upset or sad and that sometimes I am holding one of my students’ sadness or anger. When I can see that, it’s just easier to keep things in perspective.

    Tracy Rosens last blog post at [site]..Latest Goings On

  • This is such an intriguing idea, and one I’ve never considered: that we can including “absorbing” student emotions as part of our role. It’s certainly a way to take their emotional reactions less personally, when they are acting out or sending aggression our way. I’m going to think on this a bit more.

    siobhan curiouss last blog post at [site]..what’s to like about school?

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