Enhancing Teacher Wellbeing - KIPP Chicago Public Schools

The Whole Child Review Issue No. 6, May 2021

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Enhancing Teacher Wellbeing

Wellness Wednesdays

At the start of 2021, we recognized the reality of ‘Zoom fatigue’ and worked to prepare once-a-month wellness workshops for staff, instead of several events monthly. We made sure to pack each Wellness Wednesday event full of thoughtful, meaningful content!

For February, we hosted a Black Renaissance with an artist panel discussion, led by Lawrence ‘Binky’ Tolefree, alongside a Zumba class. Participants could enter the virtual event and choose between the panel or Zumba and both spaces allowed for gathering together in community, whether through high energy or low.

In March, we centered the needs of women during our Womxn’s Mental Health Workshop, offering participants a choice between an Afrobeat Zumba class or a workshop with Simi Botic, a holistic health coach.

On April 28th, nearly 50 team & family members joined our virtual workshop centering Black Fathers, Mental Health, and Critical Thinking. Dr. Obari Cartman hosted the robust conversation with our KIPP panelists, Lee Fisher, Jarell Lee, Pete Gooden, and Ivyl Watts. Dr. Obari emphasized the need for Black men, in particular, to take care of their wellbeing by expressing their feelings, journaling, and creating space for mindfulness and meditation. Then the panelists weighed in on various topics from raising Black boys, the media, gun violence, police brutality, and breaking familiar patterns.

“It was great to have that space created in the first place. As a black father, there is a ton of duality that you have to operate in. You’re always conscious of everything. Being able to talk about it is great. I enjoyed having my white counterparts there listening in and growing their knowledge and empathy. The only way we ALL change is if we ALL learn.”
-Branden Bufford

“I appreciated this space for the diverse perspectives and experiences of the fathers on the panel. While we may all identify as Black men, we are not a monolith and can continue to learn from each other’s similarities and differences.”

-Pete Gooden

“It was powerful to reflect on the questions presented by Dr. Cartman, many of which I had never thought of before. It was also simply bucket-filling to engage in the conversations with the panelists and other community members. Looking forward to the next!”
-Jarell Lee

“One of the first things we need to do is just talk..we need to find the language and permission to say how we’re feeling…modeling a new way of being human….we have to dismantle these notions…it’s a human thing to express your emotions, the range, from shame to guilt to regret to anger to sadness and grief…if there’s no space to say it out loud, it all turns to anger. The anger is masking a million different things.”

“You can have all of these feelings inside, but once you write, once you get it out, there’s a relief that comes from documenting it, from releasing it. It can be a ritual, giving your feelings a space to rest, something else to hold it rather than your heart, mind, and spirit. If you don’t put it somewhere, it just ruminates…most of the men I know have a list of strategies to distract, to move away, like drinking, smoking…these things can be an
illusion of reprieve that’s different than the actual relief you get when you write.”

“Particularly for the young people, they are embedded in a social media world that is an experiment that we’ve never seen before. The amount of distractions from self that keep us away from the ability to sit still, to be quiet, to center ourselves, to listen to our intuition. Those kinds of things are critical to mental health, to wellbeing.

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