HEART-MIND 2014: How Not To Do Good Things Badly

By Matthew Clarke

Linda Lantieri, whom we had spent a lot of time with up to this point, leading us through mindfulness and connection exercises at Heart-Mind 2014, gave her talk on Friday afternoon. Linda has been working in the NY education system for over 40 years and is a pioneer in the field of SEL. 

Her talk focused on the undervalued truth that teachers, parents and others who work with children have to take better care of themselves before they can give the best care to the children. It’s a very important and seemingly obvious point, but I think it’s actually very complex and is deceivingly hard for people to embrace.

I know as a parent it’s a constant internal struggle. How much do I do for me and how much for my kids. There’s a natural impulse to do absolutely everything for my kids at the expense of my own health and well-being. This kind of behavior can be labelled “selfless” and “generous.” And there’s an emotional payoff for that. Those are noble qualities. To do the opposite can trigger feelings of guilt, like we’re being “selfish.”

But the truth is different, and this kind of unfettered sacrifice is not a sustainable model. At some point I neglect myself so much that I’m no longer capable of giving my children my best. At that point I, as Linda said, “start to do good badly.” There is definitely a line where selflessness and sacrifice becomes hurtful to both parties. Making sure that line doesn’t get crossed is of utmost importance.

But Linda’s focus went beyond the personal balance each of us must find and delved into the systemic. She poignantly asked, “What would happen if the field of education acted as if the inner lives of teachers mattered?” How can we support the people who support our children?

She spoke about the emotional fallout that came after the 9/11 attacks in New York City. There were children and teachers who witnessed that tragedy first hand, who lost people they love, who were taking care of children at their school while their own children were at a different school being cared for by a different teacher. How can anyone, adult or child, fully comprehend such a thing?

There needs to be support for the people that support the rest of us. 9/11 is obviously a macro example, but there is stress everywhere, and if it’s not dealt with, it builds and builds until it becomes crippling. Teachers need to be given the tools to “transform that stress.”

For me, as a parent, I see the relevance of this every day. My emotional state, my stress level, my reactivity, and outlook all have an enormous effect on my children. If my nerves are frayed and I’m quick tempered, their behavior is very different than when I’m calm and centered and patient.

We model the world to our kids. And so, when I send them off to be cared for by someone else, to be taught by someone else, I acknowledge that other person is modeling the world to them as well. So let’s make this a priority. Let’s support our teachers emotionally, physically and spiritually. It’s an investment in our children, in our future.

To be continued

Matthew Clarke is a Vancouver-based filmmaker, songwriter, musician, writer, father of two awesome children, and a proud out -of- league husband.  His latest short web-series, "Convos with my two year old," has become an internet sensation in it's first season and is available on YouTube .





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