Burnout! Social Emotional Learning from a Millennial's Perspective
PSA: This week's blog post is a bit of a transparency post. Please be advised that this is a safe space where I share some personal experiences. I welcome you to read, reflect, and even respond by becoming a subscriber. Thanks in advance for your support!
The school year has started and the balancing act is in full effect. Learning how to manage a blog, independent projects, graduate school, and a full-time job has led me to burnout on a couple occasions but I'm better now! I don't exhibit a lack of motivation to do things, nor do I feel dissatisfied with my achievements thus far but I know I've experienced fatigue, work-life imbalance, and excessive stress (and this girl despises being stressed!).
This past year has felt like a race and not a marathon. I've found myself working non-stop and when I did have some time to relax and just do nothing I still found myself anxious to do some type of work. On top of that living through a pandemic and a new heightened level of racial unrest has pushed me to do the well-needed work on how I view myself as a Black woman in America.
In the recent weeks of feeling overwhelmed and out of a set routine, I've turned heavily to social-emotional learning or just in general mindfulness. Usually, you hear more about SEL in schools since it is usually targeted to young students but who says adults can't use these same tools. It's as if we've grownup and become conditioned to what we see society has deemed "acceptable" or become too wrapped up in work, career planning, or school to do this type of meaningful work.
I was sparked to write this piece after I encountered a very ill constructive criticism to a post I wrote on Twitter. I had stated that I had I'd be working on mindfulness and social-emotional learning with my students in science class while using Steven Universe as part of my theme. (If you are into cartoons like I am and you haven't watched Steven Universe I encourage you to watch, thank Rebecca Sugar in advance). They preceded to respond "Are you joking" In a science class you bring up emotions. Not teaching the beauty and glory of science and nature?" Please tell me politics did just enter a class?"
I've never been one to deal with conflict well but something about this post and the way that I wanted to respond felt different. I stated that there will be plenty of time to talk about the beauty and nature of science. One day of speaking about the difficulties around learning science and the emotions that come with them is no joke. As someone who has studied physics and loved science for much of their life, I would have sincerely appreciated a professor or even a teacher taking the time, to be honest about the expectations of science culture and academia and checking on my well-being. Like many of my students I was not prepared for the social-emotional side (stress, anxiety, frustration, isolation, or depression and the list can go on but those are just to name a few) of being a science major and now as a professional.
Science culture in academia and schools have often portrayed "science" as an inaccessible content area for students of color through its representation, the constant use of "trendy" science lingo unfamiliar to POC, and the lack of cultural relevance for some. I work with a plethora of students of color who come from low-income families, multigenerational families, single-parent households, that may not have the necessary resources to do science. I may be that only resource to provide them with a holistic science experience.
Since much of my initial teaching will be through remote learning it makes it extremely difficult for students to work collaboratively, go on science field trips and do hands-on experiments/labs at home. These realities can feel extremely frustrating, saddening, and soul-crushing (and I would know because I too miss going to the museum and various exhibits with my friends). Incorporating SEL and mindfulness tools into science allows me to check in with students and understand how they feel.
SEL focuses on self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. If adults were encouraged to do more SEL in the workplace, graduate school, and beyond we'd probably would not be experiencing a constant cycle of burnout and just be better overall human beings. Just as how students are entitled to their feelings when learning science so should adults in any sector.
And so I dedicate this piece to the my fellow millennials experiencing burnout, frustration, anxiety, etc, you will always experience these emotions throughout life. How you act upon those emotions ultimately determines the type of person you will be when moving through the world. Be patient with yourself, learning mindfulness does not happen overnight. What works for me does not necessarily mean that it will work for you, find things that make you comfortable and feel right to you. Lastly, take "adulting" with a grain of salt don't be in a rush to grow up, it's overrated!
Steven Universe virtual classroom slides!
This blog is part of my journey with physics, art, and everything in between. You can find a new post here every Sunday. Here are some upcoming topics and things that I will be talking about later this month.
September 27th: TBA
October 4th: TBA
I've set up a Patreon account. There you will be able to gain early access to my blog posts, be able to submit input on upcoming projects, and have access to exclusive editorial bonus videos. I am hoping to create content as well as build with creatives/scientists, to change the narrative of what it means to see, hear, and experience science & art collectively. I hope you will join me on this exciting journey! Thank you for supporting my work it is appreciated!