Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Keeping the Light On


By Vicki Bechard

It’s February. The weather doesn’t know whether we are still in winter or trying to forge ahead to spring.  Even the groundhog wasn’t definitive.  But in my many years of teaching and coaching, February was always a challenging month.  Basketball was on the home stretch after a long season.  The last set of Parent-Teacher Conferences took place with the hope of righting some student ships so they could sail through to the end of the school year and reach their destination.   There are Valentine’s parties and snow days still to come.  Could spring break be too far away?

So maybe our light is dimming a bit as we await spring and all it portends:  new growth, longer days, outside recess, track, baseball, softball, State Assessments, and so much more.  How can we keep the light on as winter wanes and spring hasn’t yet arrived?  If we equate our light to a metaphoric flashlight, we might find some interesting solutions to our problem of dimming light.  And these solutions just aren’t for faculty and staff, they are also something our students might benefit from too.

Depending on the size and type of our flashlight and the amount of light needed, the possible solutions will vary.  Most of the time we just need new batteries – not a whole new flashlight.  Occasionally our bulb is burned out, but generally, checking the batteries is our first step toward restoring our light. Consider these battery possibilities: 

A Attention - How do we give someone attention?  Stop by their room; sit with them at lunch; call, text, listen, inquire about how they are; ask about life outside school; (did I mention listen?); spend time with them; call them by name; make eye contact; show up; respond promptly.  Find a way to ensure they know they matter so that their light never goes out. 

AAAttention + AffectionAffection means we care and gives depth to the attention.  How can we show appropriate affection at school? Proximity; A pat on the back or high five; a warm smile (be sure to smile with your eyes if you are masked!); A note of encouragement, appreciation or thanks; A hug if appropriate and always with permission (realizing that violates the idea of maintaining proper distancing but is sometimes necessary).  Affirmation might be another way to show affection especially in a school setting. We affirm a person is worthy by giving them our undivided attention and demonstrating that we care. These are important ways to keeping the light burning brightly.          

AAA - Attention + Affection + Acceptance  - Acceptance is something everyone seeks. Take the time to get to know the other person; Agree to disagree; Show respect for them as individuals, for their decisions, for their ideas… Invite them in… to a conversation, to a group, to a learning opportunity, to share a laugh.  When one feels accepted they feel like they matter, and their light burns long into the night.

CCompassion - Compassion is more than sympathy.  It is caring in action. How do we show compassion to or for others?  Be Kind; Encourage or positively reinforce; Show empathy for another’s situation; Notice other’s troubles or frustrations; Offer to help or support; Be emotionally moved by their circumstances and help them seek relief; Judge less; Work for the greater good. When someone is experiencing darkness, share your light and be the one who helps them find their light.

DDirection – Finding our way out of the darkness is challenging without a light.  How do we offer direction without telling them what to do?  Shine your light to navigate the darkness:  Guide, Suggest; Ask questions; Offer options; Help identify or define the goal; Encourage and reinforce; Provide feedback; Allow for/create space and time. Sometimes a person’s light is just hidden and they must rediscover their purpose in order for the light to go from dim to bright again.


The purpose of the flashlight metaphor is to get you to think about how really simple it is to look out for each other if we are intentional.  We must notice those around us (and how we are feeling too) and not be hesitant to act.  When you shine your light for others, it also lights your way; conversely if you shine your own light, it can light the way for others too. 

But there are other ways to keep ourselves energized and our light burning brightly.  If we purposely continue to grow and learn new things, it keeps our mind engaged and focused on new possibilities.  What book or article can you read that gives you new ideas?  What professional learning experience can you attend (virtually or in person)? What podcast inspires you? What colleague can you observe? What conversation can you have?  Some schools are even scheduling mental health days for everyone.  We are living in different times and we must think of new ways of responding to the challenges and feelings that dim our light.  We think we don’t have time, but if our flashlight isn’t working we continue to languish in the darkness.  When we can’t see the light we cannot be productive. I admit I don’t stay at Motel 6, but I do like their commercial slogan, “We’ll leave the light on for you.”  What an inviting way to look at the culture in our buildings.  Are you ensuring that there is a light on for everyone to use?

Seek the light.  Share the light.  Be the light.


Pro Tip:  Sometimes even changing the batteries or learning new things doesn’t work

     When that happens, sit with them quietly in their darkness and share your light.