Marsha Jeffers became a teacher simply because teaching is what she loves to do. But after 18 years in the classroom, changes in the profession had taken a huge emotional toll.
“I got in trouble one day for going in a boys’ washroom to break up a fight between two six-year-old boys. I went in and took them out and I got reprimanded big time for going in the boys’ washroom without a witness. I could be up on charges,” she said.
When she started teaching in her native Nova Scotia in the late 70s, she could keep a box of Band-aids in her desk to administer to kids’ cuts, but by the end of her stint, such an action required paperwork and hassle.
“I went into teaching because I love kids and I love to teach, but at the end of the day I got in trouble for hugging a kid. So I couldn’t stay there. It went against the core of who I am,” said Jeffers.
Teachers are under more stress than ever, Jeffers believes, and from that stress they can descend into a state of emotional unhealthiness.
But while she says she did not have the tools to handle stress while in the profession, in her role now as a workshop facilitator she has learned how to maintain a sense of emotional balance, and how to help guide others to that healthy state.
It is the lessons she has learned since exiting the classroom in 1999, combined with stories from her time teaching elementary students, that form the basis of her newly-published workbook-style teacher empowerment guide, The Apple of My Eye.
“I didn’t have the tools. The tools I have now, if I had them when I was teaching, I probably would have stuck with it. I was one of those statistics. I basically had to get out because I couldn’t keep up with it emotionally,” said Jeffers.
The workbook features anecdotes from Jeffers — such as how she decided to forgive an esteem-damaging principal and benefited from leaving behind the resentment — followed by space where educators can reflect in writing on their needs, challenges, and successes.
Her focuses are to help teachers manage stress and to help them build healthy self-esteem in the children and teens they are leading.
“My goal is for every teacher to have one on their desk. If I had one of these on my desk when I was teaching, especially in those difficult days, I could have grabbed it and said ‘I’m going to be OK.’ It’s just a little tool to help them get through the good days and the tough days.”
Having moved to Red Deer five years ago, Jeffers now facilitates workshops with her sister — another educator — for children, teens, and adults to empower them to find their own answers to the challenges in their lives.
The work can be ordered through Jeffers at firstname.lastname@example.org.