One of the interesting things about my job as an elementary school paraprofessional is that I get to see how different teachers manage different situations. It’s neat to watch how their unique personalities influence the simplest of things.
Like morning meetings. You know what I’m talking about—all the students gather on the rug or at their desks and have a little chat first thing in the morning.
Some teachers use it to update kids on what’s going on during the day or the week. Some use it as a chance for students to share about their previous week or evening. Some use it as a teaching opportunity to work on behavioral concerns.
And the kindergarten teacher I work with uses it to teach students about mental health.
Every morning, she asks her students to give her a thumbs-up, thumbs-in-the-middle, or thumbs-down to show how they’re feeling that morning. Then they may say one thing they want to say.
When a student gives her a thumbs-down, she doesn’t freak out or demand to know why they feel that way. She simply asks them if they’d like to share why.
Sometimes they do. “My mom is gone on a business trip and I miss her.” “I had a bad dream last night.” “We were in an accident on the way to school.”
Other times they don’t say anything at all. And other times they say something completely unrelated.
Their teacher doesn’t push for answers that may not be there. She just lets them share how they feel and listens carefully.
Many mornings, I find myself wishing I had a spot on the rug. That someone could ask me how I’m doing, and I wouldn’t automatically jump to the “I’m good” reaction. That I could say I’m not having a good day and not feel as if I have to give the three-hour explanation as to why. And on the other hand, that I could honestly say what’s on my mind.
It's not so much that people don't ask. It's that I don't answer.
Do you ever feel the same way?
It’s okay to not be okay.
It’s okay to give a thumbs-down. Everybody has bad days and it’s time we came out and said it.
In Marissa Meyer’s Alice in Wonderland inspired novel Heartless, the Raven says, “To be all right implies an impossible phase. We hope for mostly right on the best of our days.”
We’ve got this idea that if we’re all right all the time, we're somehow stronger than the rest. We’ve got this idea that stronger automatically means better. I love this quote, because it points out that even the people we think have it all together are really just mostly right, even on their best days. And it’s a reminder that even on our best days, there’s something far better coming.
Author Nicki Koziarz adds, “It’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to never be okay.”
To say that you’re having a bad day, or to allow your friend to tell you they’re having a bad day, isn’t saying that life is all bad or that it always will be. You can’t help a sick person unless they tell you their symptoms. You can’t begin turning a bad day into a little bit better one unless you admit that things are not okay.
It’s okay to not have the reason why.
Some days you just don’t feel good. Other days you know exactly why you don’t feel good, but you wish you didn’t have that reason.
I am very much a processor. When something stressful happens, it might take me hours or even days to be able to put into words what I’m feeling.
So often when people know something has happened and they ask me, all I know is I’m not okay.
In one of those times, a coworker simply gave me a hug when we met at recess (I say simply, as if it were something small. It wasn’t.). “Are you okay?” she asked.
She does this every day, so I didn’t see anything different about it. I didn’t realize she was aware of the situation, so I simply said, “I’m good” in a fake cheerful way that I’ve perfected for just such an occasion.
“Really?” she asked.
Something clicked and I realized she knew. But I couldn’t answer her. I didn’t have the words to tell her what was going on, what I was feeling, that it felt like every emotion was colliding at once inside of me. But I felt like I needed to say something, that she expected some answer.
She said exactly what I needed to hear right then. “I don’t know the details. And I don’t need to know. But I’m here if you ever need anything.”
It’s okay to explain why.
Venting is not complaining. Sometimes I need to get the words out to understand that they are only feelings. Sometimes you have to get the feelings out before you can see the facts and reconcile the two.
It’s okay to be sad something happened. It’s okay to be angry. It’s what we do with those feelings that defines it.
Earlier this week, a coworker I haven’t seen in a while subbed for a teacher on the playground. We work in different areas of the school, but do similar things, so she asked how the group of paras I’m a part of were doing.
I knew her and was comfortable enough with her to tell her we weren’t doing okay, that we’d been given a schedule with no prep time that was causing a lot of stress and anxiety.
She didn’t have all the answers. But she listened and she made me feel safe to say that I wasn’t okay with what was going on.
Maybe today you can imagine you’re sitting on that kindergarten rug. Everybody’s going around the circle sharing how they feel. Maybe it’s a thumbs up today. Maybe in the middle. Maybe it’s a thumbs down.
Maybe you’re the one that needs to admit you’re not okay. Maybe you’re the one who needs to be vulnerable.
Or maybe you’re the one who needs to listen. To not need all the details and to just be.
Any way it goes, you know you’re going to be listened to and loved.
Because the reason that it’s okay to not be okay is because God loves us. He loved us when we were sinners—when we were definitely not okay. He isn’t afraid of our mess or of anything that we feel or experience. He knows we’re not perfect and He’s preparing a place where everything will be entirely okay, entirely all right forever.
But for now, He listens carefully. He doesn’t push for answers that aren’t there. He doesn’t overreact or need to know all the details.
He just wants to love us.
Kind of like a kindergarten teacher.
*If you could give your thumb indicator, what would it be right now? Have you ever learned something from an unlikely source? Share your adventures in the comments below!*
Hi, I'm Rachel! I'm the author of the posts here at ProseWorthy. Thanks for stopping by!