Teachers: Stop Collecting Other People's Monkeys



Hey there! Thanks for popping into my 5 Freedoms Life. I'm your host, Suzanne Klein, an educator-turned-entrepreneur with a 5 Freedoms Life and teaching you how to have one too!

So excited that you're here today, to talk about People Freedom and to give our viewers some tips and tricks from your book, Finding Balance: 101 Concepts for Taking Better Care of Self.

Your book is dedicated to the many educators you’ve had the privilege to serve during your 50-year journey—a long time. So, let's go back just a bit before we move forward.

Dr. Dan: Well, to be honest, I didn’t want to do anything else but teaching. I’d wanted to be a teacher all my life. I knew at 12 years of age I wanted to be a teacher, playing with the kids, coaching teams at 15 and 16. I knew that I wanted to be a teacher.

But after 15-18 years in the profession, it just started to dawn on me: I wanted to do something more.

Suzanne: Because you know when you want to make that change. It's funny, though, just a shame, that only in education are we expected, once we go into teaching, to stay there for 30 years. If a doctor said to his family, “I'm going to quit,” no one would think anything of it. But for some reason, when a teacher wants to leave, people think, “Oh, you can't leave! You're supposed to be—” Do you have any thoughts on that?

Dr. Dan: Well, for myself, leaving teaching after nearly twenty years was very difficult. In fact, I remember standing outside my school praying that I could just be satisfied doing this. I was well respected, loved, and it was safe. The school even made hot lunches—my wife was very happy about that!

But I think there’s something in the DNA of people in the helping professions that… Change is not one of the genes. They're not loose cannons, not looking for change. They'll stay even if it's not all that great. And that's when people like myself end up seeing them; they end up burning out, or not being proficient at what they're doing.

Suzanne: So you were a therapist to educators; they would come in and see you for therapy sessions. You must have seen a lot of burnt-out teachers — “crispy around the edges,” I like to say. Do you have any particular stories that might help our viewers along their path? They're also feeling it's time to leave, but they feel stuck.

Dr. Dan: Hundreds, feeling stuck and not knowing they were stuck. Many didn’t realize they just weren’t feeling the spark anymore. They had no energy. They were getting worn out, doing all the planning, and the bulletin boards, and so on. I had a joke in my wellness workshops... You know, people say to you, “Oh, well, you've got the whole summer off.”

And I say to them, “No, the first week we're in a hammock, quite comatose. And then it’s only two or three weeks we're out, and then on August 1st, it sets in “we have to go back this month.” And it really bothers us.

Suzanne: Okay, let's dive a bit deeper into some tips and tricks from Finding Balance. We have about eight minutes left, so I want to make sure educators out there get some of the best of the best kernels of truth from your book.

I have here “P+P= P.” Can you give our teachers a brief overview of this concept?

Dr. Dan: P + P = P is one of the concepts from the book, and it stands for Patience, Pace, and Protection.

I think as educators we need Patience with other people. They have expectations for us, and somehow we feel obliged to just go along with those expectations. Maybe this is a lifestyle, maybe part of management style...I'm not sure. But we need patience, because we've only got so much time and so much energy and we need to be in control of it. I find that far too many teachers give away their time and energy; they’re not in charge of it or don't feel they should be.

Pacing simply means we need to decide the pace of our lives. Society right now is moving along at a very rapid pace. We're doing all kinds of stuff in the classroom I never even knew about when I was a teacher. And it’s not only at work; at home we're running our kids to six different things...the pace is getting out of hand. We're not in control of it. And we need to be.

So in order to Protect ourselves, we need to determine what to be patient about, and be able to say to people, “Yes, I know you'd like me to do that. But it just doesn't fit into my plans. Thank you for asking. I’m very honored, but no thanks.” That way we control the pace of our lives.

I'd like to give you two ideas about how I do that during therapy with people. One of them I call a Hypnotic Voice. I learned it from my teenage daughter, who used to tell me, “Dad, is that your counseling voice? Because that's not fair.” She wanted to fight. And I don't fight. I have a quiet, calm demeanor. That's all a Hypnotic Voice is; a calm, quiet demeanor. And that's what we need.

The second thing is called Teeter-Totter or Reverse Mirroring. That simply means if somebody is excited, I need to be unexcited. If they're loud, I need to be quiet. Because the only place we're going to hear each other is when we're even on this teeter-totter. It's just a little thing to remember, because what we don't want to do is to match the person and bite on their fight. Because kids and everybody seem to put it out there that they want to fight. But we're not going to bite.

Suzanne: I like that, “bite on their fight.” Really, I can see teachers being able to apply that with their own students.

Dr. Dan: I want them to get T-shirts with that on it: I’m Not Going to Bite on Your Fight Today. No, no.

Suzanne: I knew a teacher who says to her students, “I'm not going to play baseball with you now.” That was their code phrase. I think developing code words is great, not only in our relationships at home but also in our relationships with our students. And that P + P = P... I can picture our viewers writing that down as a reminder: Patience plus Pace gives you Protection. Excellent, great stuff!

So, this next one...I absolutely love the chapter title: “Stop Collecting Other People’s Monkeys.” It's so good! But what exactly does it mean, for our viewers who haven't read your book, and how can it help teachers gain more freedom?

Dr. Dan: Let's put it this way: that's what rescuers do. They collect people's monkeys—problems.

You're sitting there with a friend, a colleague, a supervisor—or maybe you're the supervisor. And the person comes in to talk with you, and they have this tiny little monkey on their shoulder. One little one-pound monkey. So you're listening, and then quite inadvertently you say, “How can I help you with this?” or “What can I do?” or “Leave this with me, I'll take care of it.” And the next thing you know the monkey has gone from their shoulder to yours.

But come on—it’s only one little pound of monkey. But by the end of the day, it’s five pounds of monkeys. By the end of the week, it’s twenty-five pounds of monkeys. And the kicker is, that first person comes back and says to you, “Hey, how come you haven't taken care of my monkey?” and starts giving you heck.

So I would say: Help people to explore their problems, but don’t take responsibility for those problems.

Suzanne: Such wise words! I hope our viewers are eating all this up, because I know I am, and I know I can really apply this in my life. So thank you for that. Collecting other people's monkeys. I love that.

Well, I'm sorry to say we only have time for one last piece of advice from you and it’s the question I ask all my speakers. If a current teacher is thinking “What else can I do with my life?” what do you think needs to first change for them to begin that process?

Dr. Dan: I would say research it. Talk to your spouse. Go online, find out everything you can about it. Talk to your best friend. Whatever. And then set a plan.

And if you have no idea what you want, then start researching, start doing all kinds of things to find out. Put on your observer glasses, ask people wherever you go, and then make a plan.

I believe people need a push. Educators need a push, Suzanne. So how about you become a pusher! Would you do that? Do a little kick, help them out. Because they might stay stuck when they ought not to.

Suzanne: That's exactly what I'm trying to do, Dr. Dan, and serve in that way because it’s so important. I agree we all need to live in our purpose and work in our passion. That's what I'm here for and that's what my coaching is all about, helping educators make that jump. Like you said, make a plan. I have a 30-day Exit Strategy Plan they can do while they're still teaching, still in the classroom. I appreciate you saying that.

It's been an absolute pleasure, Dr. Dan. I will have to do this again. Thank you for sharing your people freedom. It's been great, filled with lots of wisdom. I’m sure this has been a very impactful session for our viewers. That was fun! Thanks for sharing your tips and tricks.

Dr. Dan: Well, thank you. You continue what you're doing, because I wish I’d had you when I was doing this with Teachers of Manitoba. We had nobody to refer people to, no one to help teachers who needed to change.

Suzanne: Thank you. And to my viewers out there: Remember, You Can Rewrite Your Future. Until next time. Stay savvy, my friends.


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