Onward | Elena Aguilar

Summary of: Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators
By: Elena Aguilar


Embark on a journey of emotional self-discovery and resilience building with Elena Aguilar’s ‘Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators.’ This book provides a comprehensive understanding of the six-part emotional cycle and how it impacts our daily experiences. Discover the importance of nurturing meaningful relationships, practicing mindfulness, and embracing play as crucial factors in supporting emotional well-being. Learn how self-care, gratitude, and a balanced approach to change can significantly enhance your resilience and overall performance.

The Emotional Cycle

Aguilar, an experienced educator, believes that exploring and accepting emotions is crucial for building resilience. According to her, each emotion we experience is a series of events and reactions that form a six-part cycle. This cycle starts with a prompting event and moves on to interpretation, physical response, impulse, action, and finally, aftereffects of the emotion. Aguilar claims that by understanding this cycle, we can intervene at any point and shift the way we experience emotions, leading to a better outcome. She suggests catching ourselves in negative assumptions and changing our physical response, such as taking deep breaths to relax. Understanding her own emotional cycles has given Aguilar more energy at work and improved her ability to handle interpersonal conflict.

The Power of Relationships

In “City of Thorns” by Ben Rawlence, the sacrifices refugees make to stay in touch with their loved ones highlight the importance of relationships. Similarly, educators who prioritize building strong connections with their peers are more likely to exhibit emotional resilience and avoid burnout. Being surrounded by students is not enough to prevent feelings of isolation – teachers need meaningful social interaction with their colleagues. Making an effort to spend time with others during breaks or outside of work can lead to a stronger sense of community and better overall well-being.

Mindful Teaching

A first-year teacher learns the power of mindfulness in dealing with the stress and challenges of teaching. Being mindful means being fully present in the moment and accepting each emotion without judgment. It teaches you that your emotions are not permanent and do not define you. By being mindful, you can make better decisions and react differently to situations, instead of falling back on habits and biases.

Teaching is a challenging profession, and it’s easy to take negative experiences home with you. The author, Aguilar, experienced this when her student showed up at school after suffering a beating at the hands of his father. She was unable to sleep and felt overwhelmed by the situation. Eventually, she decided to try something new and unlocked her inner resilience through mindfulness.

Mindfulness involves being fully present in the moment, without dwelling on the past or mentally racing ahead to the future. It’s a peaceful mental state that can be cultivated through meditation. And it’s not just a useful stress-buster – it can also help you make better decisions.

When you’re thinking mindfully, you can react differently to situations. Instead of falling back on habits and biases, you pause and consider a response that’s appropriate for the present situation. You learn to accept each emotion without judgment, without letting it define you. You realize that your emotions are not permanent and can pass quickly.

Being mindful takes practice, but it can change the way you react to stress and difficult situations. It can teach you to make better decisions and react differently to students, instead of falling back on punishment or bias. By accepting each emotion without judgment, you learn to let go of stories about who you are and instead see yourself as a person who is constantly growing and changing. Mindful teaching is the key to unlocking your inner resilience and becoming a better teacher.

The Importance of Self-Care for Teachers

The November blues can be tough on new teachers as they navigate the disappointment of the “Disillusionment Period.” The solution is to take care of oneself by addressing the gaps that prevent it. These gaps may stem from a lack of knowledge, will, or emotional intelligence, but the key is to have someone else, like a coworker or principal, give permission to prioritize self-care. Taking care of one’s physical health translates to good mental health, improving overall job performance. Even experienced educators need a trusted advisor to encourage them to prioritize their well-being.

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