Teaching in Today's Confusing World: Teacher Trauma, the Pandemic and Becoming Resilient with Lindsey Acton - E035
Have you thought about teacher trauma during this pandemic?
Nobody likes to talk about how little teachers are paid or how hard it is to work with different students and learners. We don't want to talk about how education keeps experiencing budget cuts, reversing policy to include outdated education and thinking ways. Nobody wants to talk about teachers' trauma and how teachers leave the workforce at an alarming rate. And most importantly, nobody wants to talk about how teachers are forced to work as teachers, nurses, janitors, counsellors, friends, etc., to dozens of students and are given zero support of their own. No, we definitely do not want to talk about that.
In today's episode, teacher Lindsey Acton shares her experience in the teaching world and the events that inspired her to write her book. Having experienced a traumatic event with a student in her first year of teaching, Lindsey's teaching career has been indicative of what she believes is a universal teaching experience. We talk about hard-to-handle students, mental illness, self-care, therapy, and so much more.
TODAY'S GUEST: LINDSEY ACTON
> Lindsey's story and background in education (01:40)
> What's different from a teacher perspective to teaching when you have to enforce and follow the Covid protection rules (10:10)
> How teachers and parents can connect with kids during the new normal (16:50)
> What's the traumatic event that prompted Lindsey to write the book about Teachers trauma (28:45)
> What the book is about and what it covers (33:45)
E35: Teaching in Today's Confusing World: Teacher Trauma, the Pandemic and Becoming Resilient with Lindsey Acton
Have you thought about teacher trauma during this pandemic?
Amy: [00:00:35] Welcome back to this episode of What We're Not Talking About. Today's guest is educator, author, speaker, wife, and mom, Lindsey Acton. Welcome to the show.
Lindsey: [00:00:49] Hi, thank you for having me.
Amy: [00:00:51] I am super excited to speak with you today because we are going to be talking about something that is so important and has really, really been on the rise in this past year, since the pandemic really started to take over everybody's lives. And that is teachers and teacher trauma.
Lindsey, I am so thankful that you reached out to me to talk to me about this topic. Unbeknownst to you, I was actually in the process of trying to find someone to talk with me about this. I felt like the universe just kind of delivered you to me. So I am excited to chat.
So let's jump on in. And why don't you explain a little bit about yourself and what you're doing and also why you're doing it.
Lindsey: [00:01:42] Okay. Thanks so much. So, I am, like you said, an educator. I live in the United States in Central Indiana. And for the last 15 years that I've been in the classroom, I have been teaching high school English. My husband is a school superintendent, so school is just kind of our family business. You know, it's what we do.
Our sons are 12 and 5.
And I think that maybe they are the driving force behind a lot of the things that I'm now willing to say about a trauma that I experienced as a first year teacher.
But really, I think one of the biggest reasons, that we're talking about teacher trauma is because COVID-19 has transformed everyone's lives so tremendously over the past 12 months.
I think I can probably give teachers all the ability to find a nugget of truth in what we're saying. Because now we've all had our lives uprooted. Now we've all had our working situations, our home situations changed in ways that may never go back to what they were before. Or at least not identical. And this creates teacher trauma.
And I think it's tremendously important for us to examine the emotional aspects of what goes on in a classroom when life is normal, let alone, when it isn't, like things are happening right now,
Amy: [00:03:05] Yeah. It's so, so true. And so important. Now for you, what is your experience in the classroom as an educator? What ages are you working with? And what sort of subjects are you teaching?
Lindsey: [00:03:21] I am a high school educator. I taught one year of middle school, but most of my career has been high school, primarily juniors and seniors. And I teach English. So, literature, writing, that kind of stuff. It's really, really interesting and it’s a fun thing to do every day, to talk to kids about life and books and things like that.
So, it's pretty cool.
Amy: [00:03:45] Oh, that's awesome.
One of my really good friends is also a high school English teacher.
The stories she's told me, she works in London, England too. So, it's crazy to hear what she has to deal with on a regular basis. But I mean, that's really what we're all dealing with, especially educators. She’s dealing with teacher trauma there too.
Now, how has this transition to online learning been for you? How have you been dealing with such a wide variety of students accessing these platforms this way?
Lindsey: [00:03:17] you're not going to believe this, but my school has been in person five days a week since July.
Amy: [00:04:24] Oh, my goodness, really? Okay. So.
Lindsey: [00:04:28] We were online in the spring, last spring, when everybody was at home. We were online and it was hard and it was stressful. And our kids were, my kids were home and we were trying to teach and mom and manage school. That was hard.
But in a lot of ways, being in person has been even harder. Kids are quarantined. It's a very fluid experience. You never know who's coming in and out of quarantine because they either have contracted COVID-19 or they have been close contact to someone else.
I think the biggest thing honestly, is... I mean, I work in a huge school.
We have 3000 students in our building. And 500 of them at any given time can be quarantined.
So, it's been that you never know who's going to be out and when they're going to be back, if they've kept up on the virtual platform while they've been gone. Sometimes you don't hear from them for two weeks. And you never know what you're going to get when they get back.
So it's really, really tiring to try to keep track of that and to try to stay in communication with everyone that you need to communicate with. More symptoms of teacher trauma.
You know, it's just I'm looking forward to vaccinations the faster, the better.
Amy: [00:05:46] Yeah. You mentioned that there's a lot of students that are out quarantining or because they have actually contracted the virus now? What does that situation look like in your city? Are there a lot of people? What's the percentage? I don't want to say the percentage of people that have COVID. But how many cases are there?
Lindsey: [00:06:09] You know, I don't know specifically. I was looking at a map last night and it looks to me like... well, our state is divided up into counties. And our county that I currently live in, we're red on the map. According to the CDC guidelines, we probably should be closed, but because of the way that the pandemic has been handled in this country, those decisions have been left to the local health departments.
There are 98 counties in the state of Indiana.
So, 98 health departments make 98 different decisions. I think because our schools have expressed a desire to stay open. That's kind of what we're doing. So, COVID cases are on the rise every day. COVID deaths are on the rise.
But because of the way it's been handled here, we are just working through that, you know? My superintendent has told us that he has no plans to close us down.
Amy: [00:07:17] What's his reasoning behind that? Do you know?
Lindsey: [00:07:22] I think he feels like kids need to be in school. And I agree with that. I mean, I think kids do need to be in school. There's a lot of data to show that, at least where we are, if kids go out on quarantine because of close contact, almost all of them come back to school without contracting the virus.
Amy: [00:07:44] Oh, that's good.
Lindsey: [00:07:45] Which is good.
But again, it's just so fluid and so hard to keep track of, which attributes to teacher trauma.
And last March when it became what it became, when it came to kind of came to a head... They sent us home on a Thursday afternoon and we never went back. It was sort of like, I would go back to school to grab stuff that I needed or whatever to conduct my life from home.
It sort of looked like a rapture had happened. In my classroom, there was the date March 13th was on my board until, I don't know, June. It was so strange. It was just so strange.
Amy: [00:08:20] March 13th, how ominous too.
Lindsey: [00:08:23] I know, right? It was, it really was. And they were like, “Go home. Don't come back.”
Amy: [00:08:27] Wow. Yeah. It's so interesting because I am, as we spoke of off air and as listeners know, in Canada. and we are taking a completely different approach. Now, where I am, there's literally like 20 active cases in the entire province. So, it's very low risk.
Yeah. It's insane. Yeah.
And I really can't tell you that we're doing it any better than... well, I could probably say we're doing it a bit better than the United States.
But like on an individual level, I was in a coffee shop yesterday, most of the people didn't have their masks on, even though they're required to. No one's really enforcing it.
It's fascinating to me, and I'm also very grateful that the cases aren't skyrocketing here. But the one thing that I have that strikes me as very odd is that I have been following the school schedules.
I have a lot of close friends that are in education. They took an elongated Christmas break. So, they were off for a month. That was only because our cases hit more than a hundred. And, granted, there's obviously benefits an... or negatives and positives to being in school during an epidemic and not being in school now.
When it comes to the teachers having to adapt and to show up, not only as a teacher and an educator and all the other hats that you normally have to wear, I’m sure it contributes to teacher trauma... But then also as a health official, basically. Like a more... I don't want to say authoritarian, because I don't think that's how teachers act... But enforcing the rules of wearing masks. I'm assuming you guys still have to wear masks in school.
Lindsey: [00:10:22] We do.
Amy: [00:10:23] Okay. Yeah. How has that taken a toll on your own role in education as well as your mental health?
Lindsey: [00:10:32] Well, this answer has so many pieces to it, right?
It is not in the nature, I think, of teachers for us to do the things that we're doing.
When a kid comes up to my desk for help, it isn't in my nature automatically for me to tell that student to backup. Right? It contributes to teacher trauma.
Like, I'm not used to saying “Stay over there, please,” you know? Or “Please don't get up and move around the room because we're not trying to create any extra opportunities for close contact.” Those things are just not things that come naturally to most teachers. Because we're caring people, mostly. We're nurturers where people who want to help others.
When students have questions now I have them stay in their seats, and unless I have to get up and go over to them, I don't. I primarily teach from my desk, which I don't normally do. I'm a “get up and go” kind of person, but I'm a “get up and go” kind of teacher also. And so it's been really different to do those things.
On a personal note my husband was diagnosed with cancer in September. So, we have a seriously immunocompromised person living in our home right now. Because he's receiving chemotherapy. So, there's a certain type of mask that I wear every day. And I've become much more militant about “Stay back. Don't touch anything. If you touch it, wash it.” That's hard because if I bring home COVID, we have a serious problem.
Amy: [00:12:06] Yeah, absolutely.
And thank you so much for sharing that.
I don't want to say I'm sorry, because I know that's not what people want to hear. But that's the sentiment that I'm trying to express.
Lindsey: [00:12:18] Yeah, no, that's okay. That's okay.
Amy: [00:12:20] Yeah. I also want to share a little bit with you. My mother was also diagnosed with cancer during the pandemic.
So, I know exactly what you're going through. I mean, I don't live with my mother, but, she is like 20 minutes down the road from me. And it's just such a different... It just has added such a complex layer to this whole situation.
Lindsey: [00:12:43] It has. You know, to take him to a treatment, I have to drop him off at the curb, essentially. He gets to go in and receive his treatment, and then he gets picked up five hours later. It's just a very impersonal, bizarre kind of situation. So, the toll on mental health, I think you were asking about that, it’s just so...
I have a really great therapist.
Thank goodness. And I have no shame in saying that I think everyone should go to therapy. Everyone, every day. She helps me with my teacher trauma. But, there are some things that just strike fear in me now. I have a student that I had a conversation with in... I think it was the late part of November or the early part of December.
And we had a conversation that lasted, I don't know, 10 or 15 minutes. We were wearing our masks, but we were still in pretty close proximity to each other. Then he got COVID the next day.
I was like, “Oh my gosh.” Iit was hard to not be afraid. And I think teachers, again, it isn't in our nature to tell people to back up. It isn't in our nature to tell people to stay, to not touch anything, or to get back. It's just not natural.
And there's some human elements to what we are doing that are being sacrificed for safety. But it's really, really hard and it just... Oh my gosh, I'm so tired. And it just has taken quite the toll that maybe I wasn't expecting either. I guess it’s teacher trauma.
Amy: [00:14:15] Yeah. And I think that's something that's so important that I have noticed. Plus, I'm very removed from the situation. I don't have any children. I'm not in an educational space, other than where I'm doing a master's, but that's very different. It's all online.
I’ve watched people just have to show up every single day and they're doing it for the kids.
They're doing it because they know that they need that solid person. Because maybe in their family, people aren't holding it together as well. And, with the loss, a lot of people have lost their jobs and they're suffering from a financial space. Especially in the United States where you guys just keep blocking stimulus check after stimulus bill. And that all contributes to teacher trauma too.
How do you keep it together, not only for your family, but for the kids that you're teaching?
Lindsey: [00:15:08] I will say this a hundred times over. The most important thing that you do in education is build relationships with them. The most important thing I can do in education is to ask them how they're doing and listen to their answer. And not to go, “We have to read this book and analyze this poem and do the…”
We can do those things, but do we have to do them? No. What we have to do is take care of other human beings and remember that, for some people, their humanity is suffering. There's fear, there's tremendous frustration. The kids want to be kids, you know? They want to... kids just touch each other all the time.
This is what they do, especially like sophomore boys. But, they want to act as normally as possible. So, we do little things that don't have anything to do necessarily certainly with the content that we're teaching.
We do mental health check-ins every Friday.
We go around the room and we ask each other how we're doing. Like, “How are you? What can we do to support you? How can we be there for you?” And if you don't do those things right now, I think that your… That there's some things that are being ignored.
Our kids are so resilient and they're so adaptable, but the adults aren't as much. You get older and you get stuck in your ways, and stuff like that. And is effects teacher trauma.
But, again, I think the biggest thing that you can focus on as an educator right now is being there for your kids. Show up for them because they're going to show up for you if you do that.
My point all the time is... If you can stay focused only on them, then the other craziness, the other wiping down desks and keeping close contact and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. All of those outside things that if you let them in can make you insane won't because you're focusing on what matters, which is the human beings in the room.
I'm a big proponent of asking kids how they are, listening to their answers, and then also just kind of sharing little things with them.
For instance, I have a crazy five-year-old, so he's always got something funny that he's done or said or whatever that I can share with them and we can laugh about. Because if you don't let them see you as a person, then they're not going to feel comfortable.
If you don't, share your humanity with them, they won't feel comfortable doing that with you. And right now I think the most important thing is really just connections between people. Because I could lose my teaching job, I could have a massively different job assignment next year. I can have all those things, but connections among human beings can't ever be taken away.
Amy: [00:17:58] Yes. I think that's so wonderful. That’s one of the reasons that I know that teachers are just so integral to the development of everyone, like the little human beings, which we all were at some point. I love how you highlighted the aspect of them seeing you as like a real human being and not just this teacher, who's like holding it together and knows exactly what to do. And is there and just trudging on like it's a normal day because
Lindsey: [00:18:28] Nothing is normal. Nothing, nothing is normal. Having this teacher trauma isn’t normal. And for us to... You're not strong when you pretend.
You are not strong when you pretend. You are strong when you allow yourself to be vulnerable in front of others.
Amy: [00:18:42] Yes, that is so true.
Lindsey: [00:18:43] So, when I say to them, “You know, this really freaking sucks.” They're like, “Yeah, it freaking does.”
Then we have this connection where it's like, okay, we're not going to go down this rabbit hole of complaining and woe is me and lamenting our situation. But we are going to talk about the reality of it.
I didn't get to see lots of people at the holidays that I normally get to see. All of that is in the name of protecting my husband and his immune system and all of that. And we will continue to do that because that's what people do for each other when you love them. But if they understand that I feel the suck that they feel and there are things that are being sacrificed. They are having trauma. I have teacher trauma. We share it.
I haven’t been to a grocery store in seven months.
Amy: [00:19:26] Wow.
Lindsey: [00:19:27] And why would I go to one? I could bring home some creepy crawly grossness that blows this entire household up. And if I can't make a living, my kids can't eat and... Again, we're blocking stimulus after stimulus. And it's like a dumpster fire down here. And it hasn't gotten a lot better.
It just feels like you're stampeding through peanut butter.
All the time. Like I'm just slow motion running, I'm just trudging, and I'm not getting anywhere. If they know that we feel what they feel, and we can kind of go, “Yeah, this is completely insane. This is a total shit show,” and recognize that everyone is sharing in that. At least we have something in common that we can start from, trauma and teacher trauma.
Amy: [00:20:14] Exactly. Yes. And I think that's so important because... I mean, I was raised with some very faulty beliefs that adults and children aren't supposed to be able to connect. They're one type of person and then like the adults are the other. There are very seldom areas where you can share commonality in. I think it's just so important.
I'm listening to you talk, and I'm just like, “Yes, yes.” I'm actually in school to become a therapist. And I've been a person going to therapy for years. Everything you're saying are the core tenants of what they teach you to become a therapist.
It’s that all you need to do, you need to listen. You need to allow them to be heard, actually heard, in a way that they understand and they know that you're not just throwing back words. Also to show that you guys have some common ground.
I think this time it's so challenging for so many people outside of education as well.
But it's really allowing so many people that are in leadership levels to take a step into a type of leadership that the world is craving so much and the world needs so much. I'm not sure if the pandemic did not happen that we would be going in that direction.
Lindsey: [00:21:42] Oh, I totally agree with that. You know, I was writing the book. I wrote this book, and I was writing this book. I finished it in April, mid-April. We were locked down and I finished it in a way that I was not envisioning finishing it.
But when I came home March 13th, that Thursday night. My husband got home a little bit later. And he said, “You need to understand that our school year is over.” And I was like, “No, no, no, no.” And he was like, “No, really. Yes.”
And he was right because he always is. It's really annoying. But like then he said, “I think your book just became a really big deal.”
And I said, “Why?” And he goes, “Because every single teacher in the United States of America has experienced teacher trauma as of today.”
Amy: [00:22:35] It's so true.
Lindsey: [00:22:36] And I was like, “Oh.” And he goes, “And not even just in the United States.” He was like, “Every teacher in the entire world has been a victim of a teacher trauma as of today.” And I was like, “Oh, yeah.”
Amy: [00:22:51] Yeah, it's so true.
So we are, I always like to say this when there's dates involved, so we're recording this on January 9th, 2021.
For everyone listening that has been paying attention to the news, this is after the attack. I'm going to call it an attempted coup. A lot of people say otherwise, but I'm going to say an attempted coup.
So I'd love to know we're going to talk about your book, but I'd love to know before, before we go there, like how was showing up on the seventh?
Lindsey: [00:23:24] Oh, Amy, Amy. It was so hard because of teacher trauma.
So a former student of mine is a teacher now. I'm old enough to have some older kids now. But he's a teacher and he teaches government. And, he's a friend at this point. We've been connected over years by lots of different things. And so he's a friend.
I texted him the morning of the seventh and I said, “Good luck today. It's not going to be an easy day for you. But good luck.” And he was like, “Thanks.” His students were in great hands that day. I feel like the history teachers probably had... They carried, they came.
My dad always says somebody has to pick up the heavy end of the couch. I think that the history teacher has carried the heavy end of the couch on the seventh.
But, as an English teacher, I think the most important thing that we talked about... And it wasn't like, “Oh, this happened and it was or wasn't a coup and dah, dah, dah.” We're not going to argue the nitty gritty of what happened. Right?
But what we can say as English teachers is words matter.
If you have thought up until this point, that what we do in English and when we talk about rhetoric and we talk about how words go together to make ideas, doesn't matter... Then there's never been a more apropos opportunity for us to go, “Oh, what we say matters.” Right? What we tweet out matters. What we post on social media matters.
The sequencing of our words, the tone of our words, like our rhetoric matters. And what happened in this country was a result of years and years and years of that type of rhetoric. And I mean, like it or not, the president of the United States said storm the Capitol, and then they did.
Amy: [00:25:15] Exactly. Yeah.
Lindsey: [00:25:17] Like it or not, agree with it or not. That is what occurred in this country. And, never since 9/11, have I been more afraid. Right? Like when 9/11 happened, you watched the first plane hit the tower and go, “Oh, dear.” Then you watched the second plane hit and you knew what was happening. It was kind of like that, like you're watching the news and you're listening and then you're like, “What is going on?”
And then all of a sudden, it's like the second plane hits and you're like, “Oh my gosh, this is domestic terrorism.” You know? It was really something. There are words that could have prevented that. And it just adds to the teacher trauma.
Amy: [00:25:57] Absolutely.
Lindsey: [00:25:58] And there are sequences of words and when you have power, you should use it for good and not evil.
And as a teacher, you have powers that you have to use for good and not evil.
So those connections are strong and those connections are there. It's important to point out to kids that, “If you hate English class, fine. I'm not asking you to love it. But I am asking you to understand that we have a purpose in what we're doing. And your words are powerful and your words matter. Your words have the ability to transform both positively and negatively what happens around you. And if we've never seen that before in our lifetime, and we saw it this week.”
Amy: [00:26:35] So true. And not to say you're lucky that you have this living example, but like, wow. As an english teacher you're probably like, “Well, this kind of helped me really exemplify a point.” So, yeah.
I was quite young when 9/11 happened. I was 11 years old. And I remember it like it was yesterday. And again, I’m in Canada removed from the situation, relatively close to New York in a flight path type of way. It's only about an hour away.
I just remember the heaviness of the room. And you could tell that the adults knew that was going on. We went home early from school. Everybody. I just remember everything being shut down and they're just like, “Go home to your family. They have to explain to you what happened. We're not allowed to tell you. We can't teach you right now because we're all flat.” I mean, they are teaching us, but it was very emotional. Because that moment for me, it was the beginning of like, “Oh, This isn't like in the past anymore.”
All the stuff that we learned in history about all the wars and the trauma and the strife, it's still happening.
And I think about what happened a few days ago... There's so many people that believe certain things that maybe they didn't know for sure. And now it's been shown to them in a way that you can't ignore.
Lindsey: [00:28:08] Yeah.100 percent.
Amy: [00:28:10] I just want to say like, thank you for being there for so many human beings. Because it's... Like, I dunno. I'm becoming a therapist. I don't even really know how I’d handle it if I were a teacher with teacher trauma. I don't know how I'd show up for the kids. I'd probably make some really awkward jokes because I'm not great at handling really intense stuff sometimes.
But yeah, it's just, it's fascinating to me.
Lindsey: [00:28:34] it is.
Amy: [00:28:35] Yeah. So, let's talk a bit about your book before we wrap up, because I would love to hear about what it covers. So, it's about trauma. It's about teachers experiencing trauma.
What prompted you to start writing this? Because I'm assuming it happened before the pandemic kind of really hit off.
Lindsey: [00:28:57] Oh, yeah. So, my teacher trauma was 14 years ago. My first year of teaching, I had a student who was super, super unstable. And what I understand now is that he was probably a sociopath, you know?
He was extremely mentally ill. But he really struggled with lots of different things.
The long and the short of it was that he, for several months... there was this buildup, right? But we got to a point where our school administration thought that there was a chance he was going to bring like a gun to school. And that he was going to commit an act of mass violence in the school.
So, they called us down, his teachers, to the office like on a Thursday afternoon. I don't know what it is about Thursdays, but I get sent home on Thursdays. But they called us down on a Thursday afternoon and they said, “We think he's going to do something weird. And we think he's going to maybe bring this gun or a weapon or.” You know, he was quite the showman.
So, we didn't know, but they hired a lot of extra police for the next day. And really, the times are hilarious. It never even occurred to me not to go to school the next day. Like I just got up and went to work, you know? Cause I was like, “There's going to be police there. It's going to be fine.”
And it was fine. Right? He didn't do anything at school. We were able to prevent an act of mass violence. But what he did do on that Friday night was come into the neighborhood where I lived. He and I were close. Like I was, you know... you develop relationships with certain students and he and his friend group kind of latched onto me as a first year teacher. This was right before my first teacher trauma.
And you know, he and I were close.
But, the problem with that is that he sort of took it on as his mission to make sure that no one was mean to me or no one was messing with me or... It just became a very strange obsession of his.
He came into my neighborhood and picked up another kid that lived in my neighborhood. They left my neighborhood going in one of those big, gigantic, old-style Crown Victorias, like the ones that look like boats. You know what I'm talking about. And they left my neighborhood in one of those.
About 400 yards from my house, he was going about 85 miles per hour and he crashed the car into a tree. He was killed on impact and the other boy in the car was severely severely injured. And the little girl in the car, she kinda got up and walked away. But she was like an itty bitty little girl, like 90 pounds. So, the car just kind of folded around her.
There were no skid marks. There was no evidence of any type of attempt to stop, you know, nothing like that. And we found out later that the student, Kevin was his name. Kevin and this girl had a suicide pact and there were just some very strange, odd things that they were doing. And that was my first teacher trauma.
That was sort of the first really traumatic event that I suffered as a teacher.
In the first six years of my career, I lost seven students, two of them to suicide. And it was just, it got to a point where I was like, “I cannot do this. I cannot stay in this profession if my heart is going to be broken over and over and over and over again.” So, I got a really good therapist.
My book is called “Throwing Rocks.” You get on like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Then I have a website too, which I'll share with you when it's time.
But the therapist assigned me homework. She thought that was super clever because I was teacher, you know, so she thought that-
Amy: [00:33:29] Of course.
Lindsey: [00:33:30] was really clever.
So, one of my homework assignments was to get a bucket of rocks and throw them into a pond. And she said, “You're just so angry. And I don't think you can move forward in the therapeutic process until you release some of that.”
So, I like went to a dock and I threw rocks and I was like, “Whatever, this is stupid.” Then I started throwing them harder and harder. And then I started crying. By the time I got to the end of the bucket of rocks, my hair was everywhere, there was dirt, there was snot, there were tears, you know?
And I felt better. I was like, “Whoa!” And I didn't feel so angry. I didn't feel so much, that I had to like quit my whole life and start over. But that was four years after Kevin died. I carried that teacher trauma for that long.
So, I carried that with me for so long. And there were other traumas in there. Again, I lost six students in 7 years. I got married and divorced.
And there was just a lot, right? My mom had late stage ovarian cancer. She survived. Thank the Lord. So all of that was happening at one time.
So, what I have is a little bit of PTSD and some compounding trauma. I also have four... Like, you know, the ACE scale where you measure your adverse childhood experiences? I'm a four on the ACE scale. Less than 15% of the population of the United States is that. So, I had some childhood trauma compounded with the teacher trauma and I just lost my mind.
And so the book is really... I wasn't ever going to write it, I don't think. But my husband tricked me into talking to a publisher who... We talked on the phone one night and about something completely different than I thought I was gonna talk about, you know? But this story came out.
And so we talked like an April or maybe it was May. I think it was may. And by July he had offered me the ability to write the book. He offered me a contract to write it and it was released in November. So, here we are.
Amy: [00:34:34] Well, congratulations on that. That's such a huge feat and that's so wonderful. And I bet that in itself, writing the book also helped you release some elements of your past and your trauma as well.
Lindsey: [00:34:51] Sure. Yeah.
It was very cathartic in some ways.
And then scary, because there are so many people, I think, who will say to you that what happened to Kevin was just a terrible accident. But that's just not the place I come from with that story. I wish, I really, I wish I could. You know, I wish I could say, “Oh, yeah, it was just a really bad thing that happened.” But I know too much.
I know things that none of the kids would ever know. And I know things that lots of teachers who were with us at that time didn't know. It was hard. It was really hard to go on and forward knowing what happened. And I am so hopeful that this is a once in a career kind of situation.
Because that teacher trauma...
I don't know that if I had to do it again that I could, because it was so tremendously impactful.
Amy: [00:35:42] Absolutely. Yeah, I don't like to compare situations. The only thing that I have that I can compare from my own lived experience... It was somewhat... I used to be a university teaching assistant. So, I would teach younger students and someone died in a car accident. But it was completely accidental. It was over a holiday.
So it was very, very sad. But that was like the only thing.
And I remember having to show up the next day, only a year older than the guy that had died and teach a class on how to get over a traumatic event and I was just like, “What the heck is this?”
Lindsey: [00:36:20] What am I doing here?
Amy: [00:36:22] Yeah, I vowed from then never to be a teacher, so.
Lindsey: [00:36:27] Well, and I think teachers are wired, you know, they're hard wired that the show must go on. Kevin died on a Friday night. I went to the prom on Saturday and I taught my class on Monday. No one ever asked me if I was okay. And I think that's sort of the essence of what I'm getting at in the book is that we have to take care of teachers. We have to.
So many times I'm hugging other people's babies, not in the pandemic, but like when life is normal and it's safe. There's so many times that I'm literally and figuratively hugging other people's babies and telling them that everything's going to be okay. And there is no one telling me that.
There's no one who is reaching out to these teachers and saying, “Are you okay?” You know, no one ever asked me that. Why not? People are leaving the teaching profession in mass. And part of the reason is because of teacher trauma.
Amy: [00:37:15] So, there's absolutely no support system for that kind of stuff at all?
Lindsey: [00:37:18] No, no. We have this like... what's it called?
Like employee assistance thing where you can get like six free therapy sessions
Amy: [00:37:25] Oh, wow. That would be really-
Lindsey: [00:37:27] By six, I'm just getting rolling.
Amy: [00:37:28] Yeah. It takes like, it takes a lot. Six is nothing.
Lindsey: [00:37:32] No, it's nothing. And so, okay, fine. It's a great start. But then after that a therapist is a pretty penny. You know? It costs money to make those things happen and teachers...
And I also think that teachers don't always realize that they've been part of a traumatic event. They call it stress or they call it overwhelm or they call it job dissatisfaction or they call it all these different things.
Because we're just programmed to go. I put on a show seven hours a day and then I go home. Very rarely has anyone ever come up to me and been like, “Hey, how are you doing? How do you feel about what you just endured?”
No one cares how I feel, which adds to my teacher trauma.
Amy: [00:38:11] Just just astonishing to me.
Lindsey: [00:38:14] Oh, I know. I know.
Like, “Hi, I'm a human being. I am not a robot that powers down in the back of the room at the end of the day. You know? I just am not.”
I don't know if you're familiar with the Enneagram at all. But I'm a two, so like I am an empath to my soul and I feel things super, super deeply. I struggle with letting my emotions derive things. And I know the pros and cons of being a two and I live them all the time. But like this empath in specific, like I have to know that someone gives a rip about me. And I don't always know that as a teacher. I don't always know that and it can cause teacher trauma.
Amy: [00:38:55] Yeah, it makes me so sad. I've heard similar things here and I know that our teaching systems are a bit better from a support aspect, but it's the same. Everybody's, there's so many people that are leaving because there's just nothing. They, exactly as you said, like they just view them as robots that can show up and not be affected by anything.
And I'm so thankful that you were able to write this book and that you were able to get it out there, so other teachers can feel less alone in this crazy fucking ride that we're all experiencing.
Lindsey: [00:39:33] Right. I think that, and right now when people feel more alone than ever, you know... I think there are lots of people who are just sort of disregarding a lot of the stay home things, you know? But I don't leave my house very often. I leave my house to go to work. I went through a drive-thru like two weeks ago and that was big fun.
But you know, we aren't...
People are hardwired for human connection, right?
If you get back to Brene Brown and her work about vulnerability and connection... She's like my spirit animal! But when you get to Brene's work and Dr. Brown's work and you go, “Oh, yeah, she's absolutely right.”
If you can't be a human being with other human beings, then you're not going to be able to really function the way that you're intended to function. And teachers are no different. Teacher trauma is real. Teachers, we probably deal with more of the population than most people. Right? I see 150 kids every day.
150 of these people who will have their own traumas, who have their own struggles, and who have their own mental health to take care of. And we're charged with all of those things. There's mental health and then there's spiritual health and there's academic progress.
We've moved to this very assembly line feel and education of data, data, data, system, system, system. And I'm over here, yelling, “Human, human, human!” And people are like, “What?”
You have to take care of these human beings who are taking care of other people's babies. So often I get home to my babies and I don't have anything left. Because no one's taking care of my mental health.
Amy: [00:41:18] Yeah. You're doing amazing. That's all I'm going to say.
Lindsey: [00:41:23] Thank you.
Amy: [00:41:25] And we’re done. No, I'm just kidding.
Lindsey: [00:41:27] And the end
Amy: [00:41:28] Well, thank you so much, Lindsey. It's so wonderful to talk to you and hear your story and for you to share the ins and outs of all your experience and not just when it comes to this last year.
So where can people listening find you online?
Lindsey: [00:41:53] So, Instagram, Lindsey Acton Stories. Twitter, I am Mrs. Acton. And then Facebook, there's a Throwing Rocks page. I also have a website. Lindsey Acton stories.com, all one word. There you can purchase the book. You can hear more about my story. Read some reviews. I'm getting ready to venture into the world of blogging, which I can't really wait for. I miss the writing piece of the book thing.
You know, I wrote it. Now I'm promoting it, and I miss the writing piece. I'm not very good at very many things, but I am good at writing. So, I miss that part. I think that’s it, right? Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. I'm not very good at Twitter, but I'm trying and getting better at it.
Amy: [00:42:35] I love that. And I'll make sure that these links are all available for easy access on the show notes page, which is linked in the description below this episode. So, Lindsey, thank you again so much for sharing your story and giving us your time. I always ask my guests to leave the audience and listeners with some words of wisdom.
I'm going to make it a little bit pointed on this episode.
So, I would love it if you would leave the audience with some words of wisdom regarding going into this new year and dealing with the trauma that we've all been experiencing and making it the best year that we possibly can, all things considering.
Lindsey: [00:43:24] Oh, yes. I love that you do that. That's really cool. I think my words of wisdom go to you out there who have experienced trauma and teacher trauma, who have struggled with the incredible craziness that has been the last 12 months. My words of wisdom are to allow people to see you. It’s the biggest thing to let people see who you are, to let people share in your experiences, and to share in theirs.
Because when we connect with other people, we find healing that we wouldn't otherwise know where to find it. And, again, human beings are hardwired for connection, right? We've got to really foster those things.
You're not strong when you hide, you're strong when you share. And I think if we can walk through this next year sharing with each other, caring about each other, and holding each other up, then we'll be able to really heal and move forward in the way that we're intended to do so.