Developing resilience in teachers and educators in South Africa
Together with the Yivani Mbali Foundation and the It Starts With Me campaign, a mini workshop was held in Durban city centre for a group of approximately 30 Early Childhood Development (ECD) practitioners and educators. Organised by the Linda Zama Trust, the workshop explored how Shape of Emotion could support emotional resilience with interested ECD practitioners and teachers.
The Linda Zama Trust recognised the need to attend to the surge in levels of frustration, a sense of not being appreciated, anxiety, stress and other emotional difficulties experienced by Early Childhood Development (ECD) practitioners, teachers and educators in KwaZulu-Natal that are part of the trust. The Yivani Mbali Foundation together with 5th Place were invited to facilitate a pilot workshop to explore how Shape of Emotion could support emotional resilience with interested ECD practitioners as well as how to promote resilience in the classroom.
The workshop focused on the importance building resilience in South African teachers, fostering emotional wellbeing and mental health. It introduced participants to Shape of Emotion, a model, process and tool of how emotions are structured, stored, and regulated. Shape of Emotion is a life skill that can be learnt and used to deal with emotional challenges and build emotional resilience in not just teachers but people of all ages and professions.
What are emotions?
Emotions are a mind-body response triggered by events, memories, and thoughts. When something is felt, it activates a neural network, simultaneously throughout the brain and body, producing hormones and chemicals that influence behaviour on a conscious and unconscious level. Emotions are part of being human, they are supposed to flow freely throughout the body but when we BAN (bury, avoid, numb) emotions we can get physically, as well as mentally, ill.
The challenges and needs
The workshop participants and teachers were forthcoming and open when asked about the challenges and needs regarding emotional issues in the ECD system. High level concerns raised were as follows:
- Nobody respected the work they did
- The community did not support them
- Parents did not always pay
- Sometimes they had to use their own money to buy food and other items for the centres
- The community had the idea that they made a lot of money and were envious and spoke badly about them
- There was always a problem with finances
- They were not paid well
No previous experience
As Shape of Emotion is a learnt skill, it is not expected that everyone will find success in using it the first time round. The results, however, were indicative of the versatility of Shape of Emotion.
None of the participants had any previous experience of Shape of Emotion. The process does require focus and concentration and preferably a quiet environment. The noise, heat and possibly the language barrier could have an inhibitor for some. Many of the educators could only speak Zulu and we were presenting in English with occasional translation. Despite this, most participants engaged openly, with curiosity and lightness.
At the end of the session the educators shared some of their feelings on the Shape of Emotion experience. Here is a selection:
- Nice to feel my heartbeat
- I feel stress free
- I forgot where I was and fell asleep
- Excellent to relax
- Felt relief
- Forgot my worries
- Calm and sleepy
- Felt so much more lighter
Pre and post-session questionnaires
Over 30 participants were afforded the opportunity to learn and experience a different way of engaging with their emotions by using Shape of Emotion. In order to measure the effectiveness of the process we utilise pre- and post-session questionnaires. Language was a factor that casts some doubt over whether all the questions were properly understood but the results are reported as received. 22 sets of questionnaires were completed and collated.
Pre and post session comparisons
Ability to feel feelings / emotions
Prior to the workshop 68% of the participants did not find it difficult to feel their feelings. By the end of the workshop virtually everyone, 95%, or 21 of the 22 surveyed participants, confirmed that they were able to feel their feelings.
Ability to engage with feelings
In terms of engaging with their feelings, 73% or 16 participants felt comfortable feeling their feelings prior to the workshop and 91% or 21 participants reported being able to find the feeling in or around their body during the Shape of Emotion process.
For those that were not able to feel and / or find their feelings, it is understood that individuals who have suffered extended periods of trauma become disassociated from themselves, their minds and bodies. The most important self-regulatory skills that these individuals need to learn is emotional regulation and adjustment.*
*Courtois, Christine A. “Complex Trauma, Complex Reactions: Assessment and Treatment.” Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training 41, no. 4 (2004): 412–25. https://doi.org/10/c8dzs5.
How easy to let go of difficult emotions
Prior to the session 59% of respondents found it very easy or somewhat easy to let go of a difficult emotion compared to 82% who found it very easy or somewhat easy to let go of their difficult emotions using Shape of Emotion. The balance were either neutral or found it Somewhat difficult.
Building emotional resilience
Dealing with one’s difficult emotions is not a once off event. Emotional resilience comes with consistent and continuous effort. It is hoped that this group of individuals will continue to attend to their emotional wellbeing as an ongoing practice. Shape of Emotion, used as a daily practice, enables people to build emotional resilience and regulate their feelings, positively impacting both mental health and physical well being.
About the author
5th Place offers specialised psychological services in the form of coaching and therapy for immediate relief from stress, anxiety, & other mental health challenges. It works fast, deep and quick. For individuals and groups, children, teens and adults.