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What Matters Is What It Left You With...

Tarana Burke, founder of the Me Too movement, was on Brene Brown’s podcast Unlocking Us last year. The episode was titled ‘on Being Heard and Seen.” They spoke, at length, about comparative suffering and how trauma leaves an imprint on your body. They spoke of how, too often, trauma and pain get ranked, sometimes leaving people to not respond. Sometimes the lack of response is because a person may be ashamed to take up too much empathy from those who have suffered more or longer.

In this conversation, Tarana shared, “I get it from a lot of young girls when I go to college campuses and what I say is: what matters is what it left you with. The thing that it left you with is what matters. The details don’t matter. I mean they matter to you personally- but it terms of what it did to you… you might be left with pain and rage and you don’t have to rank it or compare it to anyone else. It’s yours.”

Tarana and Brene were speaking about surviving sexual assault. And the connections in my brain went to the collective trauma and its impact on teachers and students from the COVID 19 pandemic.

Later in the episode, Brene went on to define real empathy. She said, “it’s the willingness to see and hear people and be with them in their pain.” She also reminded listeners: there is no script for empathy.

I work as a literacy coach and consultant. I am not with the same students every day. I’m not even working in the same school every day. So I wonder, how can I possibly ask more of these teachers who are so overwhelmed? Am I empathetic enough? When do I push and nudge more precise and proactive literacy instruction when teachers come to my sessions drained, defeated, and no longer believing in their practice? To be honest, I’m really not sure. This is the season we are told to be thankful, but I’m not sure how to encourage gratitude for:

  • No substitute teachers

  • Missed preps

  • Back-ordered supplies

  • Quarantines and questions

I really don’t know the answer here. So instead of offering solutions, right now I’m offering empathetic ears.

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