It isn’t my job to teach..

..except when it is explicitly my job.

I teach microscopy in my day job as a microscopy officer.  I teach when I walk into the charity I (used to) volunteer for on the days I’ve agreed to be a trainer.  Outside of these two times, where it is explicitly my job to teach – it isn’t my job to teach.

I realise I have a problem with inevitably teaching where it isn’t my job – when I start burning out from it.  What do I teach?  I teach diversity and inclusion.  I teach empathy and acceptance.  I teach people that the world isn’t as simple as they think it is, that life isn’t as straightforward as they wish it is.

The LGBT+ charity I volunteered for had a diversity problem.  Not enough visibility of the ‘B’s, not enough representation of the ‘T’s, and generally dismal performance when it came to recruiting minority ethnic people.  They even had dismal numbers of women, but that improved in the few years I was there.  So what do I find myself doing?  Teaching people about why recruitment of the underrepresented populations is such a problem – and that ends up being a long lesson on what the privilege ladder is, and why it affects recruitment for the charity.  Oh, and why it is important to collect information on why people leave.

I can’t help it, I am from a diverse, underrepresented population, and I try to be a well read, informed, educated intersectional feminist.  I don’t expect other people to be as informed, but at the same time, if they are willing to learn, I like to think I’m willing to teach.  Except… sometimes that burns me out.  When it happens again and again and again and again, it wears me out.. and in the end, I have to take a break.

I left that charity a month ago.  I burnt out.  I need to spend my time and my energies on getting my BA in Counselling… and yet… it is happening again.

My counselling course had a very cohesive group last year, and we learnt a lot together.  This year’s group is partly old, partly new, and we haven’t learn about each other yet.  Last weekend’s module was on ethics, which inevitably brings up sensitive topics such as sexual deviance and suicide – topics I feel strongly about.  Unfortunately… people without any background knowledge of me, who does not know why I have a in-depth knowledge of sexual health, sexual deviance, and the legal issues surrounding such – are prone to questioning WHY I have the knowledge.

The question makes me feel cornered.

Even though I don’t hide it.  I wear rainbows in my hair and blue-purple-pink badges on my bag.  I talk about bisexuality and polyamory as if it is everyday for me.  Well, it IS everyday for me.  My group last year heard me speak about the helpline I volunteered for, about how people, sometimes teenagers, who have no other safe source of sexual health information, phone the helpline, about how it makes me feel, about the good it does.  But not everyone from year 2 knows my background… and so they question.

I don’t hide it – but the question makes me feel cornered.  The way it was asked made me feel defensive, like it was something I was expected to be ashamed about – and I am not.  Maybe I do have issues around shame, and maybe this is all me.  But.. despite feeling these defensiveness, I still offer a friendly hand, I say – if you want to know anything else, ask me after class, I am happy to share.

Again I offered to teach.

What is sexual deviance?  What is sexual normalcy?  Shouldn’t we, as counsellors in training, be completely open about sex?  Shouldn’t we be prepared to deal with sexual shame in our clients?  Yet… if we ourselves are not ready to talk about sex frankly, how do we expect to be able to help clients with sexual shame or sexual repression?

I want to say all this to them, but again, this is teaching.  Instead I write in my learning journal that I should look at the good side of this.  If my fellow counsellors can’t deal with sexual repression… they can refer those clients to me.  More business for me right?

But no – I cannot feel good about this.  I cannot feel good knowing that even counsellors training in 2017 are not dealing with sexual shame & repression.  I have talked to far too many people for whom this is a problem, who might go for counselling, who might then be faced with a counsellor who isn’t equipped to deal with the problem, who might then never get the help they need.  I do not and cannot feel good about this.  But I can only say to myself – it isn’t my job to teach.  I am a student in the class, like everyone else, and it isn’t my job to teach.

The other ethical topic we talked about last week was suicide, when to report, when not to.  I had a very idealistic young coursemate whose view was very much along the lines of ‘99.999% of all suicides are circumstantial and can be stopped if the circumstances change’.  Erm.. my dear little friend – you may be right, but all you are is a therapist, not a magician.  If clients are in so much despair, whether from illness, poverty, addiction, or anything else which is circumstantial – there is NOTHING the therapist can do to change the circumstance… so saying that doesn’t really help.  This coursemate also said to me “give me one example where nothing can be done, there is always something which can be done”.  My heroine, my idol, my sibbling-in-another-life Leelah Alcorn, I thank you for being my example, and I am sorry I had to talk about you.

Why does this coursemate repeatedly corner me, why do they keep asking me questions?  It isn’t my job to teach.  I can’t help but teach, but it burns me out, it frustrates me.  I am there as a student, I am there to learn, I am there to improve on my skills as a counsellor, and to build my own self awareness.  I am not there to teach.  I blame them for being frustrating, but it is my problem too. If I don’t offer to teach, people will stop expecting me to. 

This post is about my self awareness.  It is me, repeating to myself, for the gazillionth time in two months….. it isn’t my job to teach.



Children learn consideration by example.

Children learn by example, particularly soft skills such as caring for others, consideration of others’ feelings, love and empathy.  They can also learn the opposite by example, so if there is someone in the household showing them that it is okay not to care about others’ feelings, showing them it is okay not to care for the environment, the earth, or the people around them, then they have just as much chance of learning that than of learning love and empathy, even if there is someone in the household who does show it.

If the person who shows inconsideration by example then says “oh, you’re so inconsiderate, can you learn some consideration for others”, it doesn’t work, because they have seen inconsideration for others from this person, and all they will learn then is that it is okay to be a hypocrite.

Children don’t use the words which adults use to describe feelings and actions.   Often adults don’t use words to describe feelings and actions.  It is entirely plausible that an adult who grew up in an environment where very little emotion and empathy was ever shown to them, will become an adult who doesn’t show emotion and empathy.  This translates then to a lack of skill in classifying what these things are.

They may not realise, for example, that when they say “don’t shake the homeless person’s hand when you give them cake, they are very dirty and often have pee on them” is a very very negative response to the kid wanting to do an amazing, beautiful and caring act.  The child then learns that being caring gets a negative response, and learns to stop caring.  It could have been phrased very differently.  If the adult was worried about hygiene, they could have said to bring some baby wipes or alcohol gel along and to clean up afterwards if they don’t feel comfortable.  But by dismissing the kindness of the act, and labelling it with negativity instead, the child will learn the negativity rather than the positivity, if there isn’t another influence with the action which changes it back to a positive.

Similarly, a throaway comment of, “I don’t like drinking tap water, they are bad for my kidneys” buys bottled water in for the kids and himself to drink… the children will learn that it is okay to care for themselves, but not for their host, whose flat they are living in, and whom they should be encouraged to care for.  The host becomes someone whose role is to be there ‘for’ them, to ‘serve’ them, to provide accommodation, and not a human being to have consideration for.

If an adult who doesn’t read, teaches the children to only buy brand new pristine books, but then don’t teach them to value the books afterwards, whether physically, or the content – what will the children learn?  That the outside of the book is more valuable than the inside?  That it is okay to deface beautiful things?  Are they meant to be buying books for content, or for pristine dust jackets?

An adult who doesn’t have any consciousness of what they are teaching their children can be very very bad for the emotional development of the child.  It doesn’t matter what the adult says, it is usually what the adult does which matters.

The children will not learn consideration for others, if they constantly see inconsideration around them.  In the long run, people who grow up in in these environments don’t even have consideration for their family members.  It will be therre for show.  A sort of lip service – doing what they “should”.  But it isn’t real.  It is a charade of “looking after one’s own”, but not a genuine feeling of care.  The cycle then repeats, with the next generation growing up not knowing what consideration of others mean.  Only that they must behave a certain way around certain people, but people who fall outside their class need not be cared about.

It is quite possible that they may end up in the cut throat business world – and be successful.  However if they are not cut out for that world, they might end up with issues later in life.  It is emotionally dysfunctional, and I am extremely worried for my nibblings.  I will try my very very best to show them a different way to live, but with such limited access to them, and with their father providing such a strong example of how not to care for people outside their social circle – I do not have much hope and all I can do is to cry in silence.