I was passing through Samuel D’s last Friday and one of SUNY Plattsburgh’s esteemed professors was sitting at a table grading stacks of papers.  She mentioned how much she enjoyed my blogs and I said that I was trying to think of a good one for the end of the semester.  She said, “How about, ‘Take two aspirin and call me in the morning’?”  I said that sounded like a good idea.

This is the time of year where many extra miles are walked by passionate, caring professors.  It also is the time of year, “when the eggshells are thin.” We understand that the pressure is on and even little things seem bigger than they are.   The professors are feeling this way as are the students.  As we approach the end of the semester, professors are asking if students have learned enough, and, if not, have they inspired the passion for learning and the critical thinking/problem solving skills to allow students to be successful.   It’s a big responsibility to help students rewire their brains in ways that will increase opportunities for success in their careers and in ways that will improve their ability to be responsible citizens in our world.   At this point, we only have two weeks remaining to make sure this has happened – WOW, where’s the aspirin?

With the knowledge that some of the eggshells are thin, it is important that we remember our top shared values category:

Respect and Empathy
• Seek to understand before being understood
• Listening to each other
• Share what is most important
• Share our challenges as well as our successes
• Trust
• Open-mindedness, acceptance of perspectives
• Embrace diversity of opinions

At this point in the semester, it is more important than ever to remember our shared values and to model them for our students.  End-of-semester stress can erode the potential for reaching meaningful levels of respect and empathy or it can give us the opportunity to express these values, mindfully, at their highest level – there is a choice.  Choosing respect and empathy take civility (something I feel we do fairly well in the EHHS Division) to a deeper level. 

Deeper levels of civility are not easily attained without a little inner work.  In his book, The Mindful Path to Self Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions, Christopher Gemer shares information about compassion and healing.  He said this involves, “the process of establishing a new relationship with our thoughts and feelings, rather than directly challenging them, that makes the difference.  The new relationship is less avoidant, less entangled, more accepting, more compassionate, and more aware.  Leaning into our problems [end-of-semester stress] with open eyes and an open heart – with awareness and compassion – is the process by which we get emotional relief.”   He went on to discuss acceptance as being the opposite of resistance and that resistance creates suffering.  Many of the Dali lama’s writings share this philosophy too. 

I wish you well in the coming weeks and hope that you can move forward with an open heart and can employ acceptance rather than resistance.  Respect and empathy for yourself will create more room for respect and empathy for others.  If you still find yourself having a hard time with this, or feel others are, I have some aspirin in my office.

Gemer, C. (2009). The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.