Sawubona. The most common greeting in the Zulu tribe and throughout South Africa is translated, “I see you and by seeing you, I bring you into being.” What better greeting to share with each other as we return from a short, but much-needed Thanksgiving Break after an incredibly intense first trimester at Proctor.
Over the weekend, I happened across psychologist Susan David’s Ted Talk (above) in which she discusses the need for emotional agility in our lives. David shares the meaning of the sawubona greeting from her native South Africa and its power as we seek connection and long to be seen. She talks of society’s praise for being strong and for individuals being the master of “ok” in response to “How are you doing?”.
As I reflect on the Fall Term at Proctor, I daily fell into this trap of being the “master of ok”. And I know I am not alone. Students, colleagues, parents, all locked into a rigidity of emotion that David warns against - bottling, brooding, or using false positivity to operate in denial of our emotions. We judge ourselves and others for having “negative” emotions and being positive became a new form of moral correctness, instead of working to precisely name the emotions we are experiencing. As David notes, “When we push aside normal emotions to embrace false positivity, we lose our capacity to develop skills to deal with the world as it is, not as we wish it could be.” We must recommit to doing the emotional workouts required to help ourselves and our students navigate today's world.
For the next three days, faculty and staff will engage in professional development workshops in preparation for remote learning beginning on Thursday, December 3. Workshops will focus on identity, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice work, as well as the application of remote technology to optimize the student experience during this three weeks stretch of remote classes. Later this week, a group of faculty, staff, and students will virtually attend the NAIS People of Color Conference and engage in powerful, needed DEIJ work as we collectively work to make Proctor a more equitable, diverse, inclusive and just community.
We often refer to professional development as training, and it is just that. These workshops, conversations, and conferences allow us to better know ourselves and those around us. Its purpose mirrors that of going for a run, spinning on a trainer, or working out in the fitness center. Each conversation, each article or book we read, each journal exercise is a step toward emotional fitness. As David notes, this fitness is so important because, “When our moment comes to face our fragility, in that ultimate time, it will ask us, ‘Are you agile?’ Let the moment be an unreserved ‘yes.’ A ‘yes’ born of a lifelong correspondence with your own heart. And in seeing yourself. Because in seeing yourself, you are also able to see others, too: the only sustainable way forward in a fragile, beautiful world. Sawubona.”