Building resilience for Early Childhood Educators with Ellen Drolette

00:00:01    Alyssa

 You're listening to Voices of Your Village. This is episode 223. For this episode I got to hang out with my dear friend Ellen Drolette to chat about building resilience for Early Childhood educators. Ellen is the author of "Overcoming teacher burnout" where she goes into strategies for supporting Early Childhood educators in this field that we know is so ripe with burnout. Ya'll we need to support our Early Childhood educators and Ellen and I got to chat about how to do just that. We know that now more than ever there is a teacher shortage and teachers leaving the field in droves. Because we're exhausted, we're overworked and underpaid and alone and isolated in this work. And craving the respect we deserve in the field. This was such a rad conversation and a really truly necessary one. Thank you Ellen for hanging out with me for this episode!


00:01:01    Alyssa

And y'all I am super jazzed to share that we have a SEED teacher virtual summit coming your way! We were asked to do an in person conference and I was like, oh my gosh, no thank you, that's a lot of work, I am not an event planner. But you know what I can do, I can bring incredible humans your way, for free, for you to learn from and for you to grow with. Our SEED teacher summit will be free from April 10th to April 12th. We'll be rolling out different workshops for you from 18 total speakers in the field of Early Ed. Join our email list of head on over to instagram to stay tuned for how to sign up! I'm so so excited to bring these humans to you for free. Alright y'all. Let's dive in. 

00:01:54    Alyssa

Hey there. I'm Alyssa Blask Campbell. I'm a mom with a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education and co-creator of the Collaborative Emotion Processing method. I'm here to walk alongside you through the messy, vulnerable parts of being humans, raising other humans with deep thoughts and actionable tips. Let's dive in together.  


00:02:19    Alyssa

Welcome back to Voices of Your Village. Today I get to hang out with Ellen Drolette. Ellen has been in the field of early childhood for about three decades. She is passionate about advocating for children and families, the early childhood workforce, and equal access to high quality, affordable childcare. Ellen is a family child care provider. She has been named a global leader with the World Forum Foundation. She has been a board member of the National Association for Family Child Care and has authored several articles for Exchange Magazine. Her first book, "Overcoming Teacher Burnout in Early Childhood: Strategies for Change", was published in 2018 by Redleaf Press and focuses on how Early Childhood professionals can battle burnout and low morale in the workplace. Ellen is known widely for her commitment to children and families and was recognized as a Master Leader by Exchange Magazine in 2016. Ellen is a certified Appreciative Inquiry practitioner and has found innovative ways to work appreciative inquiry into the practices of early childhood education. She earned her certificate at Champlain College and has spent several years training, mentoring and consulting with early childhood educators from diverse economic and educational backgrounds, which has helped her develop a broad understanding of the early childhood workforce needs and a comprehensive approach to supporting individuals and organizations. She owns Positive Spin VT, LLC and travels, doing keynotes and presentations. She also works for Seed and Sew! She supports our teachers and programs in our Seed Certification program. Ellen is such an incredible human to get to work alongside. She's someone that I met really early on when I moved to Vermont and have just collaborated with in so many ways over the years. And it's a privilege to get to bring her to you all today. How are you, Ellen? 


00:04:20    Ellen

Thank you. Thank you for having me. 


00:04:22    Alyssa

You are welcome. It's my pleasure. Ellen is going to dive in today with me on a topic that I think is so needed everywhere in life, but also in early childhood. Today we get to chat about building resilience for early childhood educators. And how do we stay in this field, how do we continue to do it? It's such a draining, exhausting, challenging job. And just the other day, Zach was like, we were talking about our child care provider, and he was like, we got to pay her more money. And he's like, It's so hard. And it is. 


00:05:06    Ellen

It is so hard. And I think for many centers right now, it's continued to be hard trying to find staff. They've had to close classrooms and not take as many children, which then puts stress on families who might also be teachers. And it becomes this situation where you just start to feel burned out. You are not recovering as quickly. And when we're talking about resilience, I mean, that's really what it's about, bouncing back. 


00:05:37    Alyssa

Yeah. Well, I think that's key to note. It's not avoiding the hard stuff. 


00:05:42    Ellen

Oh, no, you don't want to avoid the hard stuff. It's just how you...


00:05:47    Alyssa

I mean, I want to. 


00:05:50    Ellen

Well of course we all want to. It's how you bounce back. Do you have the skills to or are the skills available for you to be able to bounce back in a way that will sort of allow you to kind of continue in the way that you have been? And I think that the pandemic tested a lot of people in terms of resilience and change and how we adapt to change, and all of those pieces play into sort of that idea of being resilient. 


00:06:22    Alyssa

Yeah. What do you think are those key drivers to burn out right now? 


00:06:27    Ellen

I think that the job is just I mean, alone is hard. Putting aside pandemic it was hard before. It's still hard. I think that the hours or the time that has to be put in for programs to be able to sort of cover their costs. 


00:06:46    Alyssa



00:06:47    Ellen

To be able to give the teachers the mental health that they need. I'm trying to think of a way if I worked in a center based program and you needed to get out for appointments or whatnot, how do you do that? I have a substitute that comes in once a week so that I can schedule things like that. But when you're in a center based program, you have to have systems, and when you don't have substitutes and you don't have floaters, those systems start to crumble. 


00:07:17    Alyssa

Sure. And we lose that self care piece.


00:07:19    Ellen

Of course. Yeah. And that's the biggest piece of self care in terms of being able to stay in the field, like defining self care. Everybody has very different definitions of what self care is. And to me, self care is, while massages are super nice and can help in the moment, it's not a strategy that's going to kind of last for a long time. It's not going to play into sort of the system that you need to sort of be healthy in that way. 


00:07:56    Alyssa

Totally. As a part of the CEP Method, one of the five components is self care. And when we laid this out, self care means something different to everybody. 


00:08:07    Ellen



00:08:07    Alyssa

And what we were looking at, which is I think where you come at this as well, is how do we support the nervous system, right? Whether it's, yeah, we have little breaks throughout the day, or we're drinking our water, we're eating our food, really, those things that I think feel annoyingly basic, right. That there are memes that will go around, but like, self care in parenthood and how it's not just like having a hot meal or drinking your coffee. It's like those actually do go a really long way in that baseline foundation. And I think starting at that spot is so key of, like, how do I in the most basic way. 


00:08:49    Ellen

Right. I mean, when you look at Maslow and hierarchy of needs and just thinking about what it is you need to sort of get through the day. And what if you didn't have what if you went through the whole day without a meal, which happens. Sure, we forget to eat or drink or even go to the bathroom. I know you can't, little tiny tinker. 


00:09:11    Alyssa

It's all the water! 


00:09:13    Ellen

And yeah, so good about drinking water. I'm horrible about it. But those are the pieces, though, that regulate us so that we can if you think about that hierarchy, we can get to the next level when we feel rested, when we feel fed, when we feel like we're hydrated, but when we don't have those small little things in place, it doesn't work. 


00:09:37    Alyssa

Totally. And then I think we end up in this reactive cycle of feeling like, hopefully a massage will fix it, or this night out with a friend will fix it. Or if I take this mental health day and I just lay in bed for a day and binge watch a show, which cheers to doing that. But if we're only using that in a reactive sense, I think that's where we hit those burnout cycles. 


00:09:59    Ellen

100%. I think that also creating, and sometimes when mental health is not in line with sort of that idea of self care, I mean, that's one thing that I always stress is that if you feel like you're not yourself, you're crying a lot, you're sad a lot, you reach out to your doctor right away. Don't sit on it. The stigma for mental health has to be removed, and part of that is just like, taking care of yourself in that moment when you feel like you have something going on. And I think that when you're talking about resilience and self care, mental health has to be part of that conversation. 


00:10:37    Alyssa

Yes. Crucial. 


00:10:38    Ellen



00:10:39    Alyssa

I was chatting with one of our SEED Cert directors recently, and she was like, I want to figure out how to have better systems for my teachers and boundaries for them to be able to be off so that they're not, like, getting a text when they're not working or whatever. We're in a group text that people will communicate or that a parent reaches out, but they're not checking email on weekends. They're carving out times throughout the day. And like, what does that look like in a classroom setting where we're strapped for bodies, right. We're strapped for teachers. We are just trying to stay in ratio a lot of the time, or directors. She was in this conversation, she was saying, like, so often I have all this stuff on my plate, and then I'm pulled into a classroom because the teacher is out or whatever. And so recognizing that's the reality of where we are. And while we're working on systems change, and we have state governments working on it, we have organizations here in our state that are really advocating for systems change. And across the nation, we're not there yet, and that's going to take time. What does it look like to support the resilience of educators in the system we know right now? 


00:11:47    Ellen

Right. And I think boundaries, you brought up boundaries. That is huge for me. I struggled when just yesterday on social media, somebody had posted in a closed group about a child being in their program with 102 temperature, and the parents, like, not respecting that the child needs to get picked up. And I do know that families have an incredible amount of pressure on them in terms of leave to take care of your child. But if we're not going to use our own policies that we've created, which are boundaries, then why do we have them? If you're just going to let sick children be there, then at what point are you just going to say, well, why do I have these? 


00:12:39    Alyssa

Sure. Well, then you're choosing the ease of that family and that parent over yourself. Being able to provide high quality care to the other kids in the classroom, knowing that the other kids are now being exposed to this, it's a trickle down. And you're saying, like, anytime we say yes to someone or something, we're saying no to someone or something else. 


00:12:59    Ellen

Usually ourselves. 


00:13:00    Alyssa

Usually ourselves. That's it. Like so many of us in Early Ed, we came into this field as caregivers, as helpers, as humans who are so used to sacrificing for ourselves. 


00:13:15    Ellen

Well, our strengths are also our weaknesses, and our strengths go hand in hand because we are everything you just said, and we want to please everyone. 


00:13:26    Alyssa

That's it. 


00:13:26    Ellen

And at some point, that does get put aside, but at the cost of what? Like, is it going to be your work in early childhood? Is it going to be you as a parent, as a partner? Like, what where's it going to give? 


00:13:44    Alyssa

Right? Well, I think we do it right from the jump when we're like, oh yeah, I'll do this really hard job for very little pay. Right? My very first teaching job, I was teaching preschool at Childcare Center in Brooklyn, New York. Like, New York City, one of the most expensive places to live. And I got my first job. A, to be a lead teacher at this school, you had to either have a Master's or be in a Master's program. So I got a job as a teacher in the classroom. Couldn't yet be the lead. My salary was $30,000 a year, and I was like, oh, my gosh, I'm a thousand. They’re like, I've made it. But like, in and then my best friend had just we had just graduated college. I was a year out of college. She had just gotten her first job. She worked in finance. Both have bachelor's degrees, very different fields of work, and she started her first job at $85,000. 


00:14:42    Ellen

Oh, my Lord. 


00:14:44    Alyssa

And guess what? She didn't have to get a Master's to move up. Right. And I just the other day was talking about this, and it's like, from the very beginning, our field attracts people that say subconsciously say, yeah, I'll make almost no money because I care about our tiny humans. I care about the future. I love this work. And so we make this sacrifice right from the very beginning. And I think we're so used to making sacrifices. 


00:15:15    Ellen

Yeah. Wow. Yeah, that's huge. I mean, it's funny because when my son graduated from nursing school, he's like, I'm only going to make I don't even remember how much he said. And I was like, are you serious right now? I've been doing this for how long? And I'm not at that place yet. Yeah, it's hard. And it's hard when you see your peers that do have, like, Master's degrees that in comparison to, like, another teacher or another person in a finance job, they're making a shit ton of money. 


00:15:51    Alyssa

We'll even saying, like I could have gone K-2, right? I have a master's in Early Ed, I could have taught K-2, kindergarten through second grade and was licensed to do so and chose infant/toddler. Right. Like, the place where I'm going to get paid the least. Because I saw it as the greatest opportunity for impact. 


00:16:11    Ellen

Yeah, and it is the greatest place to impact tiny humans. And yet society is like, oh, you're going to go hold humans and feed them, and you're going to go just throw some toys down for them while they lay on the floor. Yeah, that's not the reality at all. There's so much more happening. And so these are places where resilience, we have to be able to figure out ways to bounce back in a way that's going to not push us under the bus so that we can't do the hard work. 


00:16:47    Alyssa

Yeah, totally. And I think it is saying, like, recognizing we do come into this already with, I think, an approach where we say, yeah, I'll give and give and give and recognizing. I think you're right. Boundaries are really huge for resilience to say, yeah, I'm going to set this boundary, and I'm sick, and I know that my program is going to be understaffed if I call out, but I'm sick and I'm going to call out anyway. 


00:17:16    Ellen

And this is like we always laugh about this, but when I call out sick, I have so much guilt. The guilt, man, is real. And it's hard to get out of your own way to be like I feel like the pandemic, in some ways, has made it a little bit better for me to be like, hey, I can't work, I'm sick. I feel like it's kind of paved a little different path so that you don't I don't feel as guilty. But it is it's hard when you know you're going to be, like, putting out six people, right. Or six families or eight families, whatever it is. 


00:17:55    Alyssa

We're just making it harder for your team or whatever. I feel that, and I think part of it is that in Early Ed, I mean, we saw it really early on in the pandemic, and I think the pandemic did a good job of highlighting, we are essential. We are essential to every other system running. And it also, I think, highlighted that even more to us that if we don't show up, we're an essential piece of the puzzle. In order for all this other work to get done, in order for these other folks to go to work, we have to go to work first. Right. And that if we don't go to work, they can't go to work. 


00:18:33    Ellen

It was one of the first times, I think, in my life that in terms of really feeling that genuine appreciation 100% in an authentic way, it felt like when families were home for the ten week period, if I had to close my program after a week or two, the families were like, okay. Well. That was like a vacation. And then when I got to the week 3,4,5,6, they were just like, oh, my God, I need childcare. And it's not that they're bad parents. It's just that...


00:19:07    Alyssa

No, it's hard! 


00:19:08    Ellen

It's hard, right?


00:19:09    Alyssa

Especially if you're trying to work at that same time. Whatever. You can't do both at the same time, like working and not having childcare whenever. And we now live in a system where you have to pay for your village, which is a whole other podcast. So broken. 


00:19:28    Ellen

Whole other 10 podcasts. 


00:19:31    Alyssa

Somebody like to start a podcast with me? But when we're looking at how do we foster this resilience, then for these educators who, yeah, you felt that genuine, authentic appreciation. And I think for a lot of educators, it helped them come back at first that like, oh, I feel really appreciated in this work. And then when, like, fast forward to not even two years later or whatever. Maybe two years later, we're at a place where now you have a family who's like, my kid is 102 fever, and I can't come pick them up, and you're like, oh, my gosh, how do I set this boundary? I think for a lot of us, that appreciation felt like it dwindled real fast. 


00:20:09    Ellen

Real fast. 


00:20:10    Alyssa

And then became an expectation. 


00:20:12    Ellen

Yes. And not for all. Like, sure, not for all. I have, like, fabulous families that are very respectful of sick children and staying home when their children are sick, and I feel very fortunate for that. But it's not that way everywhere. 


00:20:31    Alyssa

I get it from the parent hustle side where it's like, I can't we joke on the SEED team on the back end, like, cool, my kid's been in child care for a week. We're really pushing time where at some point they're coming home with something or a kid goes home from the classroom. And just this weekend, I had plans with two friends. Tonight, plans are canceled because one child's throwing up the other child for tomorrow's plans just got canceled because they tested positive for COVID. It just is, like, constant on the parenting side. And, yeah, I feel it on both sides. Right. The early childhood educator want to have that appreciation and connection and support early childhood educators and all this and then this pull to, like, mama's got to go to work. 


00:21:14    Ellen

Right. I think for an early childhood educator to see, like, you can see both sides, and you can see that parents are being pulled in the direction and they're feeling that pressure, and hopefully parents are seeing that same on the other side, that centers are having problems trying to find qualified teachers. It might not be that they can't find people, they can't find qualified people. 


00:21:39    Alyssa



00:21:42    Ellen

That's a whole other thing, too, but hopefully families are seeing that side of it. In terms of resilience for educators, one of the pieces that I think is really important is connection and having a place to network with peers, having, like, for SEED Certified schools, we have an online community where people can go in and talk about the challenges they're having during the week. And that can be so therapeutical to be able to just be like, you guys, I've got this biter biting everyone like, help. If you haven't had a biter for three years, you forget what you're supposed to do. 


00:22:27    Alyssa

This is hard, and I want to make it go away. 


00:22:31    Ellen

And also having a place to be like, oh my gosh, you guys, I have this child that's been biting for six months, that's a little, that's a lot but and they didn't bite today, being able to celebrate that also. So having a community, having your people, your tribe, that you can go and have conversations with that understand and support you in those conversations. 


00:22:54    Alyssa

Sure. Yeah. I think having a community to lean on is so huge. We know that connection actually, when we're looking at, like, nervous system regulation, relationship is one of the cornerstones to regulation. And connection is such a huge part of relationship. Do I feel connected? Do I feel a sense of belonging? Do I feel like I'm included in this conversation? Do I feel isolated. Do I feel lonely? And whether we're talking about family, child care providers who are often flying solo in this, or I just had a conversation with another director the other day. He was like, I just need other directors to talk to and connect with. And you started doing the director groups for our SEED Cert directors, where they can come together and connect with each other and then yeah, for our teachers, the teacher community platform is my favorite part of the SEED Cert. I think even outside of the PD, I think we provide very phenomenal PD. But outside of the PD, what I really love is that space where teachers can ask an expert at any point a question. They can lean on each other for support. They can share those wins. And it's what I needed as a teacher, even in a classroom with other teachers around, to be able to say, like, I'm going to pop into here, and like minded teachers who also value emotional intelligence, regulation and connection are going to be the ones here to lean on. 


00:24:20    Ellen

Right. I had a conversation, I visited with another program a few weeks ago, and they were talking about a child they have that's a flight risk, that's a runner. And talking to them about just ways to sort of work through these transitions and also what visuals they might need and where to find them in our community. And that's been helpful because in that moment, again, you forget, like, oh, if I put a visual up and they know what to expect. But these are seasoned teachers, and they were just like, oh, yeah, why didn't I think of that? Well, hey, I'm here for that. 


00:25:02    Alyssa

Sure. Yeah. And if we go off that early MTSS framework, that's tier one. Right. And like so many of our educators, when they come into us at SEED Cert, even if they've had access to other SEL programs, they're not feeling supported in even tier one. 


00:25:17    Ellen



00:25:18    Alyssa

Then we at Seed really focused on tiers one and two in support. And I think that that's huge because I, at least as a teacher, felt like if I had tier three, so for families who are new to early MTSS, tier three is where you might have, like, a behavior plan. You could have an I FSP or an IEP, depending on state you live in. And that's where you might have, like, support services coming in, an OT, SLP, et cetera, to work with your kid, where they've qualified for services. And I felt, as a teacher, like, there wasn't enough support for my general population, for neurotypical children, for kids who weren't qualifying for services. But, yeah, they're biting. And now I have two families. One the family of the biter, one the family of the bitten. Both are pretty fired up. Both want this to stop. 


00:26:09    Ellen



00:26:09    Alyssa

And I am also from the developers. Like, I'm here to support the kid. I'm here to support the family. It's like being pulled in all these directions and don't have the adequate support and tools to do that. And so that's what we were building. And I think for me, that community connection is so invaluable. 


00:26:28    Ellen

I did last night, I met with another program, and they were talking about biters that they had and, you know, just reminding them that, like, it's it's a season, it's a moment in time, and that, like, my daughter was a biter, and she's, you know, now 31 and she doesn't bite anymore. So at least I don't think she but she's an investigator, she's a social worker. So there is hope at the end. 


00:26:59    Ellen

But when you're in it. 


00:27:00    Ellen

It's so hard! 


00:27:02    Alyssa

And to have you pop in, proceed to these programs, and just be able to let people vent. Even connection is so huge. What's another resilience skill? 


00:27:15    Ellen

And this goes hand in hand with sort of the Seed philosophy of self awareness, like being aware of your own triggers. I think that when we know what triggers us for behaviors or even actions by other people, co teachers, just even friends, like, things they do can really freaking annoy us. Right. So knowing being self aware and knowing how we internally might react to that and changing our mindset around, like, okay, that's not the way I need to react, it's the way I react. So how can I change that and sort of knowing how you feel about certain instances, like behaviors? For me, obviously, pulling hair and hitting and pushing and biting are all triggers for me. 


00:28:07    Alyssa



00:28:08    Ellen

Especially when it's just, like, random and just, like, out of the blue. 


00:28:11    Alyssa

Sure. What's the connection here? Yeah. Well, we can't regulate what we're not aware of. 


00:28:16    Ellen



00:28:17    Alyssa

I think that's something that's often left off the table for us as early childhood educators, since it's, like, be resilient and have these coping skills. But you can't regulate coping skills are a part of regulation. You can't regulate what you're not aware of. It's huge to recognize. We have to build systems of support for self awareness, for cultivating self awareness. The CEP Method is five components, right? We have talked about self care. There's only one that's about the kids adult child interactions is the only one of those five that's about the kids, the other four about us. Is the adult one of them. Self awareness. You're hitting on them here for me. 


00:28:56    Ellen

Yeah. I love it! 


00:28:58    Alyssa

You keep teeing me up! I love it. The self awareness part is so huge and I think so often it's not just saying to teachers, you need to be self aware. How do we create systems that support them in building those tools? I didn't grow up in a culture and in a community and in an environment that fostered those skills and I had to build a lot of them as an adult. And so so many of our teachers are coming into adulthood similarly, where they didn't learn these tools for self awareness as kids. 


00:29:26    Ellen

Which is good that you're bringing that up because that was just the sign of the times. It's the way I was brought up. It's the way probably I know I brought up my children and so most I think adults are in that place and so that awareness of those components are so important. And I'm glad that your podcast speaks to families and teachers because it's something that everybody can benefit from. 


00:29:58    Alyssa

Yeah. Thank you. Thanks. Well, and I think it's really on us to look at systems for how are we supporting those adult tools that we didn't get? If we're trying to help cultivate these tools and kids, if we're trying to help teachers stay in the field and have that resilience bounce back self awareness, we have got to be creating. We have TAP PD around it. We have to have system supports throughout the day. Like, are there times throughout the day that your teachers have the space and it's literally a part of their routine to check in with themselves? Is that a part of the system you've cultivated and created? If not, they're going to be leaving each day feeling burnt out and overwhelmed for most days. 


00:30:40    Ellen

Right. I mean, in another skill, self regulation, you know, obviously another big, huge piece of sort of the Seed philosophy and the you know, when you think about being a teacher, there's so much dysregulation throughout the day. I think there were days that I probably went I think I went days or weeks just being completely dysregulated. 


00:31:04    Alyssa



00:31:05    Ellen

And I think that knowing what dysregulation feels like for you is part of that self awareness piece. But also when we are self regulated, we're able to show up for tiny humans. And the other day I was one on one with a child and I was getting some paint out and we were getting ready to do some cool painting on black paper with white paint. They were in these little containers and you know where this is going. And I put it on the table and I turned to grab the paint brushes and before I know it and this is a child under two, he had flipped the top off the container and paint was flowing all over the floor, white paint everywhere. And I was like, dude, like literally like, buddy, that's why I put it in the middle of the table. And then I realized that I scared the crap out of him. So there's not perfection, of course. 


00:31:59    Alyssa

Oh, my God. No. 


00:32:00    Ellen

He caught me off guard. And I was in a moment of dysregulation where I was like, I'm sorry that I raised my voice. I made a mistake. And really owning that, but also, like, in owning that, I didn't have to go and take a few minutes to regroup. It was like a moment in time. But I was able to have that conversation with him and self regulate pretty quickly and so was he. But yeah, self regulation is really important. And when we recognize that we aren't regulated and figure out how we can get back to that place, then I think that that's huge. 


00:32:41    Alyssa

I think the problem for so many of us is that we do get stuck in cycles of dysregulation, but we don't even know what regulation feels like, right? Like, forget we don't know what dysregulation feels like. If dysregulation is our norm, it's learning what regulation feels like, right? And I was saying to you the other day, like, when I walk into a space, especially if it's like a bunch of kids, whether it's, like, childcare pickup or going over to a friend's house or we walk into a play space or whatever. If there's a bunch of kids and there's a bunch of kid noise and energy happening, if there's background stuff on top of that, my nervous system throws up inside. Music is playing or whatever. For me, I need to turn down the noise in order to focus in on the kids. Like I as I built my tools for self awareness and cultivated more tools for regulation. Now I'm really aware of what it feels like in my body to feel regulated versus to feel dysregulated. But before I built those tools, I similarly was just living in a cycle of dysregulation where my baseline, how I went through the day was pretty dysregulated. And so it was really easy for me to leave the day and feel wiped out because I'd just been treading water trying to stay afloat all day. And as I learned what it looks like to notice what's happening in my body at different times throughout the day and having systems in place where I'm going to go to the bathroom and I'm going to go by myself and I'm not going to take my phone, and I'm going to take deep breaths and call my body. Like, have an intentional 1 minute trip to the bathroom where I'm taking deep breaths while I pee, because that's the time that I have for you know what? I know there are 7 million things that need to happen right now and it's getting close to clean up from playtime or centers and we're going to go into lunch. Before we do that, I am going to sit down on the ground, I am going to put my hand over my heart and over my belly, and I'm going to take deep breaths for 30 seconds because I'm going to proactively pour into that regulation. I think we get stuck in that cycle of, like, we're dysregulated, we come back from it. We're dysregulated, we come back from it without the proactive part of this. 


00:35:02    Ellen

Well, and I think so many times in this work, we're talking about children and we're talking about them learning to regulate, and we don't always talk about ourselves and what that's like. And I think in one of the trainings that you did, and I have it hanging on my wall, is a dysregulated adult can't help a child regulate. And so that's why in those moments when my little friend was sad, but I was like, hell, there's white paint everywhere. I had to take a second and pull it together so that I could just own up to me being kind of bitchy to him and yeah. 


00:35:50    Alyssa

What else have you got for resilience skills? So we've got connection, self awareness, self regulation. 


00:35:56    Ellen

So your mental, that sort of growth mindset and mentality in terms of when you think of, like, mental toughness and agility. And when I present on this kind of stuff, I have a picture of my daughter in her goalie equipment, and it kind of reminds me of the people are shooting balls on her. She went to the prom with these massive bruises on her arms because she gets balls pelted at her. And I'm thinking about the... 


00:36:29    Alyssa

For the record it's like lacrosse or field hockey. 


00:36:30    Ellen

Yeah, lacrosse. These girls are just like they're getting free shots. They just walk up and they're like, bam, right at the goalie. And so she's, like, saving them with her body and then ends up with these massive lacrosse sizes bruises. And I think about, like, mental toughness being one of those places where you think about as a person, those balls represent, like, everything being thrown at us. 


00:36:56    Alyssa



00:36:57    Ellen

And so how are we going to save ourselves? By, like, blocking those balls and being that agile goalie that has all of this coming at us? 


00:37:08    Alyssa

Yes. And I think that two things popped up for me there. One is Susan David's work on emotional agility and what that looks like and what it means and the ability to allow these emotions. And then what's the story we tell ourselves about it? I mean, that's a huge agility that you're talking about. If every time somebody hit her with a ball, she was like, I hate this, this stinks, blah, blah, blah, then this story she's telling herself about, it can change. Or if she's like, I saved that one from going in, that ball didn't go in. It's the same experience, but a different story. And then she will experience it differently absolutely. And I think the same for us as early childhood educators is the story we're telling ourselves really matters. And I was just talking to a teacher the other day who was chatting about her director, and she was like, oh my gosh, she's such a good advocate for us, blah, blah, blah, blah. Loved her director and the advocacy and support she felt. And then had a meeting with her director later that day, and her director was like, oh my gosh, I'm failing these teachers, all these things. And I was like, oh, man, all of these things that you're doing are not going unnoticed. They see them, but they were telling themselves two different stories about the same experiences. And the director was ready to leave the field. She was feeling like, I'm not doing enough. I'm going to leave. I got to quit. And the teacher was like, I'm still in this because of this director. 


00:38:42    Ellen



00:38:43    Alyssa

And just like, how powerful the stories we tell ourselves are. 


00:38:47    Ellen

Oh, gosh, yeah. Narratives are so important. And I talk a lot about narratives, too, because for years, I went to take my practice to get my teaching license, and you go back to freaking high school math, which I bombed. They were finally, after algebra, like, just go on to geometry because clearly you're not going to pass algebra. And so that was like, one of my struggles. It was a weak point for me. And for years I told myself, and this is for years, I'm talking, like, into my forties. I suck at math. I'm not good with numbers. I'm a bad test taker. All of these things I had been telling myself for years, and then I was like, okay. I had been putting off taking the praxis because of the math. And then finally something in me, it was somewhere towards the end of the sort of stay at home pandemic time. And I was like, you know what? I'm going to try this and see if maybe they're teaching it differently or maybe my brain is stronger than it was. Maybe those connections are stronger. And so I did have to relearn it. And it was hard. It wasn't easy. But my narrative changed. My narrative of I suck at tests and I suck at math. I changed that conversation. And we talk about visualization, like when we're many years ago, I ran a marathon. And we have to use visualization when we're trying to reach a goal, right? We're trying to see the finish line. 


00:40:27    Alyssa

Cold water therapy. 


00:40:28    Ellen

Cold water therapy. Man yeah. 


00:40:30    Alyssa

It's all visualization for me. 


00:40:32    Ellen

Of Icicles rolling off your back. 


00:40:36    Alyssa

No it's the story, though. When I'm in there, honestly, it's similar to me or for me to contractions were where when I fought them, there were two contractions when I was in labor with Sage that I distinctly remember, and they were the ones where I was like, I hate this. I'm never doing this again. This is the worst, fought them. They have stuck with me as the hardest contractions versus the other ones. It's not like I loved it. I wasn't like, I'm having a great time, but it was not nearly as hard when I changed the story. And one of my mantras was like, we're doing this together, bud. I trust that you are doing what you need to do to come on out so we can meet. When I shifted that story of there's a baby who's trying to get out of my body and we're working together and this is part of that process, I experienced it differently. Cold water therapy, same thing where when I stand there and I'm like, this is so cool, I hate it. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. How much time is left? Then it feels literally the experience of it is harder versus when I am like, wow, I'm going to have a huge dopamine burst from this. It's going to help improve my day. So good. After this, like, it truly changes how long I can be in the water. 


00:41:49    Ellen

You're good. 


00:41:50    Alyssa

It's a mindset for me. I hate being cold. 


00:41:55    Ellen

I mean, growth mindset. Carol Dweck. Ton of work on growth mindset. I love reading things about a fixed mindset and growth mindset and also what plays into that is like, a lot of positive psychology. Sure. The idea that there's learned helplessness and there's also learned optimism. 


00:42:15    Alyssa

I need help. That's my toddler. 


00:42:21    Ellen

Yeah. So that idea that we can change our mindset around that, and that is the narrative we're telling ourselves, but also looking at things from an optimistic standpoint. And by that I don't mean that bad things don't happen. 


00:42:37    Alyssa



00:42:39    Ellen

Right. Toxic positivity. Yeah, I just actually wrote something about that just the other day. Just about the idea that with toxic positivity you're talking about like, "oh, everything happens for a reason." 


00:42:51    Alyssa

Sure. Right. You can only feel easy feelings. Like nothing can be acknowledged that's hard. 


00:42:57    Ellen

Right. Or they're in a better place and you want to be like, no! 


00:43:00    Alyssa

Or that everything has to be spun or the opposite emotion. 


00:43:03    Ellen

I mean, I do have Positive Spin as the name of my business, but I am not a believer in toxic positivity. 


00:43:10    Alyssa

Oh my god you're totally right.


00:43:15    Ellen

But I do believe in optimism. 


00:43:17    Alyssa



00:43:17    Ellen

I do believe in growth mindsets. I do believe in changing the narrative. And those pieces are what helped me be a resilient person and help other people to learn resilience. And I think when we talk about optimism or even appreciative inquiry, a lot of people are like, oh, it's very Pollyanna of you to think that way. Right. Pollyanna, she made everything into a fun game. Right. It wasn't that bad things didn't happen to her or she didn't have challenges. She actually did have a lot of challenges. It was how she responded to the challenges. 


00:43:53    Alyssa



00:43:54    Ellen

So is it Pollyanna, maybe, right? But it isn't the toxic way that we go to it. 


00:44:02    Alyssa

We well, I see it as the ability to say like, this is hard right now, or I don't know how to do this yet, or we haven't gotten there yet, showing like, this isn't a forever thing. The optimism for me is it won't always be this hard and I'm not failing because this thing feels hard right now. We can figure this out together. 


00:44:24    Ellen

Right. And I think that for people that are struggling and feeling like they're not bouncing back, one of the things you can do is making a personal, resiliency plan is almost like an improvement plan where you think about connection. And self awareness and self regulation and optimism and think about those skills connection and you think about maybe two of them that you can really kind of dig into and learn more about and how you can help yourself in that way. 


00:44:54    Ellen



00:44:54    Ellen

And I think that when you're able to do that, then it makes a huge difference. But you have to be willing to make changes. And I also when we talk about people that practice yoga, it's practice. They don't become yeah, right. They don't fold themselves into a pretzel because they didn't practice. It's a practice. Tom Brady didn't become Tom Brady because he didn't practice. And I'm sorry if you don't like Tom Brady, but he didn't become the goat. 


00:45:24    Alyssa

Incredible. Totally. 


00:45:25    Ellen

Right. For not practicing. So all of these things when we talk about self care, it's a practice. It's not just something that will happen 100%. 


00:45:35    Alyssa

And I think that's the part that can feel hard when it's like, but I'm so exhausted or overwhelmed or I'm burning out. And for me, what feels attainable is looking at that list and saying, I'm going to choose one. My personal favorite. If I could have everybody start with just one, it would be self awareness because I think it's a key to all the other ones that can't regulate what you're not aware of. You're not going to be able to really notice. Where do I feel disconnected? Whatever. If you're not aware of like, what makes me tick? What am I feeling inside at a given point. 


00:46:07    Ellen

I went through a period of time where I was staying up way too late and our living situation has changed. So we leave early in the morning and so I had to get really strict about my bedtime, which I was always very loosey about. I was like whatever. I was like whatever. I can go to bed at midnight and get up the crack of dawn, but I can't. That is not long term doable. So for me it's like a 10:00 bedtime. I know that other people need more than this and I think you might be one of them, but I need like a solid 6 hours of sleep. 


00:46:45    Alyssa

Oh yeah, I need more than that. Yeah. 


00:46:47    Ellen

And so does my husband. Like he needs like solid nine. 


00:46:51    Alyssa

I'm with you. 


00:46:52    Ellen

He's like a toddler, but I need like a solid 6 hours. I can go to bed at ten and get up at four that works for me. And when I'm in that habit, I can do it and it's easy. But when I don't do what I need to do, that's when things start falling apart, when I'm sleepy, when I'm in a grumpy mood, and when I don't eat my meal, when I'm supposed to. 


00:47:18    Alyssa

The next time that I have a kid, will you move in so that if you can take like 4am on until I get up in the morning, you can take that shift? 


00:47:26    Ellen

Do you know how many humans are listening to this right now that are like, Alyssa, I'll move in with you. 


00:47:31    Alyssa

Come on. 


00:47:32    Ellen

Can I bring my child? 


00:47:33    Alyssa

Yeah, if you're going to get up at four and beyond, from four to seven, just DM me. I'll let know my address. Yeah. It's so true. And it's those little boundaries. It's boundaries for ourselves, for like how do I help myself show up in my most optimal state possible? 


00:47:56    Ellen

And the last thing I was going to share with you is just that when we are going through hard things, which we all do, understanding that we might grieve that hard thing like, you know, when something changes, when we're not doing something the way we used to do it, there's the grief process that was created for when death and dying. But there's also like that same sort of process for change management, change in general for businesses and people. So when something changes, a schedule, maybe your classroom shifts in terms of makeup, then you go through those periods of ups and downs, of like, denial and anger and all of those different places. So recognizing that that might happen and knowing that progression of steps in that process is really helpful in sort of getting you through to the other side. 


00:49:06    Alyssa

I'm so glad you acknowledge that because I think grief is something that we as humans are generally terrible at allowing the process to grieve. And sometimes it's even like the allowance to grieve expectation versus reality. Like, I expected it to feel like this. I expected going into Early Ed to be like this. I expected that when we came back from the pandemic, things would feel different. I expected X, Y, and Z expected certain behaviors from kids and the reality is different. And just grieving that expectation and maybe it's not as long of a grief process. This was something that was really helpful for me in my miscarriage journey, was allowing myself to grieve expectation versus reality. And just acknowledge like, oh, I expected a baby in September. I expected a Christmas that was going to look different. I expected and allowing myself that space to grieve. But then I realized as I really went through that process and honed my ability to grieve, I use it all the time. 


00:50:15    Ellen



00:50:16    Alyssa

I'm constantly grieving. 


00:50:18    Ellen

And I think it's great too, as a person, a friend, a spouse, knowing that, I know that when I went through some changes over the last couple of months with my program and situation, it took you telling me like a lot happened, take a minute, be sad about it. And it was almost like even if it's not something that's huge to someone else, but it is a big change for you. It is okay to have feelings about that. 


00:50:54    Alyssa



00:50:55    Ellen



00:50:55    Alyssa

Yeah. I'm glad that you acknowledged that part. Ellen, I love you so much. 


00:50:59    Alyssa

I love you. 


00:51:01    Alyssa

Where can people connect with you, hear more about your work, all that. 


00:51:05    Ellen

So I have a website, And I also am on Instagram, on Facebook. I have an author page and a regular page. You can get me at any place. Yeah, those are the places. Those are the best places to connect. 


00:51:22    Alyssa

Love it. And for our SEED Cert teachers, she is the one in our Seed community who is there helping you. She's one of our account managers supporting our SEED Cert teachers in our community platform and connecting with directors and helping implement this work in the day to day on the ground. So thank you. 


00:51:42    Ellen

Thank you. It's so exciting. It's an exciting time. 


00:51:45    Alyssa

It is. Grateful to have you. 


00:51:46    Ellen



00:51:48    Alyssa

Thanks for tuning in to Voices of Your Village. Check out the transcript at Did you know that we have a special community over on Instagram hanging out every day with more free content? Come join us at Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it on the gram and tag to let me know your key takeaway. If you're digging this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. We love collaborating with you to raise emotionally intelligent humans.



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