Breathing above the toxic environment

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Breathing above the toxic environment

BY Andrea
Palmer-Richards

Friday, February 21, 2020

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There is no doubt that we are experiencing a paradigm shift in society. Individuals are now desecrating sacred things and hurting those who serve us.

There is an increase in the number of thefts at schools and religious institutions. Physical and verbal abuse of teachers are on the rise, as well as the killing of teachers and pastors. And I must hasten to add that women and children are no longer pardoned by those who seek to unleash terror. The environment has become so toxic, yet we must survive.

Our workplaces and school environments are reflections of our society, so they too have become toxic for stakeholders. Schools ought to be nurturing environments, where teachers use requisite skills and love to guide the next generation. However, they are now facing harsh times with disrespectful students and their parents who will come into schools and attack them.

The fact is the physical environment in many schools need improvement. There is often the non-existence of perimeter walls providing unhindered entrance to the property. For some institutions, the only security present are the vendors or a watchman.

Despite the challenges, our teachers still show up daily to ensure students success, but it is imperative that their safety is assured. The call of Jamaica Teachers' Association President Owen Speid for urgency to be placed on better security mechanism at schools is quite in order.

Signs of toxicity

In many workplaces, it is difficult for one to excel and function due to infighting, undermining, or blatant disregard for fair treatment, which is promoted by leadership. Several sources read revealed that toxicity can be identified if several people are experiencing depression, headaches, nervousness, or fear.

It is also evident when the job demands affect individuals living a balanced life or if workers feel underappreciated. Other signs cited, were that serious physical illnesses may start presenting, personal relationships begin to decay all around, and misery abounds with a deliberate effort share it.

According to Jennifer L M Gunn (2019), “There are few more divisive practices than alienating staff members through poor communication. No one likes to feel uninformed, undervalued, or unheard. Top-down leadership can throw a nasty wrench into school culture and effectively dismiss the concerns, ideas, and contributions of a school's staff.” In such environments, living things struggle to strive.

Survival is key

When water becomes toxic it becomes challenging for animals to survive, whether it is their natural habitat, or they depend on it to live. So it is in society. As we live amongst each other, the environment becomes toxic through words, inappropriate actions, and the ways things in which situations are dealt with improperly or with injustice. Surviving is not just staying afloat, but prospering and blooming. This does not necessarily mean getting a promotion, because in that environment promotions are not given to the qualified or hard-working, but to those who will play the game.

Breathing in toxic water is about you not losing your sense of self, guarding your joy and peace of mind. It is not easy, because toxic waters are set to destroy; but it is imperative that you are in a state of “catch and release”. This means to be in a state in which you are prepared to quickly release those who offend you or perpetuate the cycle of toxicity.

One way in which people may function is to be careful of your associations. If you associate with negative people it's inevitable that your mindset will begin to change from having hope to becoming a pessimist. It can tamper with your joy as you ingest the negative juices being spewed out.

Psychologist Nicole Martinez recommends the “maintenance of a positive mindset”. Another strategy is to find outside sources of motivations. Get involved in environments that will validate you, keep you grounded, remind you of who you are and what you are about. It's a place where you find encouragement, strength and refreshment.

Sometimes it's within a group, like the church. Many have found that the Word of God and the people of God have provided that atmosphere. Taking your vacation days and department leave, as well as learning a new skill for personal development or to facilitate job change can be helpful. Institutional leaders can facilitate staff growth and development through much professional development workshops focusing on building staff morale, staff recognition functions, and managing how promotions are attained. Additionally, organisations can design or adapt staff incentive programmes to inspire staff, which will have a positive impact on production. It is important to know that survival is of utmost importance and it is in your hands to live. Breathe!

Andrea Palmer-Richards is a senior lecturer at Sam Sharpe Teachers' College. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or andrea.richards@samsharpe.edu.jm.


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