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Seek to Understand

by Lorna Muise Alberta Health Services | December 6 2018

Recently, I participated in a poverty simulation with over 100 staff members from Red Deer Public Schools. The purpose of this simulation was to gain awareness and understanding of what it’s like to live in poverty. More than one in six Alberta children live in poverty, according to a 2018 Alberta Child Poverty Report. They arrive at school with experiences and situations that many of us cannot understand.

While participating in the simulation, we experienced stress, discomfort and unease—and we grew from the experience. One school administrator noted, "By walking through this experience, all of our staff will be able to support students with even more compassion and empathy. Our hope is that we will all gain background knowledge and skills so that we can care for not just the child's academics, but also their emotional and mental health, too."

Another participant commented, “This experience granted another layer of understanding. It is imperative that we seek to understand and suspend personal judgements or bias when we work and learn beside our students and their families. We need to start with heart.”

Take This to Work

As I read through some of the comments and listened to the debrief, I wondered if we are doing these things for each other in the workplace. With our colleagues, do we seek first to understand? Do we suspend our judgement? As I think on this a little deeper, some simple discussion guidelines that apply in many situations come to mind:

  • Everyone has wisdom
  • Assume best intent
  • Stay curious

Staff wellness starts with me and the views I bring to work about my colleagues and the people I serve. If you’d like to learn more about your colleagues, consider accessing some of the great tools on The Sandbox, including:

  • What’s on Your Plate? An activity focused on finding the space to include self-care in our days. It’s a fun activity to do with a group and helps all participants engage in the conversation.
  • Gratitude Tree. This activity is a great way to engage your colleagues throughout a week/month and see how each other’s contributions make the gratitude tree flourish in the workplace.
  • Three Things. Laughing is infectious and so too is this group activity. If you’re looking for a way to kick-off a great meeting or brainstorm session, this is one way to get the group reflecting on the small things that bring joy to their days.

These activities can help you get to know your colleagues better and provide time to reflect and consider everyone’s own personal wellness. As the busyness and stress of the Christmas season draws near, my wish for all you wellness champions is to stay grounded, seek peace and show kindness.

Lorna Muise

As a school health promotion coordinator with Alberta Health Services and a long term passion for health promotion, Lorna is one of Alberta’s central zone superheroes! Her superpower? Lorna can mimic the sound of a water drop. We’ve yet to determine the benefits of this talent but are sure they are widespread and amazing.