Listening to the Inner Teacher: The (R)evolution of #RedThumbForLove

When the universe calls your name, it’s important to make sure your inner teacher (a.k.a. gut feeling, inner truth, etc.) is ready to listen. The universe speaks in mysterious ways.

This is how I’ve been feeling as of late. It first started when I got the idea to ask teachers to share how they offer themselves self-care and self-compassion, and why they do so. I really had no idea what the response would be. To my delight, 99% of the teachers I asked have said yes, and they continue to say yes. Some have even volunteered! Click here, Teachers Talking About Self-compassion, to read their stories.

Then today in the series, I share an interview of an empowering woman/teacher, Rupa Mehta, I saw speak at one of the festivals I’ve been following in YouTube for the past year, Wanderlust — highly recommended for all soul seekers. In this post, Emotional & Physical Fitness, you can read about how my inner teacher led me to asking Rupa to share her experience with self-care and self-compassion.

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 9.14.19 PM

I can’t end this post about paying attention to the universe’s subtle winks to #RedThumbForLove without sharing the most inspiring detail of all. This coming weekend, I’ll be doing a workshop with Chuck Sandy at the KOTESOL International Conference where we’ll be talking about listening to the teacher within. But this, although very cool, isn’t the amazing part. The amazing part is that the #RedThumbForLove blog/movement/project/revolution was a result of me listening to my inner teacher. My inner teacher knew how important it was to pay attention to Chuck’s Facebook status on that faithful day in 2014.

It’s all lining up, coming full circle, and evolving beautifully.

And so dear Readers, thank you so much for celebrating this mystery of life with me. But more importantly, I hope this was the message your inner teacher needed to hear today.

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Teacher Self-Compassion #RedThumbForLove – Compassion Training 3

I want to propose an idea to all teachers: be kind to yourself no matter what happens. No matter what. If your lessons flops, it flops. If you couldn’t answer a student’s grammar question, it happened. If you couldn’t finish correcting homework on time, so be it. If that little voice in your head creeps up and says, “you’re stupid, incompetent, and lazy,” respond to it with love. How? I will propose a strategy, but first let me tell you how I discovered it.

(Feel free to scroll down to A Visual Reminder of Self-Compasssion – #RedThumbForLove if you’d rather learn the strategy right away.)

Lovingkindness Practice – Opening to Self-compassion

During the second week of Compassion Training with Mark Coleman (see my previous posts on this topic) we transitioned from mindfulness practice to loving-kindness practice. Sharon Salzberg defines loving-kindness as follows:

“Loving kindness is a form of love that truly is an ability, and, as research scientists have show, it can be learned. It is the ability to take some risks with our awareness – to look at ourselves and others with kindness instead of reflexive criticism; to include in our concern those to whom we normally pay no attention; to care for ourselves unconditionally instead of thinking, “I will love myself as long as I never make a mistake.” It is the ability to gather our attention and really listen to others, even those we’ve written off as not worth our time. It is the ability to see the humanity in people we don’t know and the pain in people we find difficult.” – from Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation

And how do we see this humanity, how can we look at others with kindness when we can’t do it for ourselves? Here’s an idea from Mark Coleman,

“The primary abandonment we do is with ourselves. The most healing thing we can do is to not leave ourselves; not to abandon ourselves. This practice of self-metta (self-lovingkindness) allows us to hold ourselves, to stay with ourselves, to befriend ourselves, to love ourselves.”

This practice of self-lovingkindness has a long history, and the premise is simple: send yourself loving thoughts and from here you will open yourself to loving others more easily. First, it starts with yourself. Then, you move on to people who are easy love, and from there you move on to more distant and challenging people. During my first week I found it hard to extend my thoughts to others. I would lose focus, and my mind would drift off towards more enticing ideas. After talking this through with Mark, I learned that maybe I just needed to focus on myself for a while. It seemed that I needed the most care at that moment. Trusting that this was not a selfish act ,but something that would actually help me connect more to others in the end, I kept sending myself thoughts of lovingkindness, or another way to look at it, self-compassion.

Loving myself - a work in progress
Loving myself – a work in progress

Lovingkindness starts at home and our relationship with ourselves. – Mark Coleman

But this isn’t the strategy I want to propose to teachers — though, I still recommend it. The strategy first came to me after Mark asked the question, “What are one or two ways that you could realistically and practically begin to practice more kindness towards yourself?”, and then after seeing Chuck Sandy‘s Facebook post where he shared:

How often do we poison our own spirit with negative thoughts about ourselves? That’s why I painted my thumb red today – to remind myself to push away unloving thoughts about myself & to practice love for others more.

A Visual Reminder of Self-Compasssion – #RedThumbForLove

From Chuck’s red thumb sprang more colourful pictures of teachers’ nails. And so this is what I propose to you: paint your thumbnail red or any colour of the rainbow so that each time you see it you are reminded to be kinder, gentler, and more compassionate with yourself.

Teaching can be a lonely profession. Often, we don’t have anyone to turn to who understands the challenges we face. Self-care may be the only strategy we can turn to when the job gets too hard. When you feel overwhelmed, this little self-compassion reminder may just be the thing to bring you a little ease. Each time you look at your coloured nail, check your state of mind to see if you’re in your old pattern of blame or shame, and remember that you are doing the best you can at that moment. Acknowledge what you are feeling: don’t push it away and don’t dwell in it. Just feel it.

A Community of Self-Compassionate Teachers

Post your picture, and a story of how your nail helped you, on the Self Compassion for Teachers #redthumbforlove Facebook page. You can also send the picture directly to me via Twitter @josettelb or tag me on Instagram @josettelb. If you use Tumblr use the #redthumbforlove hashtag and I’ll load it up on our blog redthumbforlove.tumblr.com.  Use the #redthumbforlove hashtag anytime you post a picture. By doing this, we can help each other stay motivated in being self-compassionate.

The more I teach and work with teachers, the more I realize how important self-compassion is. If you connect to this idea too, I look forward to seeing your loving colours shine.

For more about self-compassion, I recommend visiting:

For more about “whole” teaching, please visit:

And for more about Lovingkindness:

A Year in the Life of a Community

If you had told me a year ago that going to the KOTESOL International Conference was going to change my life, I never would have believed you. But seeing one presentation did just that.

Following the recommendation of @michaelegriffin – then only known as Michael Griffin – I attended Chuck Sandy‘s 10am Sunday presentation. He spoke of the value of creating communities: if you don’t have one, create one. At the end of the presentation, he talked about one such community of teachers he helped create called International Teacher Development Institute (iTDi).

The talk was inspiring in so many ways, but there was a 20 second soundbite that pushed me in a very important direction.

“Who’s on Twitter? Get yourself on Twitter!

Who’s on Facebook?

Facebook works. Twitter’s better.”

So I signed up.*

Now, a year later, part of my community is linked to iTDi. This past weekend at JALT2012, I had the great pleasure of meeting some of the iTDi faces that were up on Chuck’s powerpoint. Here are a three of these inspiring teachers:

Barbara Sakamoto, Yitzha Sarwono, & Marco Brazil

They are no longer pictures on a screen. Yitzha is my Instagram buddy, a constant source of light on Twitter, and now a friend I am fortunate enough to have had dinner with. Barbara, who inspires us via her own online community, Teaching Village, is someone I have exchanged thoughts and smiles with. Meeting Marco at JALT was an infusion of joy. I am very happy to now be connected to him. If I hadn’t seen Chuck’s presentation, I doubt I would have made my journey to JALT, which this video shows was very much worth it.

A year has passed since that fateful conference day, and now it’s our turn to present about a community we created on Twitter: KELTchat. I look forward to standing with Alex Grevett, Alex Walsh, Michael Griffin and Anne Hendler as we talk about how and why we came to be.

I am incredibly grateful for the communities I am a member of thanks to that inspiring October day.

Thank you Chuck. :)

*A little known fact: I had been on Twitter for two years, apparently dropping my blog posts into the abyss before I met Chuck. Until that day, I had no idea how powerful/magical Twitter really was.

Related posts:

#JALT2012 Journey: Meeting @kevchanwow

When @michaelegriffin and I met at the Incheon International Airport, we knew we were in for an adventure. The adventure began like this…

Mr. Stein’s Pick Up Service – Hatless

@kevchanwow, with “Michael and Josette” typed in 16 point font on his iPad, greets us at Arrivals. Hugs of #gratitude and #excitement. Thoughts in my mind, “Is this really happening?” We rush off to catch the train…

where long overdue face-to-face conversations ensue over refreshing beverages @kevchanwow was so generous to bring for us. We arrive at his lovely home, stars twinkling in the Nara sky. Delicious food is waiting on the kitchen table prepared by his gracious (and very funny) partner-in-life/radio star DJ. The glee continues.

A handout from @michaelegriffin – a noted moment

@kevchanwow would not be able to join us at the JALT International Conference since the lucky people in New Zealand got to see him present only a few days before at the CLESOL conference (read his pre-conference post, A Post Before I Go, and post-conference post, Wikis and Instant Noodles: my times at CLESOL). Perhaps to celebrate the JALT experience, @michaelegriffin shares a handout he prepared for his presentation, “Common pitfalls of observation feedback.” This #TESOLgeek moment is cherished….as are many more.

Goodnight from Nara the ancient capital of Japan…

But perhaps none more than this one:

Screen shot by @michaelegriffin

Thank you so much to the @kevchanwow clan for sharing your home with us. I am still in awe of your generosity and warmth. I look forward to the day that I can return your kindness.

PS. We ended our trip to Nara with a delightful tour of the deer park before Mrs. @kevchanwow kindly drove us to the train station. Amazing people. Amazing experience.

Note: I added two new categories thanks to this part of the JALT journey: gratitude and friendship. :)