A Spa Day for Your Brain



by Christina Velasco, Leadership Coach, San Francisco Unified School District

Note: This blog is an extension of  Episode 7 of the Cultivating Imagination podcast. 

Educational leaders who actively work for equity, excellence and social justice experience work-related stress and require spaces and strategies to support themselves and others. We need systems and structures to support educational leaders’ stamina to stay in the equity work of social justice leadership.

Let’s engage our inner rebel and reimagine what professional development is for educational leaders so that they can take care of the whole child as well as the whole staff, and maintain self-care as collective care. 

 Our educational systems need more resilient ecologies…. Places where we can engage in collective care and learning.

Imagine your brain has a spa day educational leader. You arrive at your professional learning day and you are greeted with a genuine warm welcome. A healthy meal, hot tea, coffee, and juice have been prepared for you. The space is inviting, and bright, and the tables are set up with vibrant plants, and the just right amount of supplies. Table signs indicate a “nest group” of administrators that will engage in learning with you.

As you enter you feel a great sense of belonging, you see colleagues that are happy to see you and eager to connect. Projected is “Welcome, we are glad you have arrived.  Take this time for yourself, get grounded, and attend to your well-being.” Upbeat music plays in the background. 

At some tables colleagues are story swapping, laughing, and affirming each other’s experiences, at other tables colleagues are drawing, making play-do sculptures, and visioning forward initiatives they want for their schools, in other areas leaders play a game of Jenga and responding to the connector prompts written on the wooden pieces and in the back of the room some colleagues are stretching and engaging in Dynamic Mindfulness.

Throughout the day you are encouraged by the facilitators to honor your humanity whenever you have a need. Slow down, breathe, and attend to your humanity. The day is set up for you to individually and collectively have time to pause, reflect, write, share, and learn with others to attend to your whole self in the identities you carry. This is a resilient ecology, an Espacio Sano (sane space).  

Our educational systems need more resilient ecologies like the one described. Places where we can engage in collective care and learning … slow down, reflect, think, and engage the senses to reset as educational leaders. For the past four years, I have supported new leaders to cultivate supportive, caring, and academically rigorous environments conducive to student learning and socialization and promote staff professional growth and development, as well as teamwork and cooperation in a two-year program called TLEE (Transformative Leadership for Equity and Excellence) in San Francisco Unified School District. As a team of former site administrators, we know firsthand the importance of co-creating resilient ecologies so that leaders can have the space and time to imagine and create them for their staff and communities. At the closing circle of a professional learning day, a site leader shared her gratitude stating today was “a spa day for the brain.”

What will your resilient ecology look like?  How will you imagine an Espacio Sano (sane space) that is humanizing and healing to support your sustainability?  

Educational leaders: engage your inner rebel and imagine professional learning spaces at your schools that mirror the ones that support and nurture you. We need humanizing and healing spaces to support educational leaders’ fortitude to stay in the equity work of social justice leadership.

 Hear more from our leaders in the Cultivating Imagination podcast series.