Wednesday, February 26, 2014


It's no secret that teaching is very draining. There are minimal rewards to the hours outside of school that need to be put in to planning, creating assessments, grading, and revising those plans to address the needs of as many differing personalities and learning styles as you can.

And that's just what I need to do for my classroom. There's more to do for colleagues, students, and parents. I feel humbled towards those who recognize how much needs to be done and yet I am guilt-ridden when I don't accomplish it all, and with gusto, and with time leftover to craft, cook, clean, or relax at home.

Just the other day I had a great moment while talking to my mom on the phone. The conversation didn't just encompass my attitude towards work, but also towards how I communicate to others and carry myself, especially while processing a lot of stress (self-enflicted or otherwise). When I feel the push to do too much in too short a time frame, I tend to push back by getting cranky (like many) and micro-managing the actions of others. When I get anxious my eyes begin to ache, as if they have been overworked in focusing long-distance to examine if students in the back are passing notes or food or money, and zeroing in on my paper 18 inches away from my face, that is being projected for all students to see and copy down. After 8 hours of this (only 6 hours when I have my "prep" period), you can only imagine how your eyes must feel; and, on days that require school-related and home-related tasks get done, all I see when I look around are little pop-up bubbles critiquing and reminding me of everything I'm missing or not accomplishing in that moment:

sit up straight
don't bike so fast
get a haircut
grade papers
do more situps this afternoon
need to run more miles
drink less coffee 
email student's parents
create class website with multiple pages
plan out your unit of instruction
quit playing with your hair
do dishes
work on your evaluation
bike faster
don't stand pigeon-toed, you look like a little girl
say something constructive
organize craftspace
get more coffee
plan out your summer
pay off your debt
don't text so much
 you should read more
pick up after yourself
watch less tv
play more board games
take deep breaths
do more advanced math
plan for next year
do laundry
you wore that yesterday
tidy up the patio
take a nap you need it
finish that lesson plan
what's for dinner?

This all sweeps over my head like a tidal wave and I feel like I am going to lose it. I don't know what form it will come in, a teary meltdown or a vengeful screaming tantrum. When I take deep breaths and I allow myself time alone, riding home or lost in a book, I seem to always get lucky in finding the words to describe my current mental state. I am frustrated, anywhere I look I see obligations forming that I cannot control nor fulfill to the ability that I would if I had the time to focus solely on that task.

 I'd like to offer an orderly, streamlined solution to dealing with stress and anxiety in the form of a cute meme or bullet-pointed list but there are so many out there I would just be adding eyedrops to the ocean. I deal with my anxiety using the same tactics I'd use as a teacher on a student with anxiety. I break down tasks into smaller chunks, allow myself a time limit to complete a task so I don't obsess over it, and I try to keep my "to do" lists under five items. Any more than five items and my mind begins to race thinking of more (and hoping that the total will make a nice multiple of five). When I start to see similar traces of anxiety in my students, I first hear them out. Validate their feelings and worries, then offer solutions in the form of some of my own solutions (smaller tasks, not spending a lot of time on one thing, etc.)

There was a splendid moment in my high school life where I was up at 10:30pm reading for my AP US History class. My mom opened my bedroom door and saw me, still at my desk, and said, "Sweetie, put the book down and watch some tv or something. You need to unwind." Mothers can work wonders.

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