Late last night I received this post from a teacher who wishes to remain anonymous. They wanted to share this story so that others out there might not feel so alone.
Going back to school is not an easy process for everyone, and teachers can get as anxious and stressed as students. It affects each teacher differently, but for some it is overwhelming. Before I share the story, I want to make it very clear that is it not appropriate for anyone to suggest that if you feel like this you shouldn’t be a teacher. Being anxious about the job does not mean you are not suited to the job. It just means you care about it so much, care about getting it right and doing well, that it has a profound effect on you.
The teacher was concerned that this post would come across as a bit self-indulgent. I disagree, there is nothing self-indulgent about sharing your feelings about the year ahead, particularly if that sharing process helps you and helps others who may be feeling the same.
A quick preface from the teacher:
I think I wanted the point to be that you need to be gentle with others and also that you’re absolutely not alone – I know others have also said they feel a bit sick about the year ahead – and that anxiety is not a small thing, it’s not just being a bit nervous, it’s overwhelming.
Here is what they want to share with the world. If you are feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of starting school again, whether you are a student, a parent, or a teacher, know that you are not alone.
School is beginning in 3 days time and I am anxious.
Not just a fluttering of excitement but a sick feeling deep in my stomach. Getting into student free days has meant throwing away breakfasts because I can’t stomach them and jumping out of the car to retch again.
Like many teachers, I am worried about whether I’ve done enough planning or will be able to provide an engaging and deep curriculum. Hopefully, most teachers aren’t filled with the dread knowledge that they’ve already failed. For me, this last week has been a state of ‘shit, I have so much to do’ followed by an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion followed by sleep and waking up thinking ‘I am already inadequate, why bother’ before realising I could never step into a classroom without being prepared and completing the task (even if it’s just ok). If anyone has any time management tips, let me know! I am a master procrastinator.
I am also an introvert. But when I am in my working environment I over-compensate by being extra outspoken and involved, which is not me and is not how I want my colleagues to see me. I know I constantly seek validation by having someone check work, or being involved in conversations. Even when I know I should stop, I just can’t hold the words in; I feel like the girl under the bed in Tarantino’s Kill Bill, desperately trying to force the ‘whimper’ back into my mouth. I love reading and helping edit other people’s work, so by all means send me your things to read.
Completing a mindfulness course has helped me identify this apparent extroversion as a way of coping in the busyness of school, which of course fuels further cycles of anxiety and irrational strategies. In the classroom, teachers are great at identifying these students and providing strategies. For myself, I have purchased headphones so I can sit and work in silence and will implement a ‘think before speak’ and check my volume.
Unsurprisingly, my relationships are suffering. Those closest to me have the joy of holding a stiff-limbed spiky ball of unrelieved anxieties, with a barbed tongue and a ‘go away’ sign on the door. I feel myself becoming irrationally irritated with work friends, although I fortunately haven’t snapped at them. Yet. My partner is not so lucky. So far, I am able to judge just how many papercuts a relationship can take. But maybe that’s just because I haven’t reached the critical amount. Yet.
58 hours until go time.
So I am coping. I have strategies in place and writing is a new one I’m trying. A message to the anonymous Internet whose echo chambers may return the call of a kindred spirit. A cyber yodel, if you will.
And the message from this post? Be kind to those around you. We can never know what is happening in thsoe deep waters of the mind. I am helped beyond measure by those who send me resources for a lesson. By those who validate my work in front of others. Who reply to emails. Who bring tea. Who remind me I am just one person and that is ok. Who suffer the paper cuts. Who listen to my attempts to debrief. Who sit quietly and lead by example.
I love my job, but I cannot do it alone.