Aside from the fact that I was sick for most of it, Christmas vacation was glorious. As I do approaching every holiday off from school, I had made grand plans for all I was going to accomplish to not only catch up on school work (grading and planning), but get ahead on planning so to try to ease the burden once back to school. However, once vacation actually arrived, I had already gotten my “Christmas Cold” as my husband calls it, and I was in great need of a genuine break. The first day of vacation found me on the couch with a book. As did the next day. During vacation I took care of household responsibilities, hung out with my husband, read, wrote, colored, and spent time with family. It was one of the most relaxing, stress and anxiety free vacations I have ever had.
I went back to school last Monday determined to maintain that peace and not allow stress and anxiety to take over again. I’ve been working for years to learn how to live a healthier balance between work and home. I actually feel like I am making progress in this as I have been setting some clear boundaries for myself. That is hard to do. I am a perfectionist, a bit OCD, highly driven, and very dedicated. I hate leaving things undone. But there are so many hours in the day and if I am to be healthy, I need to do things like reading, writing, coloring, and hanging out with my husband. That means that expectations are not going to be met, things are not going to get done. I’m trying to learn to be okay with that.
As an aside, I find it interesting that there suddenly seems to be a great many blog posts and articles about teacher burnout and how to take care of yourself- more than usual. It seems I am not alone in this struggle! School is so much more stressful than it should be. Students and teachers have lost the joy of learning. That is sad. We need to reclaim that. We need to restructure our schools so that we are able to experience that joy.
The peace from my vacation stuck around all Monday. Then Monday night my Christmas Cold, which I thought I was on the far side of, struck back. I spent the next three days on the couch. I had left all my correcting, teacher guides, and plan book at school, thinking I would be back Tuesday. It was interesting writing sub plans and revising lesson plans from home without any materials! (A good argument for using a digital plan book. I should start doing that again!) I rested and read, and I worked on the long range school improvement plan I’ve been working on for a while. I had one thing for school to focus on, and I gained much more understanding and perspective to issues and solutions because my focus wasn’t pulled in so many different directions.
We are coming up on mid-term exams and the change of semester, and I am feeling the pressure of deadlines that once were off in the distance. This weekend I spent a large percentage of both Saturday and Sunday working on school work. Saturday getting caught up on some (not all unfortunately) grading and today on some planning and trying to prepare for mid-terms. And the emails from parents wanting meetings were coming in.
Suddenly I realized I had been at my desk all afternoon. Yet after supper I returned to my desk and I’m still here. The stress and anxiety that comes with the weight of responsibilities of being an administrator, guidance counselor, and full time classroom teacher is very much present.
What a difference between last weekend and this. Last week I went into the work week rested. Tonight I am exhausted. I see before me all the ways I’m not meeting expectations and fulfilling my responsibilities. I’m wondering how I’m going to get correcting done, get planning done, finish the second semester scheduling done, conduct meetings with parents, conduct meetings with teachers, conduct an interview, and be physically and emotionally available for my students.
Since my husband was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer back in July, we have been surviving. There have been a few days that we feel that we are living, but most of the time we’re simply surviving. I feel that way about school. I’m just getting through it (and most of the time, not very well at that!). I want to teach well. I want to enjoy teaching. This is why I wanted to hang on to the peace that I had after vacation. It felt like I was going to be able to live, not just get by.
I’m not giving up on that desire. I’m press on toward finding a way to reclaim the joy of teaching and reduce stress and anxiety for both me and my students.
I think I’ll go color or read for a few minutes before going to bed!