Tapped Out


When I started this blog in the fall, I really wanted it to be a place where I could process my feelings and thoughts about teaching during this very unusual year. I've found solace in knowing that there are other educators who are in the same place that I am. I come back after over a month of not blogging to say that I'm tapped out.

I feel that every time I feel like I've got a handle on the situation that we are in, another email comes that says, "Well, we've got this coming at you in a few weeks." There are no details about what's to come, but that it's coming. As an overt planner and worrier, my mind instantly goes to thinking about what that "new" thing will look like and how will I handle it.  I want to stop hearing about what's to come and start hearing about here's our next plan of action.  I've never dealt with change well, and having changes throw at me every few weeks hasn't been the best of circumstance for me.

I get that everyone wants to have a sense of normalcy. I want to go back to normal because that's where I thrived, but we just can't just throw caution to the wind and pretend that this year hasn't been a cluster. My school has gone back to a hybrid plan after being remote for roughly a month. I have about 25% of my whole population of students with me at some point during the day, but the majority of them have chosen to remain at home. I've gone nearly 3/4 of the school year without ever having seen some of my students' faces or hearing their voices. There's nothing normal about that. I need those kids to provide me energy throughout the day! I have had many conversations with myself during class, even laughing at my own jokes because no one seems to want to be there.

In class last week, I had an in-person student ask me if we could have a free day. We are so pressed for time that I had to say no. If we were in any other circumstance, I would have said yes and disguised a language game as a free day. But I couldn't do it. I hated feeling that all of the seemingly fun parts of education are gone. It's not to say that fun doesn't happen in my class because it does. But spontaneity is definitely gone.  I only see my students so much and with the restrictions that we have due to space or online students, there's no room for those fun teachable moments. Every minute has to be accounted for and the logistics have to be walked through to make the most of the time that we have.
I know that this is temporary. I tell myself that all the time. In fact, I've probably said it somewhere on this blog. However, the mental health of educators is rarely spoken about at board meetings or staff meetings.  I think that, yes, our focus should be on the students, but if we can't process our own grief based on our experiences this year and have a healthy place to speak freely about it, what will happen to our profession? The idea of teacher burnout is more apparent now than ever before, so what are we doing as a society to make sure that teachers feel heard, valued, respected, and appreciated?   

I've lost most of my creativity because all of my time is sucked up by meetings or planning or answering emails or trying to figure out how to do National Board certification in this mess. I didn't use to give much stock to time spent outside of school. With no kids of my own, I found that I liked to work most evenings on tasks that I should have been keeping at school. However, I now find that if I can leave work at the building, I'm a much happier person. I have to keep that boundary for myself to help weed through the priorities of my life.               

As I was driving to work on Friday, I actually thought to myself if there was something else that I could be doing. As much as I love teaching, I don't love this. It's caused me to be resentful and wonder if I could have done something else. I talk myself out of this most times, but on Friday, I couldn't shake it.  I know that I can't be the only educator who's thought if this is truly their calling. 

Here's my challenge for those reading this blog. If you are a teacher, answer these two questions:

1) What are you doing to remember that you are good at what you do? Write down everything that makes you a great educator.  Put those self-affirmations around your computer if you need to. That's what I'll be doing this week!

2) Who's your teacher buddy? You know that one that you go to about everything that truly gets it. Find that person and set up a coffee date or happy hour. Virtual, socially distanced, whatever. Just make the time and sit with each other through the mess that is this year. Then plan a second date. 

If you aren't a teacher, reach out to one that you know. Let them know that you see what they are doing and appreciate that they are still doing it despite all of the crap being thrown their way.  

This is not a way for me to seek out praise from this little blog post. I've got my people, but some teachers don't have their person. Be their person through this. Because the only way that we'll get through the muck is knowing that someone has our back.


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