Climbing out of the well


The truth is I battle depression, and have been since my early twenties, and more intensely since my thirties. People don't want to be around someone like me for too long. I get that. My poor, long-suffering husband has hung around for 13 years and obviously possesses superhero powers in living with depressing me.

Up until this past semester, I did a pretty good job of shielding my "essence" from my students, but the last five months were not good for me, or my students, consequently. Not only was I battling depression, but also a major case of teacher burnout, and I'm scared to death to return in a few days because I don't want to feel or teach that badly again. 

The new state mandates for testing and teacher evaluations caused some of my burnout, but it's been a long time coming. Teaching ninth graders for the first time after teaching seniors fanned the flames of my burnout, but it's been a long time coming. Juggling too many extracurricular activities and clubs contributed to my burnout, but it's been a long time coming. 

Winter break will soon be over, a time I have spent in meditation, soul reflection, and self care. This semester will be make or break for me. Am I done as a full-time public educator or not?

My main concern is the physical impact of the daily stress of teaching. I gain weight, my blood pressure goes up again, and I'm tired all the time. One strategy I am developing regarding how to reduce the stress is based on an idea I heard in Sara Kay's TED talk If I should have a daughter . . . in which she uses lists for poetry generators. I decided to write my own list of Ten Things I Know to Be True for Me as a Teacher. 

  1. It is not my responsibility to motivate you to want to learn. This is your life. Education is the key to a better one, like it or not.
  2. Cell phones disrupt learning in my classroom and cannot be allowed except during bathroom break, and not even then if that becomes a problem.
  3. It hurts when students are disrespectful to me by trying to talk or sleep when I'm teaching or talking rudely to me. It hurts my feelings, my self-esteem, and my credibility, therefore, I cannot allow any form of disrespect.
  4. Because I am naturally an introvert, I need quiet during block transitions so that I can regroup and start class effectively.
  5. Assigned seats work best because it takes the pressure off students. The loners don't have to worry about being ignored and the social students don't have to worry about being social when they really just want to listen and learn. Assigned seats also help me take attendance more quickly.
  6. Because I am an introvert and prefer silence, I cannot repeat myself constantly. Students must listen the first time or get information from a classmate.
  7. Most grading should be done during class as soon as possible after students complete assignments so that they can more readily learn from their mistakes.
  8. I need to create a boundary between my personal life and my work life by working as little as possible at home.
  9. I need to stay organized throughout the semester and limit extracurricular duties.
  10. Sitting and listening can be boring, so I need to make sure my lessons connect with my students and give them something to DO.

Honoring my ten truths is a start to climbing out of the well of depression and burnout. I plan to use this idea as an icebreaker for my new classes this semester by asking students to generate of list of student truths. Hopefully, we can blend all of our truths so that my classroom provides a safe haven for all my students. 

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