Learning to be okay with being an okay teacher
I've tried to write this post for a long time now, but couldn't manage allowing myself to be vulnerable. Then I realized that I'm probably not alone. So, I finally decided it was time to share.
Last April, I had a panic attack. This was a first for me. While in the middle of a conversation, I remember telling my husband something was wrong as my breathing began to change and become very shallow. My legs wouldn't stop shaking and I began to lose the ability to communicate. I could hear myself in my mind saying what I wanted to say, but the words weren't coming out of my mouth. I stopped breathing. I held my head between my legs as my husband told me I had to breathe. Again, I could hear myself in my mind telling me to breathe, that if I didn't I was going to pass out. But I couldn't breathe.
I don't know how much time passed.
I do know that my husband took me to the emergency room, and I was scheduled an in-take appointment for the following Monday at our mental health clinic upon being discharged a few hours later.
I then began to get anxiety about my anxiety.
Am I crazy? I'm not crazy. I'm fine. I don't need help. I'm just stressed. I'm fine. Do I need medicine? I don't want to be on medicine. I'm fine. I don't need to talk to anyone. I'm fine.
I wasn't fine. I'd been dealing with anxiety and mild depression for years. I finally came to a breaking point. That breaking point was the stress and pressure I endure from the job I love, but also hate.
I had been having a pretty hard month in what was a pretty good school year, but certain aspects of my job were really weighing heavily on me. And that's when I began to crack.
After my first panic attack, I had more. I had to learn breathing techniques and learn how to not catastrophize things, which is something that I am continually working on. Every day is a battle. I have good days, and bad days. There are times when I go to therapy thinking...I don't have anything to talk about...then I find myself spilling my guts through tears 10 minutes later. Because let me be clear, teaching wasn't the only thing causing me anxiety. I had personal battles that I had been dealing with in silence since I was 7 years old. But teaching was definitely taking its toll on me.
I thought I would do really well in the summer months, because I wasn't worrying about my job. However, the 1st week of summer I was told that my section of 3rd grade was being eliminated and I was being moved. Cue anxiety. My anxiety last summer was probably worse than what it was when I had my first panic attack. It was really defeating.
I started this blogging/social media world of teaching almost the same time I started teaching. This was both a blessing and a curse. You see, for someone with anxiety whose primary core belief is never being good enough, seeing the amazing things other teachers do, makes you feel everything but amazing.
I constantly feel that I'm not doing enough. I feel guilty if I take a couple hours on a weekend to just sit and watch TV, when I could be creating things for my classroom, TpT, or even getting ahead on my business orders. I also feel guilty when I don't stay late or get to school early. There is SO much I could be doing at school, especially since I'm in a new grade level this year, but honestly, I'm just trying to get through the day. I rarely stay late. I have gone in early. I do go in on weekends.
What I've slowly began to realize, thanks to therapy, is that if I don't take that time for ME, I'm not being the best teacher I can for my students. I'm not being the best wife for my husband. I'm not being the best mom for my animals (judge me). Because you need time for yourself. Every single day I try to do something for me. Usually that is a trip to Starbucks in the morning. My colleagues make fun of me for paying $5 for a coffee almost every morning, but it makes me feel good. I shouldn't feel bad about that. But I do, on a regular basis.
This school year has been a pretty difficult one for me. I try not to talk about it too much on social media, but just know that I am struggling. I also know that there are many of you who are struggling, too, for various reasons.
This year I have second guessed my career on multiple occassions. I've worried about being part of the statistic we all hear in college about teacher turn over and teachers leaving the field after 5 years or less. I'm on year 5, and I totally get it.
The point of this post is simply to share. To let others know that they're not alone, because that's how I felt. I felt like how is everyone else doing this? How do they have time to create new products all the time? How do they have time to reorganize their classrooms all the time? How do they have the energy to stay til 9PM 3 times a week and go in on weekends? How do they balance this all with being a wife and a mom? I'm not even a mom, yet, how am I ever going to find a way to do all of it?!
The answer is...I won't. I will have to learn to give things up. To not do as much. To not worry when it doesn't get done.
I'm going to have to learn that it's okay to be an okay teacher. Because being an okay teacher in my mind, can still mean that I'm a great teacher in the minds of my students.
I would love to hear from you if you feel comfortable sharing your story. You can leave me a comment, message me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or email me at email@example.com