Posted in Education, Mental Health

Yesterday Was a Tough Day – The Comeback

Yesterday was a tough day. Read about it here – https://teachinginpublic.home.blog/2019/08/27/tough-days-happen/

But that doesn’t mean that today has to be a tough day. It’s important to treat every day like a new day but that’s difficult for students who haven’t learned that skill or live in a constant state of stress. … it’s also difficult for adults who have and haven’t learned that skill.

So what can you do to reset the next day? (This is after you’ve worked out what’s really bothering you and given yourself time to be emotional if that’s what your mind or body needs to do)

  1. Start with something small. Do something deliberately for yourself. Take a bath, read a book, take a nap, cook something special, etc. So something small but do it just for you.
  2. Take care of yourself. Go to bed early, pack your lunch or pick out your outfit the night before, etc. Do something to slow yourself down and make sure the next day starts a little easier.
  3. Change. Yesterday didn’t go as planned? Do something about it. Politely tell someone how they made you feel, ignore the person or issue if it isn’t that big, remember that everyone has tough days and it’s okay, and decide to make today different. Move on (in a healthy fashion) and make today go how you want it to go.

It sounds like a simple solution but you have to take each step and think through them to deliberately begin to take back control of yourself and your day. It can be emotional, messy, and hard but your future self will thank you.

Determined,

Teaching In Public

Posted in Education, Mental Health

Tough Days Happen

Today got to me.

Today was our first day back as staff. Add to that… I’m pregnant, family drama, and some not-so-positive-comments thrown my way.

Today got to me. And I know it shouldn’t but words do hurt.

I know they don’t define me. I know they don’t change me as a person. But it’s still tough to hear and hard to deal with.

Let’s recap…

Situation 1 – I’m 20+ weeks pregnant and I’ve never been a small person. I’ve lost weight with my pregnancy (in a healthy manner according to doctors) but my belly has finally FINALLY started to show a baby bump.

A colleague walked into our big meeting and stopped to talk to me. She mentioned that she hasn’t seen any pictures of the baby. Now, I’m friends with this individual on social media so this seemed strange as I have shared a few ultrasound images.

So…

I pull up an ultrasound picture. “Wait!!! You’re still pregnant?!? You look like you’ve already had the baby!”

Now, I KNOW she was saying I look smaller and I KNOW I have lost weight BUT I know my belly is more pronounced than it used to be so this comment stung a little. I want to look pregnant (and I wondered how long my weight would prevent me from looking it) and enjoy this time but I’m also happy to have lost weight.

Situation 2 – we have to act out one of the new expectations they were rolling out school wide. I volunteered. 🤦‍♀️

I acted as a teacher to my colleague-students and ran through the routine in a similar way to how I really will with kids… but I’m dealing with adults and don’t have that level of confidence, so I skimp on some comedy opportunities so they don’t feel childish.

Volunteer 2 does the same routine.

Then, the presenter (a person I had issues with last year and is in a position of authority) gave us feedback as follows-

“When I went to the training for this, they ran through it very methodically and almost cold. Exactly how volunteer 1 did it. And I just couldn’t wrap my brain around it.” 😨🤦‍♀️

“Volunteer 2 was much more authentic and laid back about it. I could feel more at ease and feel my heart rate decrease a little. I feel that way when I go in this persons room (my teaching neighbor).” 🤦‍♀️🤷‍♀️ (so I’m cold and raise your blood pressure? 🤦‍♀️)

Situation 3 – family drama!!!! A family member is upset about a close friend of mine buying items (plates, napkins, and plastic ware) for my baby shower because my family member wants to be in charge (even though they asked this friend to help….).

On the surface, not dramatic. However, I am rarely the focus of this family member and with this being the first time where it SHOULD be all about me, my baby, and my new family unit, I’m nervous that time will repeat itself and I will take a back seat to someone else at my own party because of their poor decision making.

This family member is also in denial that they help my sibling 10 out of 10 times, no matter how big or small (house, bills, food, etc – with NOTHING paid back), and help me 1 out of 10 times if it’s a moderate to small (loan of $100 or less to be paid back almost immediately) amount of help needed. I wish I was exaggerating.

Situation 4 – I’m adding on to my own misery at this point. But the general excitement and urgency to take care of me and my incoming baby falls into three categories –

-doesn’t care (aka people who aren’t close with me)

-excited but doesn’t appear to be a priority (family member mentioned above and people who know me but not super well)

-over the moon (friends, other family members, hubs, self, etc)

Its a little disheartening that my colleagues have taken more interest in one day than my family member has over the last 5+ months. I won’t name this member but they are of my immediate family and someone who says they’re excited and that I am a priority but… actions speak louder than words.

So, long story short, it’s been a tough day.

Teachers are people too and we, just like the rest of the population, have baggage and demons.

I struggle with anxiety. Sometimes the stress can just be too much to handle. That’s especially so when I have days like today where they just snowball together.

Think twice before sending that abrasive text, email, or letter. Take a moment to consider the other perspective, point of view, or the human on the other end of your issue. It’s worth it to be kind. You never know what someone is struggling with or if they are at their limit already.

We’re all human. We all make mistakes. We all have feelings and opinions. There’s no need to be nasty towards one another.

Humanly yours,

Teaching In Public

Posted in Mental Health

Teachers… It’s Okay! (Back to School edition)

Teacher guilt is so real! We judge ourselves against unrealistic expectations.

I have laminated, printed (in color!), shopped, planned, reorganized my library, attended summer curriculum days (2 of them), and more. I’ve been in my classroom almost every day this week from an hour to a full day. I’ve worked on emergency sub plans and then made more since I’m pregnant and not sure if I’ll leave on time or unexpectedly for maternity leave.

I have done more to prepare for this school year than any year I’ve taught.

I have my reasons… from being pregnant to rethinking classroom spaces to make my life easier.

And I’m okay with it! That’s what I decided I needed to do to feel prepared and less stressed and that’s okay! (And yes, I’ve already heard from several people that I’ve been in too much or putting in too much time… I don’t care!! I’m doing what I need to do to be the best version of myself this year!)

We are all different people! We need to stop comparing ourselves and our rooms to Pinterest, Instagram, and other social media posts. And while we’re at it, stop comparing yourself to that teacher down the hall.

Do what makes YOU happy! Do what makes YOU the best version of yourself and stop worrying about if it’s Pinterest worthy or if it’s the cutest room or most put together in your hall.

Forget about the rest of the world as you set up your classroom this year. Focus on the classroom you want and want you can reasonably do to get it to that point.

Whatever you decide, I support you! I hope you all have a fabulous year and remember why you wanted to be a teacher! It’s a gift, a skill, a calling, and so difficult (and so worth it)!

Supportingly yours,

Teaching In Public

Posted in Mental Health

Teachers Need Help Too!

“I need help,” is a phrase that makes me cringe… but only when it’s coming from myself.

Why is asking for help (and admitting you need it) so difficult? Asking for help still has a negative stigma. If I need help, I must be weak. I must be wrong. I must not be good enough.

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth!

To ask for help, you have to recognize you need it and be strong enough to verbalize it. Asking for help opens you up to rejection and judgement but it also opens you up to the help you need.

As the school year approaches, I begin to get nervous about all the things I need to do to prepare my room and myself. I created a to do list, to buy list, and an I need help list. On this last list are items I need my husband or a janitor to help me with as well as little items that need to get done but I don’t necessarily have to do them.

As the summer passes, I am getting more and more pregnant and less able to do all the things I want or need. I seriously started to panic, “how will I get my room ready in time?!?”

By asking for help.I sent the below message to five parents from last year (I picked these five because from their students and because they were still active on my Remind app)-

“As the school year approaches, I am beginning to think about my classroom, new students, and the students moving to 7th grade that I will miss dearly. To set up for this year, I am looking for some help to sort, organize, peel stickers, label, check markers, etc. Your students stick out in my mind as being especially gifted in compassion, organization, and kindness. I am beginning my classroom setup X from 10-3 and would appreciate the help of your student if they are willing and able. If they are able and allowed to help that day, please let me know here or via email. Any student helping that day will be given pizza for lunch and a pencil pouch full of supplies like pencils and erasers to use in 7th grade. Thank you for taking the time to read this and, more importantly, raising such kind students!”All five parents answered! To my surprise, all of them said their child wanted to help! Two were on vacation and three were available.

I never would have gotten help without asking. These students are helping me for 5 hours which will easily save me 3-4 days of working on my own with stopping, snacking, sitting, and potty breaks. Not only is setting up my room tedious, it’s exhausting while pregnant. 🤰

I do want to clarify one thing. You don’t have to pay for the help you need, usually. If you need someone to take more time and hang out with you, don’t bribe them. If you need to see a doctor, you’re not bribing them but you do need to pay them.

I know these students would have helped me for free but I felt it was only right to provide lunch and some useful items to pay them for their work.

Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness. Ask for it when you need it and give it when you are able.

Helpfully yours,

Teaching In Public

Posted in Mental Health

I Silently Screamed “Help!” And My Husband Answered

The end of the school year is extra exhausting. Add in family drama, difficult admin and parents, and being pregnant? To say my anxiety and stress have been on the rise is an understatement.

I’ve been struggling with whether or not I could cope with it on my own. At times, my anxiety gives me anxiety. Who would have guessed?! I get in my head and wonder I need help, need to use my coping skills, or am just over exaggerating.

Even with baths, naps, cuddling with the dogs, and other relaxation activities, it’s been tough. The stress and anxiety started coming through as irritation, crying, melancholy attitudes, sarcasm, etc.

Two weeks ago, my loving husband picked up on my increased anxiety and became the voice of reason. “Why don’t you call your therapist and schedule an appointment? Maybe she can help you work through some of the family stuff.”

Those two sentences were like a lifeline. I was drowning in my own mind and the life vest was thrown. That was enough to tell me it wasn’t me overreacting but rather me needing help through some difficult times.

The first time I called to start therapy was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I saw her for almost a year and she dismissed me after making a lot of progress. She helped me get off anxiety medicine so we could begin trying to get pregnant. She helped me create boundaries with toxic people and so much more.

So, I took my hubs’ advice and called to schedule an appointment. Of course, it’s been almost a year so I had to go through the process as if I’m a new patient. A week later, they finally called and I have an appointment next week.

I am so thankful to have the option of therapy and a husband who loves and respects my needs. This time of year is always especially stressful like I explained in my last post but with added stressors, it’s become a little too much.l to deal with on my own.

Thankful,

Teaching In Public

Posted in Mental Health

End of the school year! Yay! But what about THOSE students… and teachers?

The end of the school year is messy. It’s not all Pinterest perfect with countdowns, perfect behavior, presents galore, and tears in everyone’s eyes.

To students with trauma, it’s a deadline, a dreaded end of security. Somehow, in all the countdowns and year in review activities, some forget about the kids who act out but don’t really want the year to end.

My husband was one of those kids. He was a capable student who purposely failed classes so he could attend summer school or after school programs. He was the kid who went from house to house until both parents gave up and he was raised by an equally crazy relative who wouldn’t drive him places, but him things, or listen when school called. He’s the kid who went into the military as a getaway.

We forget about those kids.

But.

We also forget about those teachers. The teachers who struggle with mental health, who get depressed or feel useless over the summer, who get overwhelmed with all the paperwork and end of year expectations. Those teachers aren’t the first to pack their room or leave for the summer.

They sometimes sit in their room not knowing what to do next… the class diagram? Inventory? Check out paperwork? Purge outdated materials? Sign observation forms? Make phone calls? Lock up materials? Wipe down surfaces? Clean out binders? Check over lockers? Label furniture? Roll-up posters?

It can be overwhelming to go from having a clear purpose every day to having time off where you don’t need to grade or plan or communicate… and even though the entire year builds to this point, it still feels sudden. Like you’re walking forever and then there’s nothing under you.

They make plans, lists, use their coping skills, tackle the problems at hand, try to remain calm, try to not spiral, and smile through it.

The end of the year is already so stressful but students and teachers with trauma and/or mental illnesses are having an even tougher time right now. Not to mention, those who deal with new trauma or stress outside of the normal chaos that is the end of the year.

I am one of THOSE teachers and I am not okay. (I will be okay but I’m not there yet.)

One of those teachers,

Teaching In Public

Posted in Mental Health

Mental Health Awareness Month

People with mental illnesses are often silenced because others don’t want to hear what they have to say, don’t understand, or their mental illness prevents them from speaking freely (or makes it very difficult).

What do you wish others knew about mental illness? Use your voice to spread awareness and understanding! ❤️

In solidarity,

Teaching In Public

Posted in Education, Mental Health

TV Wisdom and Teacher Reality Check

I won! Sort of.

I won Teacher of the Year (TOY) for my building. I continued and competed against the other TOYs in the district. They then had to pick the top few to continue before picking an ultimate winner.

After doing a lot of writing, agonizing, video taping, editing, revising, and sole searching… I completed an interview in front of nine people.

I ended up knowing half of them, which actually made it more nerve racking. I stumbled my words. I bounced my leg. I did everything in my power to not have a panic attack in the room. I smiled. I looked at everyone even though only one person asked the questions. I tried not to over analyze what their head nods or note taking meant. My brain shut off as I answered a question. When I thought I had answered it, I still had to ask, “can you repeat the question? I want to make sure I answered all of it.” I tried to continue eye contact even thought I wanted to stare at the ceiling.

I. Tried. Everything. I could think of to do my best.

It wasn’t good enough. I got the call saying thanks but you didn’t win. It was worded more elegantly but the main message came loud and clear.

The worst part? I hadn’t realized how much I wanted to win until I was no longer in the running.

I wanted something I could figuratively wave in the faces of anyone who told me I couldn’t, wasn’t good enough, fired me, looked down at me, threatened me, and more. Something that says, “you were wrong! I AM a teacher! And a damn good one too!”

Then, it hit me – tv wisdoms. A few sentences from a tv show turned me around.

Fixed? That’s not a thing. … My job is to give you the tools to get through the day.” -Dr. Iggy Frome, New Amsterdam s1 ep20

I didn’t need fixing. I needed to use my tools.

One of the best tools MY therapist gave me was like a reality check. I’m sure there’s a name for it but I’ve since forgotten.

I’m in a spiral of negativity. In my mind, not winning at the district negated winning at my school. Those people were right. I shouldn’t be a teacher. I should have been fired. They were right to give me an improvement plan. I deserved to have kids that cause me to evacuate my class and then be judged when I had to protect my students.

Reality check.

What’s the truth here? I WAS nominated and chosen as TOY for my building. I had FIVE different students nominate me. I had TERRIBLE school leaders that did not treat me with the appropriate amount of respect and seriousness deserved. I am currently working for school leaders who DO respect me and treat my needs and questions seriously. I won TOY in my second year in my district and my fourth year as a certified teacher (which is SUPER early to win in my area). I did something out of my comfort zone because my school leaders, students, and colleagues believed in me.

The other truth?

I feel like I may have been overlooked for some reason other than qualifications or qualities. BUT part of winning at the building level is interviewing the candidates the following year. SO that means I can help pick the next candidate based on honesty and integrity and influence others to do the same (if it isn’t already).

Oh, the irony… as if my mental health could pick a better time to take a roller coaster… during mental health awareness month. (Yes, I know that’s unfair of me but still not untrue)

Speak out, speak up, and love yourself!

Happy mental health awareness month!

Teaching In Public

Posted in Mental Health

Panic Attack Helpline

These things do happen… I may be able to cope with my anxiety but I still have panic attacks from time to time. I have found three things that help me in those moment.

  1. Manage my breathing – this is my first go-to strategy. Try to slow your breathing. Do the stereotypical, “breathe in… breathe out.” It takes practice and time but it helps me slow everything down and feel more in control.
  2. 5 senses – think of things for each of the 5 senses. It’s a bonus if you can do something with them. For example, I think of my sense of touch – petting my dogs. It’s a mental bonus if I can actually pet my dog as I think of the sensation. Go through every sense and really think about them. It takes your attention away from the attack and helps you ground yourself in the present.
  3. Rule of 3 – think of 3 positives, 2 deep breaths, and 1 goal or thing you can work on related to your current anxiety. This is something I made up for myself and especially works when I have anxiety resulting in overthinking or negative self talk.

What helps you when you have a panic attack or high anxiety?

Dealing with an attack or anxiety? Try the strategies above or below in the comments. If you haven’t already, consider talking with a doctor or family member about your anxiety.

Posted in Mental Health

Anxiety Manifesting in Reality

There’s still stigma attached to mental illness. I feel there’s only one way to combat that stigma – education.

As someone with anxiety, I feel the more I know about it, the more power I have over it. Anxiety is irrational and will be with me my entire life. It’s a friend who doesn’t know when they’ve overstayed their welcome.

Below are ways anxiety has manifested in my life.

Disclaimer – I am not a doctor or medical professional. Do not use this post as a diagnosis but rather to open a dialogue between yourself, your family, and your doctor if you feel you are struggling with mental illness.

Stereotypical symptoms (the true ones) –

  • Panic attacks
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irrational thoughts
  • Overthinking

The not as talked about symptoms –

  • Feeling awkward (especially socially)
  • Wanting to be alone
  • Canceling plans
  • Difficulty taking a deep breath
  • Weight on chest
  • Irritability
  • Crying
  • Procrastination
  • Snapping at others
  • “Laziness”
  • Forgetfulness
  • Over/under eating
  • Feeling rushed or out of control
  • Heart palpitations
  • Eye twitching
  • Hands shaking
  • Dizziness
  • Flare up (if you have skin problems like psoriasis)
  • Leg shaking/foot tapping
  • Stumbling over words
  • Stutter
  • Repeating myself
  • Clenching teeth
  • Heart racing
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Difficulty making eye contact
  • Finger or pencil tapping
  • Difficulty standing or staying still
  • Difficulty falling asleep and waking up
  • Pushing people away

And more. I’ve had all of these symptoms at times. But what they don’t tell you about anxiety?

If you are able to “control” or understand your anxiety, it can be a strength (at times).

Now that I have gone through therapy and medicine and research and soul searching and… you get the picture… I’m able to use my anxiety to reflect and plan.

I ask myself these questions:

  • What is causing me to feel that way?
  • Is that a valid thought or not?
  • If it’s a valid thought, what can I do about it?
  • If it’s not a valid thought, then what is the truth?

I’ll give you an example.

Earlier today, I was feeling a little antsy, irritable, forgetful, and had a difficult time taking a deep breath.

What was causing me to feel this way? Well, spring break is quickly coming to a close and I still have to finish grading, planning, copying, teacher of the year (t.o.y.) paperwork, new t.o.y video, prepare for the t.o.y interview, and housework. I also realized that I’m almost broke until tomorrow.

Is it valid? Absolutely.

What can I do about it? I spent three hours in my classroom today and finished 2/3 of the grading, all of the planning, and a chunk of the t.o.y paperwork. I have a plan to finish the rest tomorrow except the copies since I have planning first on Monday. As for the no money situation, it’s a valid feeling but I had to remind myself that I already paid my bills, bought groceries, and get paid tomorrow with no need of buying anything today.

This thought process made me feel more in control, validated, and even successful because it enabled me to make a reasonable plan and diminish some of my current stressors.

Knowledge is power. The more we learn about mental illness, hopefully, the more normal it will be to have and talk about.

Powerfully yours,

Teaching In Public