Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of taking 4 to DC to celebrate his birthday (belatedly) by visiting BeiBei at the National Zoo. We had a blast and I logged nearly 25 miles on foot over the course of the four days there. Traveling with a toddler isn’t all panda bears and doughnuts, though; my son goes to bed at 7:30PM each night and we try to stay on schedule when traveling, thus I had a bit of time to read on my phone in the dark each night (because if I went to bed at 7:30, I’d be up and ready to party by 3AM).
One article I read over the weekend was about teacher burnout in urban school settings: https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/commentary/teachers-therapy-trauma-philadelphia-20191107.html
In this article, it was mentioned that a PD session implored teachers to be strong for their students and thus need to maintain their cool until the school day ends. This brought back so many memories of behaviors and conversations I’ve had with fellow teachers I’ve worked with.
When I started teaching, I loved the work I did — I spent countless hours planning and reading and preparing and prepping for my students’ success. After two years in DC Public Schools, I learned of an opportunity in northern VA that would cut my commute and seemed like a similar enough fit. I took my skills there and eventually became a department chair before leaving for MA. I’ve been teaching at the community college level for the last nine years and still have the same emotional load to carry as I did when I first began.
For years, I’d cry the duration of my morning and/or afternoon commutes. The weight of my students’ plight sat heavy in my heart and many days, I couldn’t really handle the thought of what a weekend or school vacation brought to their lives. My physical and mental health suffered and I used many sick days battling illness and/or tears. I thought that when I transitioned to higher education, I’d leave behind all of the fret I dreaded each day.
I was wrong.
The last two years have increased my stress-load; especially last year when I had a handful of students who partook in a form of self-harm. Again, managing the emotional load took a toll on me — I was drained of energy and filled with dread to take on my days. In some ways, I’m grateful that students are more aware and willing to share their experiences so that they can receive the help they so dearly need; on the other hand, the empath in my really struggles to separate the school day with my personal life.
Taking time off to figure out how to move forward career-wise has been good for me. I’ve been able to spend tons of time with my family and am in a much better headspace (I’m sure all of the yoga helps with this too). I am wondering how the emotional load changes when moving away from urban education and into more suburban settings. Believe me, I understand that all districts have their issues — I’m just trying to figure out how to balance the emotional load with the work and personal loads.
I am hoping that this time I am using to stay at home with 4 and reflect and take classes will help guide my thoughts and release my mind so that I’m fresh to go when 4 is ready to start kindergarten; until then, I’ll keep getting myself into healthy habits so that I can be set up for as much emotional and physical success as possible when the time comes.