GUEST POST: Diary Of A Teacher is a bite of real life, exposing the anxiety, paralysing overwhelm and dread many overworked teachers feel. Thank you very much to the generous writer for sharing this with my readers. Helping people feel seen is always noble.
Going back to school.
That anxiety thing.
Here’s how it begins for me.
Five days before the end of the break, and all that marking, and possibility to plan classes still not done. There’s a cool seating plan that I swear will sort my year 8’s from nightmare class to dream class.
I can’t read another Year 10 essay that claims Macbeth “is just an innocent guy…all those murders are actually all his wife’s fault”.
There’s at least thirty hours of it, maybe more.
But there’s still those walls to paint/that song I needed to write/the house that looks like a war zone/that sweet sweet TV bingeing drug to mainline. And let’s be honest: I take the TV drug almost every time.
But in the end, what I don’t do is the work.
And hour by hour, I start to curl up on the couch or the bed, less and less able to do the one thing that’ll make me feel ok.
First, my partner comes in to check on me, and reminds me that the way out of the hole is to get the work done. And she loves me, and she’ll take the kids.
I can’t get the work done.
Then my friend who I never see during term time calls to say let’s go out to a movie. I decline. Then my other friend who I also never see during term time drops by to go for a bike ride.
I die a little more inside and lie about feeling sick.
Then the vortex worsens.
You’re a shit teacher, a worse friend, and terrible husband. You’re a bad dad (not the funny version, either). You’ve done nothing with your life. You are a failure.
I always think of Trent Reznor at these moments, because I never knew what “The Downward Spiral” was until I started teaching. And even though it’s on a different album, the song “Something I can Never Have” plays on repeat in my head…you make it all go away, you make it all go away. I just want something…I can never have.
Is it the fact we get the opportunity to not work, but know that we should be working that turns the holiday to crap? Or is it that teaching sucks so much creativity from me that I struggle with the idea that I have nothing left to put in to my own personal life?
Because it feels like there’s all these things I want for my life – for the lives of those I love – and I can’t get myself there.
The final night is always the same: the overwhelming amount of stuff not done, emails and Teams chats not checked.
These all start to pile on top of each other in a great roiling anxious fog.
In the end I don’t look at anything, but stay up crazily late to reassert some twisted form of control over my life. And then I fly blind and under-slept all the next day at school, which almost always turns out to be slightly less nightmarish than I’d feared.
A week later, I usually come home saying something like “I fucking love teaching! Listen to what this kid wrote for their Year 10 essay!…”.
Yeah, the holidays are awesome.
Teachers have it so easy.
Please comment below if you can relate to this experience. If you’re looking for a counsellor, connect with me here and find out if we’d be a good fit for some life-saving work together. If you’d enjoy occasionally getting these posts and other messages in your inbox, sign up for my blog here. And if you’d like to read another guest post personal essay, try the incredibly powerful Keep On Driving.
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