If there was one thing I learned from my Emotional Disabilities class in graduate school was that when we're working with kids with emotional disabilities (or any kids that demand a lot of our time and energy) we have to watch our own levels of stress and our emotions. Particularly when working with kids with ED it's easy for teachers to get so stressed and emotionally involved themselves that they start being ineffective. Much like the airplane safety message- put your mask on first before helping someone else.
I know this. I know it intellectually, I can explain it. I can explain it to my friends and colleagues and offer advice. That doesn't mean I follow it.
I thought I was doing ok, really. I knew I was stressed but I thought I was handling it. I let myself take a nap the other day, read for fun to take my mind of things (Has anyone read The Room? Amazing!) and went shoe shopping. Still, Thursday morning my amazing instructional aid walked into the room and said, "Today, I'm going to give you a massage. I can tell on your face- you need it. I even told my husband, Mrs. Lipstick isn't doing too well. She needs a massage."
I love my IA. She is from China and I think her brother is a natural medicine doctor over there. She gives amazing massages. Once last year when she decided I needed one she caught me in the office and just quickly rubbed my back. I don't know what she did to me, but it felt inappropriate to feel so good in front of the secretaries and the parents waiting for meetings. So I don't argue with her when she tells me I need a massage. Even if in previous years these massages are coupled with brochures on yoga, Buddhism, and general ways to control my stress. (I think she's on to me- I clearly need help).
It didn't happen Thursday for various reasons, but I didn't think anything of it. After all I'm fine- no worries- I'm handling it. Even if Mr. Lipstick told me my night time teeth-grinding has hit a whole new level of noise.
Then Friday around 10 o'clock we had an announcement over a surprise fire drill with new instructions on where to take our classes because of the wet fields. I lost it. I was so furious over the change in routine, the confusion of the email, the announcement over the intercom- I was torn between bitter anger and wanting to sit down and cry. Over something as silly as a change in routine.
I started to realize that I'm not ok. I deal with much worse events every day than a change in a fire drill. But those changes I can handle. This? Why did a fire drill set me off? Then splattypus came into my room to tell me about a change in a county policy over some testing information. I lost it again. I stormed up to the office. I'm not a stormer.
Later, after an hour long tantrum by my student I lost it with the school psych. Not at her- she's been amazing in all this- but I just vented in a way I usually reserve for a bottle of wine and Mr. Lipstick. I also know I wasn't being my normal patient self with the kids either- I could hear myself and the words I was using and I was horrified by myself.
I'm not OK. And I let myself get here. I kept telling myself I could handle it- if there was a problem I could do it. I know better than that.
This happens to us too many times as teachers. We spend so much time taking care of our students we don't take care of ourselves. And then we snap. We take it out on our kids, our co-workers, we gossip to feel better, we blame others, we wonder why our kids are playing so angrily with each other, we lose our patience with our spouses. I certainly don't have the answers to how to prevent this, but I know we have to be aware of it. Maybe if we're aware of it we'll be able to recognize our limits.
Friday afternoon my IA would not let me leave until she'd given me a fabulous massage, along with a lecture on exactly how to rub out the knots she couldn't get in one sitting. I have a lot to work on this weekend.
Now I'm headed to the Newseum for it's free educators day, and afterwards I plan to sit on my back porch and read my neuroscience text book- the interesting one, not the one that puts me to sleep. Then a long, slow run and a good dinner.