After writing my last howl of a post, I took a sick (read: mental health) day. What I learned from this is: when you are ready to smack your students, are so tired you can’t sleep, and experience more than one crying jag in the space of a few hours, it’s time to take a mental health day. It did me no end of good. I also went to bed at 10 the next night and took an over-the-counter sleep aid to minimize both tooth-grinding and dreams.
When I returned to work the following day, having thrashed some of my concerns around with the Boyfriend, I decided that I needed to set myself some “good teacher” tasks. The task for that day: I will not get annoyed with anyone, for any reason. No matter what happens, I will not glare, hiss or sneer. I will assume that everyone, no matter how rude, has the best of intentions.
As soon as I walked into my first class, a student cried, “Did you correct our essays?” She was smiling. The day before, I would have incinerated her with a single glance. Instead, I laughed, and immediately remembered that the previous week I had told them, “If I don’t give them back to you within two weeks, you can start harrassing me.” We had arrived at the two-week mark. What was more, she was kind of joking. And the essays were done. It was all ok.
When I returned to my office after class, there was a hoarde of students outside my office, waiting to get into the chemistry lab. One of them was standing directly in front of my door. I said “Excuse me,” three times, at increasing volume, before he stepped out of my way. There were bags and books lying in my path. Nobody moved them. Two of my colleagues, standing a few feet away, were outraged. “This kind of thing will make you insane,” one commented. True, I thought. But not today. Today, nothing will make me insane.
When I arrived at my final class of the day, the math teacher who occupies the classroom before I do was, once again, still there, talking to students and drawing diagrams on the board. It is the policy across the college that teachers need to free up the classroom ten minutes before the next class begins. This teacher almost always remains in the room until about one minute to the hour. This was almost my breaking point. As I was waiting outside the door, fully in his line of sight, it struck me that perhaps he is a new teacher and has never been told this policy. Perhaps, I thought, it is my task to tell him this policy. Perhaps I should tell him this policy today, but I’m concerned that if he is in any way resistant or impolite about it, I will lose my sh*t. So not today.
At the end of the day, I felt immeasurably lighter. I had sincerely and heartily laughed several times in each of my classes, something that hasn’t happened in a while. I had felt sincere and hearty affection for a couple of students who generally make me want to snarl.
So this will be my small task for the rest of the semester: I will not get annoyed. If I feel myself getting annoyed, I will simply take a breath, or, if necessary, do something to make the thing that is annoying me stop. This will not be an easy task, but if it is my only one, I can manage it for three weeks. Maybe at the end of three weeks, it will have become a bit of a habit. Or, if not, I can make it my overall task for next semester. If I don’t quit my job in a whirlwind of rage and hopelessness, I will have many semesters ahead of me to practice not getting annoyed. Eventually, I’ll get it right.