Sunday, October 13, 2013

How's your stress level?

I woke up angry this morning---a common occurrence because I dream like crazy---angry on behalf of my friends in the classroom. A revelation slow in forming (paradox?) is taking shape.

Here's some context: My family has a lot going on. My grandfather passed away last Sunday, I had to euthanize our cat on Thursday, we're in the middle of a tough home sale negotiation, we're moving November 15 and haven't yet found a house, our dog bit our son in the face a few days ago, my husband is expanding his business, I run an online store, and I have a book coming out next month. Let's not forget that I'm 45, my husband is 49, and we have a 17-month-old wild man running around our house laughing maniacally with the remote in his hand.

The question: Friends asked me this week, "How's your stress level?" I replied, "High, but it's nothing like teaching." My mom asked me last night after the funeral, "How's your stress level?" I replied, "High, but it's nothing like teaching." My pastor joked that I live a year's worth of events in one week, but my stress level feels relatively low.

So what? I woke up without the "Sunday knot" in my stomach and the carousel of 15 presentations I need to plan for the week. I started thinking about my jealous friends who pop Zoloft to deal with the pressure and look forward to December so that they will get enough gift certificates to buy their own kids' shoes. I thought of my buddies who teach elementary school without an assistant, who write seven lesson plans for seven subjects for one day and have trouble getting coverage to go to the bathroom. I thought of my friends who teach middle school, who are expected to juggle the emotional needs of little hormone bundles, all while bracing themselves to take the blame for high school failures. When I was a curriculum specialist, I saw the bulk of the district pressure fall in the middle. Of course, since my experience is at the high school level, I think of my friends there, my exhausted friends who carry a class load of 150 or more and then drag home a suitcase full of papers to grade.

It's wrong. It's unethical. It's suicide, not service, for a teacher to run on the fumes that teaching is a NOBLE SACRIFICE. Education is not a charity.

Perhaps I feel angry because it would take revolution to change our own mindset. We're so used to the pressure that we can't imagine life without it. Teachers who recognize it, get to work right on time, leave as soon as they are allowed, and refuse to work at home are seen as lazy, uncommitted, cynical curmudgeons. I'm beginning to think they have the right idea.

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