Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The first day of school... for teachers

Yesterday was the first day of school for teachers. I know it's silly, but I have always loved that first day--everyone coming together after a couple of months apart, the hugs, the anticipation of what's to come, the collective dread of the week of meetings with grown-ups and the final sleepless night before the kids' first day of school and the giddiness at finally seeing them come into our classrooms and the rush of getting to know 200ish new people.

But yesterday I didn't go to school. Yesterday I had a crisis of identity. I am still on disability, which began last year, during second semester. A miscarriage meant the loss of my child, and the complications meant the loss of my kids, which deepened the sadness to major depression and anxiety. I missed them so much. That high school was my life--I spent from 6:30ish a.m. to 6:30ish p.m. there most days, and then I came home only to go to a coffee shop to grade papers until 11:30ish p.m., then go home to sleep and start all over again at 5 a.m. Somedays I stayed past midnight--because the newspaper had to come out and they were still editing it.

No wonder, huh?

But there's something about teaching that is magical--getting to know so many people and getting to be a part of such an important part of their lives. Plus I got to be silly in front of a captive audience of 40 just to get them interested in prepositions (which I taught with a box and Tiger). And I could read children's books to teenagers and they responded nostalgicallly with "storytime" enthusiasm while being tricked into learning to identify themes--which is a skill they use later in the year when they read other texts, like Crime and Punishment or Anna Karenina.

And then there's the part that sucked the life out of me. Teaching is a 24/7 job. As an English teacher and a newspaper adviser, I was constantly grading, planning, seeing the world through, "I could use that in my classroom" eyes. My most creative writing (my previous destiny: writer) became college letters of recommendation, which I crafted with the love and attention of a mother telling a stranger about the best of her children--and the eye of a journalist writing a feature story.

Yes, I loved it.

And yes, I grew weary.

But yesterday, when I spent most of the day at various doctors' offices making appointments for various medical needs I was running as fast as I could trying not to think of what all my colleagues were doing with their day.

And today, as I get ready for a doctor appointment, I'm deciding whether I'll put some of those posters from my classroom up around my drafting table in my "studio" which has pushed the living room into a smaller corner of the first room of our smaller apartment (we downsized when I got down-paid--I was supposed to be the breadwinner of the family while my husband went through medical school. Now I have medical bills).

I paint now. And take photographs. And write. In cognitive behavioral therapy it's called "positve distractions." I use those skills that I shared with over 1000 teenagers over the past 7 years. I try to believe there is value in what I create, and in my interactions with strangers I find teachable moments. I still say I'm a high school teacher. I think I will always teach--it just won't always mean that I have hundreds of people (they all came with parents, you know, sometimes several sets) demanding my all.

But if I had a child, that's what I would want too--even though I was only pregnant for a little while, it was enough for me to know the love of mothering. I just wanted that baby to be safe and protected and loved by everyone s/he met. And when I could see those other babys through those eyes it helped me to be more patient with them. And when I see children hurt by their own parents it makes me want to save them somehow. I could do better.

But my job, and really the only thing I can do now, is take care of myself. I need to sleep more, eat more, exercise more (but I also had a lumpectomy on July 6--no breast cancer *whew*--so that therapy has been on hiatus), and love my Self as if I were that baby that never was. Take lots of naps. Accept my very limited endurance. Learn to smile. Take baby steps.

Then maybe soon I'll be strong enough to work again. In the meantime, the doctors have me continuing on disability and appointments galore.

Speaking of which... they get cranky when I'm late, so I'd better be on my way.

No comments: