Today is an important milestone for me. Today is 6 months since I realized something was really not right in my teaching world and took steps to correct it. Looking back now, after all this time has passed and I have been in therapy talking about these issues, I can see where things went bad from the outset and I just went with the flow because that's what we do as teachers.
Since I started my teacher credentialing program, I have kept a journal to help me reflect on my practice, but also to serve as a reminder. When things get tough, I can read back through and remember the awesome times I've had as a teacher and it cheers me up. When things are going awesome, I can still read back and remember some challenging times and make sure I reflect on those times to ensure they don't become the norm in my classroom. I found that this year especially, having that journal to vent in and share my fears in helped me so much. I'm very grateful that I have all of that information to look back on, but also because I can read back and realize how far I have come in these six months!
To provide a bit of insight, here's a portion of the journal entry from February 11:
Today LK came into the room first thing, we hadn't even been in school for 5 minutes, just cursing a blue streak at another kid. I am beyond dealing with that and sent him out. Mr. Interim Principal just sent him back to class. No reprimand or anything.
My entire class was insane at gym...the gym teacher called me and wanted to send them back and I said nope, this is MY TIME and they are your issue, sorry!
During that time I called the union and spoke with R who is pretty high up in the union. Essentially this means the man knows our contract inside and out and his word is almost gospel in all that is teacher-esque. I was very upset when I called (having just heard the Spawns of Satan were wreaking hovac in PE) and as I tried to explain my situation and concerns to R, I started to cry. He said he realized this must be very serious to have me this upset.
I laid it out...how the district in their infinite stupidity pulled me out of my classroom in August the second week of school and things haven't been the same since, how there is no support at school from the administration, how we're supposed to be a Positive Behavior School (which is entirely laughable) and how my anxiety level has continued to increase over the last few weeks. I also admitted that I'd had a small panic attack this morning AND that my hands shake when I am at school like I'm an 80 year old lady. I'm only 31, this is not normal or healthy. I said that my husband has expressed concern that I'm depressed but I know I'm not -- I've experienced depression and this is not even close. It's anxiety.
I adamantly state that I knew I wasn't depressed because it wasn't like my old depression...but of course, I am depressed. It is different than my previous depression and I totally didn't recognize the signs of it at all. Now, looking back, I definitely see all of the warning flags. It's a scary thing to realize how possible it is to be so lost from yourself that you can't even recognize when the carpet has been ripped out from under you. Incidentally, when I saw my family doctor and he told me I was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as well as depression, I was kind of floored. But after reading up on PTSD, anxiety and depression, it definitely fits everything I was dealing with. I remember very clearly my doctor telling me that he thought I was hiding bad incidents from others but also from myself, meaning I wasn't allowing myself to believe things were really as bad as they were. I was essentially glossing things over, making excuses for the kids' behaviors and what was going on because deep down, I knew I wasn't going to get supported or backed up by my administration so my brain was just trying to cope with it, sweep it under the rug and keep plugging along because that's what teachers do. I love my family doc because his wife was a teacher for 15 years so he definitely knows about how difficult the job can be.
After I had my doctor appointment, got approval for my leave of absence and was set to return to work to clean out my room, I wrote this in my journal: Part of me feels a little guilty that I couldn't stick this out...like that makes me weak.
After all this time, it makes me a little upset to see that I felt that way. I'm not weak. I was being emotionally abused every single day, not only by some of those children, but also by an unsupportive administrator (who, for the record, blamed the issues on the fact that I am a white female). This was a big topic of conversation in therapy for awhile as well. Depression and PTSD are funny things, they mess with your mind and make you doubt yourself, your worth and whether you were, in fact, weak.
6 months removed from that, I find myself overly excited to go back to work. I miss teaching. I miss making a difference for students. I miss working closely with colleagues (and of course this year, since I'm working with Mrs. Cooperating Teacher, I have the best colleagues ever!).
I have so many things I want to implement and change in my classroom, not only procedures wise, but also in regards to my instruction since I am now wiser due to the research I did with my master's. I find myself thinking about school more than I think about anything else. I even spent my birthday (which was yesterday) working on organizational stuff for school because I'm looking so forward to going back. Rereading my journal has caused me to stop, shake my head and wonder how I even managed as long as I did in that classroom this year. Because my doctor was right. I was hiding a lot, from others but also from myself. Being away from there allowed me to regroup and get my head back in the game.
I'm entirely grateful that I had that time off. I feel like the old Sunny again, which is a great thing! I am ready to bust at the seams with my desire to get access to my classroom. I heard a rumor that secretaries reported back today and hopefully that means we'll get to access our rooms next week because they'll be there to pass out keys and such. I can't even describe how excited I am to get into my new space. I even posted a Facebook status admitting my nerdy desire to get in and play with my new space!
I think that says a lot about how much of a difference these last six months have made for me. I'm ready, willing and able to approach this school year a calendar year older, wiser and more determined to have The.Best.Year.Ever.