For those of you who do not see me on the daily, you are probably unaware that even though I still ultimately think of my teaching job as a blessing and what I am meant to be doing right now, we are currently in the “hate” phase of our love/hate relationship. I like to think of this phase as the pre-Thanksgiving sneaky hate spiral, but people smarter than me call it the “Disillusionment Phase.” Basically, it’s that time of year in October and November where teachers have just turned the page on the first quarter of the school year, and we realize that the dreams we had during the summer for how amazing this year was going to be have evaporated. We take a solid look at the students we’re teaching–who are solidly out of their honeymoon phase and have morphed into hellions–their lackluster grades, the extreme amount of work we are doing, and the microscopic amount of pay off we get in return, and we just think…FUCK THIS.
This is a thing. I think that just about every new teacher (and probably most seasoned pros) goes through this. We feel like frauds. We feel like we aren’t doing the job well enough. We feel like we are hurting children with our perceived incompetence. We are so over-extended and so stressed that we have exaggerated thoughts like “You know, if I hurt myself in a car crash this morning, I might not have to go to school for a few weeks.” Just last week, I found myself staring into oncoming headlights as I was driving into school at 6 am (after waking up at 2 am to start working) and thinking, “it would be so easy to just turn the wheel left…”
This is a dark place, the Disillusionment Phase. And I am certainly not alone in it, even though is is easy to think that. The day I caught myself fantasizing about crashing my car, I mentioned it to my best work friend and she laughed and said “Oh, I’ve been having that dream for weeks now!” and next thing I know, I’m getting emails from the rest of my department saying “Yup: I’ve had that thought recently, too.”
While the solidarity is nice, I’d really like to find a way to get out of the Disillusionment Phase, but it is hard to see a tangible solution for that. My fourth and fifth periods may decide to stop being jerks, but they probably won’t. And my workload may get lighter, but it probably won’t. I have very little real control over these stressors. But what I can do is try to tweak my own mindset.
So over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to re-boot a meditation practice. The only time I have been genuinely successful in this in the past was in graduate school when I could arrange my schedule to have a wide swath of time in the early morning to wake up, shower, eat healthfully, exercise, meditate, and do some personal reading and work before heading into classes around 9 am. This is not feasible now. Nor is having a set time each day–my schedule is too locked from 6 am to 4:30 pm, and then it’s highly variable every day after that. The one thing that I can usually count on is a 9 pm bed time (ugh, that makes me feel so old), but meditating just before bed makes me fall asleep instead of meditate.
It’s been a struggle, and I’ve certainly not been perfect. But I have really enjoyed the app I’m using to help: Headspace. There’s a free starter pack of 10 guided meditations that help teach technique and regularity, and it sends you nice push notifications with reminders and positive thoughts. You can also schedule reminders to meditate, which has been very useful to me. If you subscribe to the service (about the cost of Netflix), you get access to additional meditations and resources, but honestly I can see myself spending a few months at least on just the starter 10, so I’m not currently fussed about subscribing.
It’s helping some. At the very least, taking 10 minutes a day to not think of anything obligation related or to zone out with a TV show has helped me stop thinking about the merits of maiming myself. And it does help me feel, at least, as though I am practicing my spirituality more regularly rather than being a “Sabbat and Esbat” Wiccan. Perhaps I’ll see some other benefits a little down the road.