I’m in the middle of stuff.
I had the thing last night. Some stuff came up in the course of it. In the morning, I woke up late because the thing went on later than I usually stay up. Then in the morning, although I have three periods free, I am assigned to substitute for a class and they are too noisy and difficult to not very actively and obviously supervise—no chance of doing my own work at all. Also, they are all reading books with about 1000 words in them they don’t know, so I have to tell them. Then I teach.
So things in my head are just hanging, and until now, I have been able to mostly restrict all the personal stuff to after and before school hours. I mean, I’ve been able to come to school and mostly just work and then go home and think over whatever needs to be thought over. However, I realize that’s not going to happen today.
Something is going on inside. Several things probably, and I need to untangle them a little before going on to the next class, or my internal state is going to spiral down. I will have more and more issues to deal with, and they will pile up. That isn’t the end of the world, but it doesn’t make for the best day and it doesn’t make for the best teaching.
It’s best I sit down for a bit and sort through them. There are many tasks I ought to do—important tasks—but not absolutely, completely necessary tasks that need to be done just now.
In fact, this often happens on Thursdays. Wednesdays are hectic. I teach only four periods, but then there is club, which is essentially another class to teach, and then I need to teach a remedial class, so it becomes a nine period day in which I teach six periods, and all the periods are shorter, so it flies by with not a whole lot of downtime once it gets going.
One problem with being in parts is that processing is inefficient. Recognizing, naming, and ordering what you think and feel just about the present takes a long time—nevermind that very often the day is full of reminders of memories of the past. Part of this is because thinking about anything means calming down enough that the dissociative walls start to thin and you can actually get all of your thoughts and feelings in one mental place to do this with. At the same time, calming down is not easy. Traumatized people are extremely good at being aroused quickly and staying that way for a long time. Moving out of that aroused state takes effort and energy and the fact of the aroused state means that very often you’re tired and you don’t have that kind of energy available to expend in a deliberate, directed way. The energy keeps leaking out without any effort on your part, but using that energy to calm yourself down is a different matter. It’s perhaps the difference between peeing your pants and peeing at a target.
On Wednesdays, stuff piles up. On Thursdays, I also teach only 4 periods, but there’s none of the extra stuff, so sometimes it work out, but it does seem as though I ought to just assume Thursdays and sometimes Friday will be spent catching on whatever came up on Wednesday.
Anyway, that’s where I am today.
There were two things I noticed in class today that are on my mind. The first one was the date. I wrote the date on the board, and it triggered this kind of recognition, like it was somehow important. I don’t know why it would be important but it feels me with a kind of dread, like something terrible happened on this date. I think in the course of the day, I won’t come to know what that terrible thing might be. But I can expect to get fragments of memory from whatever that was.
The second thing I noticed while I was teaching was that sometimes I bring a Ruthie kind of energy to the class sometimes and this energy makes it a lively and interesting class, but it also makes me a little crazy. I think it might make the kids a little crazy. It’s a hyper energy, and it creates an anxiety for me when it’s not accompanied by something that keeps it regulated and flowing smoothly. In plainer words, it leads to a wound-up state that also winds the kids up too much. Not in negative way exactly, but in a way that leads to too much activity and eventually disorder. It creates an anxiety for me because at some level, I know that. It’s happened a million times before, and so I recognize all the symptoms. I know where it’s going to lead to—it’s going to lead to off-task behaviour and not much learning. Children have enormous amounts of energy and only partially developed regulatory skills, so if I’m not helping them to regulate that energy level, they can’t do it on their own. And they are taking their cue from me. I am the most powerful person in the room, and their affective states are often going to mirror mine.
I need Charlie energy. I need that calm, grounded energy to keep the bubbly, lively energy flowing smoothly instead of sizzling and burning. And the hyper energy needs to be kept within certain bounds. It’s not comfortable for me when it’s “on” too high. It’s not comfortable for the students either. It’s hard to explain how I can see that it’s uncomfortable for them, but this is why it eventually devolves into misbehavior and a lot unhappiness for everyone. I need to be watching for signs that it’s “on” too high for myself and “on” too high for the students well before it gets to that uncomfortable so that I can bring it back to that grounded, calm place that makes students feel confident and protected enough that they can learn.
I’m a unique person, as everyone is, and it makes me a unique teacher. I’ve noticed this, especially when I’ve had easy classes to manage: my ideal class looks a lot different than many of my colleague’s—in every school setting I’ve worked in. It’s very active, it’s very fast, I’m very connected to the students emotionally, and I expect and give back a very high level of focus. When it goes well, the students love it. When it doesn’t, well, they don’t. But I suspect if I taught the same students all day, they would leave totally exhausted. Maybe not. Maybe it matches the very fast-paced, very stimulating lives they are starting to lead as technology allows us to provide ourselves with an astonishing amount stimuli all day, every day.
But staying within those bounds of what is comfortable for all of us is very important. I am sensing when it is out of bounds, and noting that it’s a problem and that it needs to be reined in, but the communication inside is still too inefficient. The message isn’t getting through clearly enough or early enough, and I’m receiving it after problems have already started or are going to start exactly now, and it’s also leading me into an anxious state instead of the grounded state I need to use to bring things back into those comfortable boundaries.
So that’s today. That’s my thought. Maybe neatly sorted and ready to help me with the rest of the day, or maybe not. One period down. Three left to teach. Let’s see.