Oh, my. The last two weeks have kicked my booty, friends. We have been in survival mode around here lately, but I think we are finally coming out of it. I can’t remember being this stressed out, frustrated, or challenged professionally in quite a while. Without going into too many details, my school is going digital this year. I have been extremely optimistic since the announcement at the end of the school year last year because I love using technology to teach. In fact, my masters thesis was a study about technology in education. I’m a big fan. But this digital format has me completely flustered. I’m pretty good with technology, but the learning curve for lesson planning, classroom management, and technical problem solving on the spot has been hefty.
I struggle a bit with anxiety. It’s not too bad, but every now and then when prolonged change or stress hit me, my body has a tough time reacting. During the day, I’m perfectly fine. I think I even appear normal (I know, total shock, right?). But all that stress that I carry with me during times of real challenge and change comes out at night. I have trouble sleeping, usually waking up around 1:00am and then staying up all night after that, worrying. Sometimes I worry about what is actually bothering me, and so then I sit up thinking about apps and grades and Google Drive and account management and all the things that are coming along with this technology change at school.
But sometimes my anxiety comes out in this very weird way. I wake up around 1:00am, as usual, and I am convinced – CONVINCED – someone is trying to break into our house. I know this phobia is leftover from when our house was broken into a few years ago, but it only shows itself during times of stress and anxiety for me. And it DRIVES. ME. INSANE. I sit up for hours just listening to noises that aren’t there and creating horror stories about the normal, regular, nightly noises that anyone would hear in their house. Was that the ice maker in the fridge, or did someone just break a window with a rock? Was that the dogs walking around, or was someone in the living room? Was that the air conditioning clicking on, or did someone just open the garage door?
When I wake up in the morning, I know that none of those things happened. I know that my house is safe. I know that my family is safe. I know that I was being ridiculous. But the very next time, I’ll go through the entire process again. It is exhausting. And it only adds to my stress level because I’m already tired from work and then I’m up all night with anxiety that is caused by working.
And if you think I’m driving myself crazy, you should see Chris. He’s about to leave me. Everytime I wake him up in the middle of the night now, he doesn’t even open his eyes. He just responds with, “Yes, Katie, I do think someone is in the living room.” And then he rolls over and goes back to sleep. Party pooper.
This weekend, Chris had to work tech all weekend, so my sweet mother-in-law and her special friend/boyfriend/roommate/fiance/husband/whatever you want to call him, Charles, came down for the weekend to hang with me and the kids. (Jackie and Charles have been together for almost as long as Chris and I have. He’s basically one of the kids grandparents and we love him.) On Sunday morning, we were all going to go out to breakfast before Chris had to head to work, but I had been so stressed lately and we hadn’t been to church in a few weeks, so I snuck out myself and went to the early service alone before everyone got up and going.
AND DARNED IF THE MINISTER DIDN’T PRAY FOR STINKIN’ TEACHERS. Really. He prayed for everyone who labored in their careers, but he especially lifted up those in teaching roles because of the service they give to everyone else. He prayed that we would reach children so that they would grow up to be contributing citizens in our communities. He prayed that the lives that we touched would go out into the world and cure diseases, fight for good, and seek peace.
In the middle of the prayer, I was so shocked that I actually looked up at the minister and sat there with my eyes wide and my mouth hanging open. Was he praying for ME? How did he KNOW? Who had told him?
But no one had. It was a divine reminder that sometimes the work that we do – be it teaching or otherwise – feels like labor. It feels like work. It is a burden to carry and a challenge to overcome. But that we do it because we can change lives. We can touch others. We can make people better. And God knew that that was exactly what I needed to hear.
My mother-in-law is a teacher, too. In fact, she was MY teacher twice in middle school. Incidentally, she was the only teacher to ever write me up and give me detention. For talking, naturally. And I think it was divine that she was here after such a trying few weeks of teaching. We talked and we strategized and we shared ideas, and when it came down to it, it didn’t really matter if my classroom was digital and hers was not. What mattered was our students, and Jackie reminded me of that this weekend. I hope that when I’ve been teaching as long as Jackie has, I still remember that lesson every day I step into the classroom.
I hear people tell horror stories about their in-laws sometimes, and it makes me so grateful for Jackie. She just has a way of showing up at the right moment, saying the right things, and focusing on the right priorities. I’m so glad my kids have her a role model as they grow up, but I’m just as glad that I’ve had her as a role model as I’ve grown up myself.