This year has been my worst EVER year of teaching in the 25+ years I have been in the classroom. Common Core is SO discouraging, so boring, so wrong. I hate it, and the kids hate it, and it is just plain bad teaching. And NYS's high stakes testing is also wrong, and makes me sick, on behalf of my kids. We have just finished my subject's portion of that last week, and it was bad. But worst of all, or maybe just most visible of all, is this year's group of students. Never have I had a group like them. Never in my life have I had a group that has caused me more stress, literally Every. Single. Day. There is no relief from it. Every day is just as bad as the one before. Thankfully (?), it is not just me... this group has caused the same stress to the other grade-level teacher who shares them with me, and to their "specials" teachers as well. One of those other teachers, who only has to deal with them for 40 minutes 3x a week, as opposed to all day every day, looked at me last week and said, "What is WRONG with this group of kids?" I wish I knew. More importantly, I wish I knew how to fix it, for their sake, and for mine. The stress is adding up, and I although I only have one more quarter of the year to go til summer vacation, it's winning. (Plus, I will have this exact same group NEXT year too - oh yippee. Talk about not excited to return from summer vacation next September...)
The signs are there. I've been ignoring them. I've tried very hard to convince myself that it really isn't all that bad, that I'm fine, that I'm just making a big deal out of nothing, and that I should just continue to try to shrug it off. And, in fact, that all may well be true. But my body has a way of getting my attention, no matter how much I try to pretend. I internalize stress to the nth degree. Two weeks ago my neck and shoulders and back were SO knotted up and tight and painful, I thought about seeking treatment. I always carry stress in my neck and shoulder area anyway, but this was notably worse. Then, last week, there was a burning sensation all week right in the middle of my back, like a muscle spasm. This weekend, I'm back to the knotted and painful neck and shoulder muscles. Grrr. I'm honestly not even sure a good massage could work out all the tightness.
Somewhere, a week or two ago, I had a disturbing dream along in there as well, about my classroom kids, where I actually saw my real students and used their real names. Normally, in my dreams, I can tell what I'm dreaming about, but the people aren't actually the real ones, or have different faces, or different names; the places are different, not necessarily real, or not real for the situation. I might dream I am in school, but the school isn't recognizable as MY school, it might actually look like a shopping mall or a church but somehow, in my dream, I know I'm in school. But last week, and then again last night, I had school dreams that were way too realistic. They were my students, in name and face and actions, and I was yelling at them for their behaviors. SCREAMING at them in frustration. I never do that in real life, though every single day I feel like it. In both dreams, I was soooooo frustrated, just screaming and yelling and trying to get them to do what they were supposed to, and they would not. I woke up more stressed than I was when I went to sleep.
It's not really a surprise. I'm smart enough to know that what I don't deal with in my waking world, my subconscious will try desperately to work out in my dream world. Earlier, I discovered, that when I was very worried about money, I would often dream about floors with holes in them I had to step over, or step around, worried about falling through. I had so many unsafe floor dreams it was crazy - I can even remember at least ten different unsafe floors - in a barn, in a log cabin loft, in several different vacation rental homes, etc. Once I figured out what the issue was, and dealt with it, the dreams quit. Now, clearly, these school dreams are not so cryptic. Clearly I am frustrated in my daily life to the point of wanting to scream, but knowing that is an unacceptable method of dealing with students, I sublimate it. Apparently it isn't even enough for me to be so stressed my back and neck and shoulders are hunched up like a troll. I need to vent in my dreams as well.
The real problem, besides hating the smell of Tiger Balm muscle rub, is that I'm beginning to take my SCHOOL stress out on other relationships in my life. Because I can't seem to deal with the kids, or Common Core, or State testing, in any way that alleviates the stress, I yell at other people for what I feel, in the moment, are legitimate issues, only to realize later when I've calmed down, that, normally, I would have just let THOSE things roll off my back. I understand it, but the other people in my life don't. I don't blame them. "Sorry, honey, I created WW3 in our home last night over "that" - it's not you, it's that I'm stressed at work." Yeah, I wouldn't buy it from another adult either. While it might be true, it IS completely unacceptable adult behavior.
So, where does that leave me? Besides sleepless and in pain and frustrated? Looking for solutions. I can't retire for 4 more years, so that's not one. My bathtub drain doesn't hold water, so a hot bubble bath isn't in the cards. I'm not much of a drinker, so drowning my sorrows is out. I don't have much time after work so a lengthy wander through the fields and forests, although soothing-sounding, isn't realistic. (nor do I have fields and forests at my disposal, so there's that, too, I guess, as a downside).And I no longer eat sugar, so I can't even binge on chocolate or ice cream and justify it as a stress reliever! Binging on broccoli just doesn't have the same allure. I don't know. I don't KNOW what the solution is, or solutions are. No matter what I've tried, all the same shit is just there waiting for me the next day, so any solution is only temporary. I've always been really good at just "adjusting my attitude," and I guess I thought I was still managing to do that, but apparently my back, and my dreams, say otherwise.