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This feels DAMN FINE. So fine, that I even used CAPITAL LETTERS in my title, which those of you who have been following me for a while know I don’t usually do!
To engage with life and the world around you, you need to be up for discomfort and struggle. And after a period of intense rest and time away from interaction, that can be the last thing you want. Add to that the very introvertness of my introvert nature, and that’s recipe enough for me to lie on the rug in the middle of my floor and pretend I’m not a teacher.
Every single year, no matter what sort of holidays I have, I always have the irrational thought before going back to school: “I CANNOT DEAL WITH STUDENTS.” Right now, it’s even more basic: “I CANNOT DEAL WITH PEOPLE.”
Why am I so antsy and afraid?!
Am I afraid of the intensity of work? Because I may get hurt? That I don’t think I will survive the roller-coaster that is teaching? Interacting with the staff who give me the shits and drain the life out of me? My own unrelenting standards and expectations? Having less time?
The thing is, these all make sense. And I will survive, one thought and step at a time.
The intensity of work? Yes, it will be intense. I will be in the coalface getting blackened again. But I have done this before, and I have the fitness and ability to do it now. I have the tenacity and determination, and I have been working on my concentration. What I need to remember is how to step out of the intensity of work. To see the little moments and don’t discount them. To hug them tight, because they will sustain me.
That I may get hurt? Of course. I think there are flying shards of glass every day. You wouldn’t be living life if you didn’t step into a shit-storm every once in a while. But I have firm ground under my feet and a quiet confidence. I need to remember that I’ve survived so much, and far worse more capably than I believe. Every day is not supposed to be filled with just all things wonderful and breezy brightness, there is supposed to be some gritty consideration and thinking in there. That’s called living. And I am not perfect. I need to remember that. In living and loving well, I will skin my knees. But my goodness, my survival skills are developing nicely and so is my connection circle of people who love me.
That I won’t survive? Just one foot in front of the other. Look all around you at the people who are surviving, on far less, with more gumption. Take a leaf out of their books and look, learn, and admire. Talk yourself through the stressful moments. You’re allowed to worry and fuss. But don’t stop. Don’t hurry, but don’t stop. And hold a very big flashlight as to what you think is correct for you. Stay in your own lane. When things get crowded, get back in that lane like your life depends upon it.
And oh, the shitty shitty people? Again, we are all one big happy family, and some of those “family members” will give you the shits. Big shits. What sort of person do I want to be? I survived most of 2017 by cocooning myself from the shittiest of shitty people. I’m going to test something new out this year, to see what sort of result it will give me; I’m going to apply grace and lean into the things that scare me, or piss me off. I am going to speak truth and honesty, but with grace and compassion. And I will do it FOR ME, because that’s the sort of person I want to be. When there is a problem, I am going to quietly and courageously stand my ground. I am going to fortify myself with love from everyone around me who really love me for all that I am, strengths, achievements, and weaknesses. In other words, I am going to ruffle some feathers and see if I come out looking and smelling even more authentic.
My own relenting standards? Oooooooh, yes. Somehow, the perfectionist streak in me rears its ugly head when I am on holidays. When I am supposed to be relaxing and getting myself prepared for a new year, this horrible gremlin asserts itself, I think partly because there are no “normal happenings” around me to beat me back into humanness, and I am allowed to be perfectionistic. Relaxed, but perfectionistic. So to this, I tenderly remember that I am an imperfect and worthy human. I’ll have to yell it at myself, but I know that to be true. And telling myself I’m not perfect, putting myself into context, and putting everyone else into context, their words + failings, faults + successes, helps soothe and encourage me immeasurably. I am suddenly able to touch on forgiveness, even if I don’t yet, or can’t go there, and life moves on again. So again, engaging with life is incredibly humbling and normalising. Having time away to reflect is essential, but getting back into it, also just as essential.
Having less time? I think that’s less disposable, aimless time. I need to get very clear about what is important and how I would like to spend my time. One of my biggest time-sucks and numbing of behaviours is scrolling Facebook. When I am stressed out or feeling small, I need to get the hell off Facebook, get the hell back into my lane and engage with something that really sustains me…creatively, musically, personally, humanly. And all of that takes courage. Because Facebook is like the massive scoop of salted caramel ice-cream. It goes down easy. What I’m asking for is something like hot chicken soup, which takes some time to see the healing benefits and is going to take some discipline, but I have to believe + know that it will nourish me more.
I cannot live life being afraid. The more afraid I am, the MORE I need to practise engaging with the world, listening, being mindful, being present. This whole “warrior + happiness training” thing that I have inadvertently engaged in these holidays because I opened up the Pandora’s Box Of Unprocessed Thoughts and Emotions is not to make me feel good right now. It’s to build up a bank so that I have happiness and courage in credit for when the shit hits the fan. For when I am struggling. That is when I look back and realise the catalogue of events I have survived with grace, the endurance and problem-solving skills that I have, and that I can lean HARD on them. The immeasurable joy in my life, and the joy that emanates from me.
Saw this quote. Needed to share.
Truer words were never written; we cannot be teachers and flourish in this profession alone. You would be kidding yourself if you thought it possible. Being a solitary teacher is like being plant that has just enough of everything, but nothing extra. The tangible energy in exchange of ideas and information which can only happen between teachers in conversation is like the plant that spreads like wildfire, bursting into flower. Ideas take on a life and courage of their own through this sort of “teacher posse” support network.
Dare to connect, join in the conversation, be a little afraid, a little playful…and LEARN.
Says it all, really!
Happy holidays! 🙂
Students have a definite used-by date: 10 weeks. Prime usage around Week 3 or 4, then after that, it’s a slow decline. You can’t always see the used-by date sticker on them, but you can tell when they’ve gone off, and it’s within HOURS of the suggested timeframe. You can SMELL it, the off-ness. 😳
And that used-by date? Also applies to us teachers. We start wilting in our packets and looking dishevelled beyond Week 10 as well! 😩
The end of Term 4 crept up on me this year. Maybe “crept up” is the wrong way to put it; it caught me unawares, but hurtled towards me like a rampant herd of ravenous pubescent Year 9 guys at the first whiff of a fund-raiser sausage sizzle. It was Week 3, and then all of a sudden, it was Week 8.
It didn’t help that I was horribly sick for those 5 weeks between Weeks 3 + 8, where I don’t remember much except trying to keep my internal organs INSIDE me. I developed a phantom six-pack from coughing, and it felt like I’d expelled 4 kidneys, 3 spleens, 2 livers and a lung during The Time of Great Sickness.
I am so very grateful + glad to be back in good health, running around like a normally do!
But, despite being struck down by The Plague + being up to my eyeballs in reports + final concerts, I really wanted to do something small for all the staff at my new school, something to say “Thank You” for all the support + assistance I’d received in my first year at Pulteney. I purposely didn’t want it to be expensive; just something playful + fun that would make them laugh + show them a little of my personality + gratitude.
And I arrived at the idea of “Chopsticks + Some Breed of Round Lolly”. Yes, that would be perfect! For one thing, there was no wrapping required. All I needed to do was tape them together and bung a ribbon around them to make them look arty-farty. I could get everything I needed from Woollies. I could sit my sorry, sick self on a cushion in the middle of my living room floor and assemble these with minimum energy expenditure. And more importantly, many tired + totally over-it teachers would (hopefully) get a laugh trying to pick up + eat their lollies with their chopsticks.
I had no idea what joy + hilarity they would spread.
Armed with a basketful of these little packages, I started my rounds at school the next day. First, the Senior School Office.
Sir Maths puzzled over the package for a few seconds, then looked up and said, “Uh, NO.”
Sir English, “I’m going to be here until 2017!”
Ms English, “No worries, I’ll throw ’em into your mouth for you!”
Ms Math, “This is SO much better than finishing my reports!”
Many of the staff hadn’t arrived yet, so I resolved to come back and see what effect my present had had later that morning.
To the Middle School Office:
Ms Front Desk, “I’m starting straight away! Stuff answering calls! This is much more important!”
Ms SOSE, “Alright! Who’s up for a dual?! Whoever wins gets a free coffee”
Mr SOSE, “Make it beer, and I’m in!”
Mr Maths, “I’m so winning this one!”
To the Prep School Office, and they all cracked into their little kits and started launching all manner of Smarties, M&Ms + Skittles all around the staffroom. The Prep School Principal emerged from her office to see what all the noise was about, then started using her coffee cup as a basketball ring to collect flying lollies.
To the Head of Houses…and I’d left these behind earlier in my travels. I came back to find a high-stakes battle in full-swing, with the entire length of the office hallway being used as an elaborate launching-space for flying Smarties, a bit like you would for Olympic discus. The 4 normally very responsible Heads of Houses had even made a make-shift launching circle using whiteboard markers just outside the doorway from which to throw Smarties with their chopsticks, and created goalposts from the 4 indoor pot plants from each of their offices.
Head of House 1, “This is the first time my pot plant has been useful all year!”
Head of House 2, “Now I know why I kept it alive! For this moment!”
Curious students crowded around to see what all the noise was about. The launching circle made it impossible for anyone to enter or leave the front reception area, and the Heads of Houses were told off not once, but 3 times for being too disruptive and loud.
Student 1, “This is awesome! I never thought I’d see the day!”
Student 2, “They’ve all totally lost it! I love it!”
Student 3, “Hey Mr Head of House 3! Can I just…”
Mr Head of House, “Can’t stop now! Very busy!” He was at that moment trying to catch Smarties in his mouth. He looked very dignified with his tie flapping up around his forehead.
And my favourite of all moments; I came back into the Senior School Office to see what fun had ensued. They all seemed very settled.
Then a ripper from Ms SOSE:
“Hey Kwokkie, thanks for the cute gift! I dunno what the hell the chopsticks were for, but I ate the Skittles!”
And she fished the empty Skittles packet off her desk, chopsticks still attached, and showed me the empty packet.
From a tiny, measly little idea, conceived in desperation, came a morning of laughter, fun, and hilarity.
And I didn’t cough all morning! 🙂