It’s the end of the first quarter for our school district so today was an early dismissal day for students and Monday and Tuesday are teacher workdays. On Fridays I try to do some kind of quick check in before we all leave and today it felt even more important as we won’t be together as soon. So we shared roses and thorns. It was beautiful. Many of the roses were small things, reading to a younger sibling, getting to see a family member, wearing their Halloween costume. The thorns were mostly disappointments, not getting to go Trick or Treating, it’s getting too cold to sit outside and read a book. No one had to share and they didn’t have to share both roses and thorns. Whatever worked for them.
When everyone who has raised their hand has shared, I always ask if anyone else wants to share. I want to be sure they have every chance. Today, a girl who had already shared raised her hand. I asked her if she had another rose or thorn. She said no, that her little sister wanted to share. So she did. This four year old told us her rose and thorn before we left.
I wanted to laugh. I wanted to cry.
That’s been true a lot lately.
This week I found myself working hard to be upbeat with my students. Both my third graders and my undergrads. I feel so frequently on the verge of bursting out in tears. The students, both the little ones and the big ones, lift me up. They help me feel hopeful. They make me smile.
The deep well of emotional uncertainty and pain don’t go away though. I don’t know if getting past the election – and getting a final result for the election – will help or not. It might, as feeling uncertain is definitely not a favorite feeling for me. Knowing where we are, whether I like it or not, could mean beginning to plan for a path forward. Maybe.
I know many teachers are feeling exhausted and beaten down. We’re working harder than ever and we feel like we’re doing less for our students than ever. That’s an awful way to feel. I’m equally sure we aren’t alone. I’m sure many people in many professions are feeling anxiety and depression and hopelessness. Some of the feelings may be related to the job and some feelings may have nothing to do with that. Whatever the reasons, many of us are feeling weighted down.
Kelly Wickham Hurst, one of my favorite human beings I’ve never met, wrote a thread today that I need to read again and again and internalize and live. I feel it because I definitely need a plan for Tuesday and the days to come (I have part of a plan for Tuesday that is definitely all about taking care of my mental health on that day). I also feel it because I need a plan in general. For months, as we’ve not known for sure what to expect next, how long we’ll need to be home and away from others, how likely we are to get sick, for months of uncertainty, I’ve been afraid to plan. I need to look at planning differently. I need to plan for how to care for myself, my family, and my students regardless of what anything else looks like. That’s possible, it’s just not how I’ve thought about it in the past. I have to shift my thinking and I’m grateful to Kelly for helping me get started.
(That said, I may also just need to watch a sad movie and have a good cry, too.)