12.31.2021

Teaching in a Pandemic, Part 3

I've forgotten how to feel positive emotions.

I think I've said 'it is what it is' so many times that I forgot how to feel happy or excited. I'm definitely still able to feel anger, irritation, hopelessness, and sadness. So why are my other emotions frozen or missing altogether?

At the beginning of the pandemic, I felt like I was starting my summer break early and getting an extended vacation. Now it feels like I took a long break from being me. 

I see why being described as resilient by others can seem to be an insult or at the very least, nothing to be proud of. Resilience doesn't come by choice but by having no other choice. We keep soldiering on in survival mode knowing that the next bad thing is just a tweet, mandate, or newspaper headline away. Was it always this way?

I think the bad news reaches us quicker now but it's always been there. It seems like it used to be balanced out with good things along the way. Am I giving more weight and importance to the bad news instead of the good? Am I expecting more bad than good?

A phrase I've been repeating a lot in my personal life is that 'hope is a discipline'. Now it seems like I need to apply it to my professional life too. I don't like that it feels like hopelessness is increasing into other areas of my life.

Nothing has made me dislike teaching more than being a union president. Our school is one of the last schools in the entire state of Illinois to start a union. We've only had one now for four years. In the beginning stages, as we gathered data and saw that we were one of the lowest paid schools in the surrounding counties, I realized for the first time that my administration had not been operating with our best in mind. And from there, I've seen over and over how teachers and students are not valued. 

Although that started before the pandemic, it's weight accumulates yearly. I think it's actually the heaviest of all. I actually think I rocked pandemic teaching. I got even more organized, I made the videos I've been putting off for years, I made almost everything digital, I actually had to add a new unit because my geometry class got farther than I ever have (and I think it will happen again in Algebra 2).

But carrying the weight of knowing you are not valued, that learning isn't valued, that students aren't valued is not a weight I can carry on my own. So I'm not going to carry it anymore.

I read this quote today "they found the anger dissipated as soon as they forgot to hold on to it" (Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid). Maybe my new year's resolution is daily forgetting to hold on to that weight.

My goal for Christmas break this year was to get my joy back. I don't know exactly how to do that. My main plan of attack has been listening to podcasts daily so I can rehearse truth in my brain to drown out the lies. I've decided I'm going to keep shining light. Now what that light may reveal is not up to me. But I am going to just keep shining light from my position. 

The enneagram 1 in me wants to know all the details and every exact move I am supposed to make to fix everything. But that is not possible. That would mean that I am God. And since I am not, I'm going to believe without knowing the details or the timeline. In my professional life and my personal life.

How do you get your joy back? 

You let the light in.

-Elissa Joy Miller

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