being an introvert, deep down, teaching

Confessions of an Introverted Teacher at the Beginning of the School Year

Dear Fellow Staff Members,


I know most of us just met and we don’t really know each other THAT well, but I’m going to get down to the hard truth real quick.  Stay with me here.  It’ll make sense at the end.


I will disappear in September.


The reemergence will happen in October.  I promise I will come back, fresh faced and smiling again.


Don’t worry, I won’t abandon you during staff meetings, or shirk on my duties to our team.  I will be a supportive teammate.  I will plan with you and help chase after  any “bolters” we may have.  I will be there, but not completely there.  I will be more quiet than usual.  You may even see me fold up and disappear within myself, but that’s only if you know what to look for.


You see, I am a blazing introvert.  September teaching tends to drain my entire store of energy every single day.  The endless trainings, orientations, open houses, meet and greets, all those “extras” suck the life out of me.  Don’t get me wrong, most of them are interesting and necessary, but they do not fill me up.  Rather, they suck me dry and then ask for more.  


I do love the beginning of the school year for the blank canvas.  It is a chance to get a new batch of fresh faced beings who I get to inspire, teach and wonder with.  That part is amazing, but it is not easy, especially in September when you spend more time on “how we line up and not tackle each other in the hallway” than on the fun learning to read and other inspirational stuff.


In all other months of the school year, I am equal parts, This is so hard!!!! And This is the most amazing thing in the whole world!!!  In September the first thought process tends to take over.  If by chance you pass me in the hall and you sense a little panic leaking out of my ears, you are right.  The monologue most likely occurring in my head probably sounds a little like this:


Oh. My. Gosh.  I forgot how to teach!  What am I supposed to do in the first weeks of school?  Did I ever even know how to teach in the first place?  I probably got lucky all those other years.  I always have had good students, good parents and a good school team to back me up.  I am a freaking fraud!!  Who even thought it was a good idea to hire me.  I am in trouble, we are in trouble…..


….The kids!!! I am going to let down my precious students.  I will ruin their entire educational career.  Their sad little eyes will look up to me on their first day and I will have nothing for them. I will open my mouth and only silence will escape.  Everything will be dull and blank.   I will ruin them.……


Of course, after I get back to my classroom, I will be googling “How do you even teach kindergarten?” and I will realize I really do know what I am doing (and I will probably modify and  tweak that TeachersPayTeachers lesson because it is totally NOT developmentally appropriate for early five year-olds.  Also, my way is way more fun and promotes individual creativity, emotional intelligence and critical thinking.  Shoot, I will rewrite the whole damn thing because I really do know how to teach.  Thank GOD!!!!).


The point is not the fact that I actually do know how to teach, the point is that this process rolls around in my brain over and over and over.  It is exhausting.


This is why I am giving a disappearance disclaimer for September.  You probably won’t see me most days in the staff room.  Instead, I will close the door of my classroom to soak the quiet into my soul.  I will let the stillness wash over my senses.  I will cash in on 30 minutes of energy refill.  I will also politely refuse your invite to hang out at happy hour after school.  Instead, I will go straight home to take a nap, hang out with Tim and the boys, snuggle my puppies or binge watch Anne with an E.


Please don’t be offended when I don’t show up to the extracurriculars.  It’s not that I don’t like you, I do.  It’s just that I need to recharge in the quiet.  I need to refill the hole September digs out.  I need to be functional for Tim and the boys.  I need to replenish so I can love my students and set them up for an amazing year.  I need to take care of myself so I don’t crumple and walk around like a zombie for the rest of the year.


Here’s the part where I take a bit of a risk and get even more real with you.  Let me tell you, this is nerve wracking putting it all out there, but I’ve learned that saying it out loud is therapy in and of itself.  I battle with depression.  It is an up and down war in my brain that threatens what I love to do.  I love to teach, but even more, I love to love my people.  When I am depressed I can’t do both well.  When the gray days come I can only give to one.  Can you guess which one I neglect?  Yep, Tim and the boys’ always get that short end of the stick.  


You may be asking how being an introvert and depression go together.  Well, I have the same question.  I have no idea if the two are linked.  I’m not a research psychologist, I am a kindergarten teacher, for heaven’s sake.  All I know is that if I don’t pay attention to my introverted tendencies, my energy stores deplete and I can’t use the strategies I know to fight my depression.  Of course, there are times those strategies don’t work and the depression comes anyway.  Those times, I end up giving my all to teaching and Tim waits patiently by my side until my head clears.  He’s a hero, I know, you don’t need to tell me.  


Luckily, I am older and wiser than when I first started teaching.  I know how to keep a bit ahead of each battle so I can win the war.  I’ve learned that it helps when I exercise, eat healthy, recharge in the quiet, hang with my people and keep up on my meds.  Thank God for Prozac.  The meds alone wouldn’t do the trick.  It’s the whole combo that works.  Also, I’ve tried the above combo minus the meds, and that doesn’t work either.  I have found the pieces that work for now.  I’ll keep those up until they stop working, then I’ll be looking for the next necessary combo.  


I’ve seen that meme go around that says, “This is an antidepressant” on a picture of a forest, then “This is sh*t” on a picture of a pill.  That’s cool if it works for you.  A forest doesn’t cure my serotonin imbalances.  Believe me, I’ve tried all the natural ways for years.  Back then depression took over and it was ugly.  Ask Tim and the boys, they’ll tell you how painful it was.  Of course, my students and coworkers couldn’t tell.  Is functional depression a thing?  If so, that’s me.  In the past I would be all Go Go Smiley at work, then fall apart at home.  


I don’t want to do that this year.  That’s why I need to take care of myself so I can function both at work and at home.


So when I disappear this September, please don’t take offense.  I really want to be here with you – contributing to our team, our school, our community.  I want to love my students.  I want to breathe life into their little souls.  I want to show them what an amazing tool learning can be.  Their adventure is just starting and I want to be there to watch.  Before I can do all of that, (I know this is totally cliche, but it’s perfect), I need to put the oxygen mask on myself first.


So Team, I love you all.  See you in October.


Perfect Certainty


Almost 15 years ago we stood here on this beach together, but not together of course, not yet.  I took so many side glances in your direction on that trip.  I was drawn to you from the start.  I still am.  Is it weird that I still get a rush when I sneak a peek at you 15 years later?  Even now, you are still drawing me in.  


When we walked that beach, I never dreamed it could be this good.  On that trip I hoped we would end up together and hoped you felt the same about me as I felt about you.  But this, what we have now, my brain couldn’t have handled it.  Our life isn’t perfect, that’s for sure.  If it was though, it wouldn’t be real.  I love this real life together.  It is perfect, even in the imperfection.  


Sometimes you say that I saved you.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever completely understand that because you are the strongest, bravest, most unconditionally loving being in all of time.  Why would you need to be saved by me?  Even if it is somehow true, there may have been selfish motives on my part.  I need you always.  Every minute of every day.  You make my crazy sane and you teach me what it means to fully love and fully be present.  I didn’t even know there was this thing called emotional intelligence before you.  And empathy has always been hard for me.  You show me everyday what it means to give the boys and I your all.  When I watch you, I learn how to be a better partner and parent.  If I really saved you all those years ago, you have saved me every day after.  


A lot has changed since we last stood on this beach.  Now our marriage is a teenager.  Those thirteen years went fast, didn’t they?  It seems like we were never not together.  Even now, thinking back to our trip here, how was it possible we stood on the sand just as friends?  I think we knew it wouldn’t stay that way.  It couldn’t.  Neither of us would have let US not happen.  


Now today, we get to watch the boys run and splash in the waves.  Two almost teenagers who certainly got the best of each of us.  Today, we get to be mesmerized by the same ocean and the same waves.  This time though, we get to turn our backs on those waves to walk into a life of certainty.  We walk off that beach hand in hand, with a certainty that we are better together.  We are certain that whatever comes at us doesn’t have a chance.  Certain that we don’t need a perfect life because we have each other.  That’s perfect enough for me.


Happy anniversary Sweetie.  I love you more today than all of the yesterdays combined.  


Don’t Forget Tuesday

Dear Boys,

Please don’t forget Tuesday night.  Don’t forget how you felt that night, sitting on a couch surrounded by people who you loved and loved you back, watching to see America decide the next four years.  Remember your hope and excitement as you thought you would get to see the first woman elected president of our country while you dug into the chips and guacamole.  Don’t forget how you thought you were going to witness history being made.  Remember your disappointment and sadness and despair when we realized it was not to be.  Please remember my tears and your dad’s shock and unbelief.  Remember how you felt when you saw a man who does not deserve to serve as an example take the victory.

Don’t ever follow his example.  It is not victorious.

Remember that you get to choose to love, no matter who is elected.  You get to choose to be kind to your family, your friends and everybody you come into contact with.  You get to be brave and stand up for the ones who no longer have the strength to stand up for themselves anymore.  Be the change you hoped to see reflected in our country’s leader.  

He was successful.  He knew that when you become the villain, the train wreck, people pay attention.  He became a magnet and they followed.  Some people in America, actually quite a lot of them, sadly, rallied around the hate, bigotry, sexism and all around ugliness.  Please don’t be like them.  Please don’t follow them.  It’s not victorious.

Yes, I understand some of what was voted against, was the elitism and corruption in our current government on all sides of the aisle.  Dad and I are dissatisfied with that too, but that didn’t give us an excuse to vote for someone who, not only stood up on a platform of being “un-political” but also stomped on racial minorities, religious minorities and women.  With Donald Trump, it seems you can’t have one without the other.  I want to be wrong about that, but I have a feeling I’m not.

Boys, please be kind, gentle, brave and strong leaders in your world.  Dad and I will try to be good examples of this, even when our government does not follow suit.  The “keep trying”, that’s victorious.

You two have a unique position in our country.  You are in a privileged class.  You are two white males in a society who hands you opportunities not given to people who don’t look like you.  You have power others aren’t given.  Use it.  Use it to make the change you want.  Use it to love and lift up others who don’t yet have that power.  And when equality prevails, joyously give that power away so that you won’t be looking down on anyone, or standing on top of anybody’s crumpled shoulders.  That’s the thing about equality and power, someone has to lose it before others can gain it on an equal level.  You will lose some of that power and privilege.  That’s a good thing.  Yes, it might hurt a bit, but that’s okay, most of the time change hurts before the good stuff happens.  The transition is the hard part, but it’ll be worth it, I promise.  Your eyes will be opened and you will come to see how others have not been given the opportunities you have had.

Even before that transfer of power, hold hands with people who don’t look like you, who don’t worship like you, who don’t think the same things as you.  Hold hands on that equal ground and converse.  Learn from each other.  Find out what they need and give it.  Ask for help and graciously receive it.  Find out if they are hungry and eat together.  Make sure your dining tables are round, nobody at the head, everybody sitting down at the same level, talking, laughing, having tough conversations with each other.  Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions.  Don’t puff your chest when you don’t understand.  Instead, keep asking questions.  Keep listening.  And be honest.  Don’t shy away from feelings that society tells you aren’t typically male.  It’s okay to be afraid.  It’s normal to feel lonely and anxious and imperfect.  Don’t cover those over with macho-ism and aggression.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that a tough shell is strong.  It’s not.  To be vulnerable is hard and it is strong.  Open yourself up, dig down and lean into what you feel.  Listen and be patient when others do the same.  Don’t shy away from truth, your own and the truth you hear from others at that table.  And then use that truth to unite for good.  Initiate equality around your own table in your own little world.  It’ll spread because this is how our world is supposed to be.  It’s how people work better together.  Start small and let it spread.

Tuesday night was a hard one for us, yes, but don’t be halted by your despair.  There is still hope because Donald Trump does not reflect everybody.  He especially does not reflect you two because you are both kind, empathetic, brave and loving.  The hard part is that he does reflect some.  That’s why we need to work for change.  We need to make sure that speech and press remain free, religious liberties prevail, and gender equality happens in the workplace and everywhere else.  We need to listen to science and take care of the environment.  I’m glad you are smart enough to know that just because the president speaks that way about women and acts that way toward them, doesn’t mean it is right.  It is wrong and it always will be.  If he passes laws against others based on religion or ethnicity or gender, don’t follow them.  Break those laws so you can open up your home to those who are pushed under and trampled on.  Walk the dirty roads and lend your hand to feed mouths and hearts.  Hope is not dead because we are in this together.  Dad and I will stand with you.  We will feed and love together.

Just as Dad reminded you on Wednesday morning, don’t fight hate with hate.  We don’t hate others because they, or their parents, voted differently.  Not everyone will agree with you.  Don’t let that silence you, but don’t let it be an excuse to spew hate back either.  Be confident and kind in your differentiating opinions.  Always, always critically think on everything.  That critical thought is a super power.  Use it, even if that means you disagree with Dad or I.  No matter what, think and analyze, then act.

Stories are already coming out about kids who are coming to school doing hurtful things.  The bullies are being empowered.  Mexican American students are being given fake deportation letters, swastikas are being drawn on bathroom walls, black students are being told to go back to Africa and LGBTQ students are being told to “get ready.”  The marginalized populations are being pushed farther into the corner.  Now I know that one man does not bear the full responsibility of these actions.  It seems though, that his winning the election has opened up the door for how some others choose to live lives of hate.  This makes our job clear.  There will be kids in your class and on the playground who feel uncertain and afraid because of the election results.  Stand up for them if others push them down.  Stand with them when their religion or race is demeaned.  Stand by them when their sexuality or gender is minimized and dismissed.  Speak up for them.  Speak up for love and equality.

I hope you will always think back on Tuesday night. I hope that in the very near future, you will get to see the very first female president elected to lead our country.  I so want to be with you to experience that.  Let’s sit on a couch eating chips and guacamole, crying tears of joy rather than despair.  I want to experience a world with you in which we know that no matter your gender, your race, your religion, your sexuality, you can lead if you are qualified.  I want a re-do of Tuesday night, but with a different outcome.  In the meantime, let’s be the change we wanted to see.  Let’s love others around us.  Let’s give and receive.  Let’s invite people over to break bread with us.  Let’s vote for those with loving character and brave action.  More importantly, let’s help each other have loving character and stand with each other in brave action.  

I’m in if you are, what do you say?