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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.