What I Wish I Could Tell My Students as a Teacher With Anxiety
Your ideas are important, your words are something to be treasured and you always matter. I’m sorry if it doesn’t always look like I am with you. I don’t hope that you understand, but I hope you accept.
Sometimes, I’m not always with you. I am fighting my own self-imposed monster that I don’t share with all of you because of some irrational fear that you will care for me less, my teaching will somehow become pointless and that you’ll think I’m a fraud. I suffer from anxiety and sporadic bouts of depression that can make it so hard to come to work and teach you every day that I put on a mask. It’s those days that I read to you out of a book and assign some pointless questions you all know I’ll grade easily because I’m just not fully there with you as I should be and as I want to be.
Sometimes my brain doesn’t allow me to accept your compliments, your smiles and your kind words. I physically hug you back, give you that high five or give you that arm nudge, but I don’t always accept your care. I don’t always feel worthy of your kindness and I wonder why you all spend your free minutes with me when I am such a mess. It’s why sometimes I ask, “What are you doing here?” and it’s not because I don’t want you, but because I cannot fathom what you see in me.
Sometimes I worry about you too much. My worry and concern go beyond my English classroom. I wonder if other teachers notice little changes in your attitudes or personalities. I wonder if your parents see how great you are or what you may need. Then I wonder if I put these needs on you from my own brain when in reality, you are completely fine and need nothing but quality English instruction from me. When I leave hours after you are released from the metaphorical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., I’m not done. My brain continues thinking on the drive home, when I’m doing laundry, when I’m trying to sleep. You matter always.
Sometimes when I ask,“You OK?” I genuinely want to know if you are, in fact, OK. “Need anything?” is how I say, “I notice something different about you and I don’t know what to do and I don’t know if you actually want my help.” These little phrases help me function and when you say you’re OK, it allows me to fall asleep a little easier, reassuring myself with your answers that I will see you another day and keeping myself out of the downward spiral of repetitive thoughts. The “what ifs” will wait for another day.
The phrase, “I understand more than you even know.” is my way of trying to tell you I’ve been there and I’m probably there right now, but I’m being strong for you. I’m keeping all of my things together with a string the thickness of dental floss because I think you need me. The sleepless nights you tell me about, the assignments that seem to never end, the conversations you replay in your head on a never ending loop — I do the same. I’m with you.
Thank you for all the positive Post-It notes, the candy you leave on my desk when you know it’s been a rough day and the many times you write little notes to me in your assignments telling me I am doing a good job.
Unsplash via Jeffrey Hamilton