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What Students, Parents and the Administration Should Know About a Teacher With Anxiety

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I always wanted to be a teacher. I have never wanted anything more in my life. I strive to make a difference and I believe I have. This is partially in part to my empathy. I want to be successful. Not just in my career, but as a human.

You know what I don’t want? I don’t want to live with anxiety, but is very much a part of me, just like my ability to be empathetic. I have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and on some days, it controls my life. I don’t like admitting that. I don’t even like saying I am a teacher with a disorder. Learning how to cope is an ever-evolving task, but sometimes coworkers, administration, students’ parents and my students receive the brunt of it. It’s just the nature of the beast. I hope to shed some light to those in my life.

To my coworkers: I don’t sit at a separate table because I dislike you. I do it for comfort. Every staff meeting feels like a battleground to me. Believe it or not, I don’t like speaking up and expressing my opinion. When I do, sometimes what is said is completely created from nervousness. Sometimes, I wish I was invited to things more and I wonder what I did wrong not to get an invite. However, I know I would just end up spending the whole time worrying about what to do or hoping I don’t do something wrong.

When we are at events, I don’t sit with you. It is easier to monitor the student section. I spend eight hours a day with my students. It is comfortable. I feel safe not interacting with adults. I do strive to be liked. I know I shouldn’t care, but I do. Every whisper or email seems directed toward me. I spend prep periods wondering what I did wrong. It rips me up inside to know I don’t fit a certain mold, that it’s hard to make friends and that my life is run by watching what I say and what I do.

To my administration: I love my school and my job. I want you to know as my boss, I reflect upon everything — and I mean everything. My life revolves around the question, “Where did I go wrong?” If I am being honest, then I don’t always like this about myself. I like being able to improve, but I lack the ability to let things go.

Being in tune with my anxiety is what keeps me going. Ultimately, it is my problem to deal with, not those around me. If I get called into your office, then I automatically think it is negative. I am relieved when it is positive. I strive for perfection, even though I know it can never be reached. It is hard trying to reach something that isn’t tangible.

To my students’ parents: I care about your children, probably more than I should sometimes. I appreciate everything you do. Confrontation doesn’t settle well with me, especially with parents. It really is the worst for me. A knock on my classroom door after school is a sound that instantly puts me into a panic.

I do want you to be involved though. Just don’t be mad when I choose not to look you in the eyes or forget to shake your hand. I promise I am not rude. I am just nervous.

Lastly, to my students: All of you mean the world to me. Yes, even you. I don’t always show this though. I also don’t like having to discipline you. It leaves me worrying you are mad at me. I don’t like thinking that people dislike me. Actually, I lose sleep over it. I know it shouldn’t bother me, but that is my anxiety.

Even when you fail, I hurt for you. But the worst? The worst is when I feel like I failed you. I ask myself, “Where did I go wrong?” On some days, standing in front of you is the hardest thing I have to do, but it is my job. The smallest abnormalities in your actions makes me question my own actions. I want the best for you, always. Even when I seem like I am only worrying about myself.

Clusters of people around my desk makes me nervous, even though helping young minds gives me purpose. Sometimes, I just want to know what’s going on in your life because reminding myself you are human too makes me feel better about myself. On a daily basis, you give me hope. You give me hope that I can accomplish my job while living with anxiety. That hope is also you succeeding at something more than I can ever do as a teacher.

My empathy is what makes me such a good teacher. I am so in tune with my own feelings, it makes me overly aware of how others are feeling. I can tell when a coworker has bad news or when an administrator enters a meeting that he/she is excited to share with us a new idea.

That student that hasn’t spoken in class all year? I am there for you, too. I know what it is like to be afraid to speak up. I know what it is like to question my own thoughts. You aren’t alone. When you are worried that your child is doing poorly in my class, I am worried too.

I always thought teaching would be the hardest thing I would ever do. Then, my anxiety got worse and it became the hardest thing in my life. The biggest thing I can stress though is: It is my problem not yours. Please remember, I do care. It just may seem like I don’t sometimes.

Originally published: August 10, 2016
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