Friday, May 9, 2014

I give this week four out of five stars.

I'm hoping that the first week proves the toughest. My emotions were all over the place and my circular thinking has decreased, but not disappeared.

I have cleared some parts of my house and that makes me very happy.  I'm not looking to live in a Pottery Barn catalog, but I'm also not looking to be a future story on Hoarders.  The public areas of my house look much better, while the private parts still make me cringe.  Taking baby steps will get the place in order and reduce that stress in my world.

I did not meet with my principal.  My union president put an end to that silliness.  She called me with the concerns my principal has, all of which I already knew and was in the process of addressing. My anxiety spiked during the drama, but is now settling back down to a reasonable level.

I finished reading one book.  In a week.  It's a miracle.  I had almost forgotten how much I love to read.  It has been so lovely to recline on the couch, with the cat snuggled into my neck and my brain absorbed in a good story.

I have heard from many people who love me.  It turns out that there are quite a few people out there.  Students, both current and former, and friends near and far.  I always feel a bit like Holden Caulfield when I get those gifts of love, “Almost every time somebody gives me a present, it ends up making me sad.”  I still need to consistently believe that I am worthy of love. I cried uncontrollably, for no reason, after speaking to a former flame tonight who called to just to offer me a smile and love and encouragement.

On the other hand, only one or two co-workers have bothered to check on me.  I'm trying to not let that disappoint me, as it doesn't really surprise me.

I have exercised every day.  Luckily, the weather is finally turning into spring and I can get out and walk.  I've even seen the inside of the gym. Not only does exercise help the symptoms of depression, it will also help my wallet so I can fit into the clothes that are already in my closet.

Overall, the week wasn't too bad.  Next week, I will start to take full advantage of Canada's wonderful single-payer health care system.  I was worried that I would really struggle financially to continue any type of therapy, but I got some good advice, life-changing advice really.

This week would have gotten five stars if George Clooney had chosen me, or if Squeeze had announced a Detroit date.  There's always next week.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

This is an illness

Let's get this straight.  Depression is an illness.  I take medication on a daily basis to control some of its effects on me.  I seek help from a professional.  I engage in physical therapy (regular exercise) in order to regain my well-being. 

My leave happened quite suddenly.  I didn't understand the process.  I thought the leave would take a few days to commence.  It started the day I turned in the paper and that was it.  My caregiver said no work, so I am not to be there.  I liken the whole episode to a car accident.

If I had been injured in a car accident and could not come into work, my boss would never think to ask me to come in the the school to meet to discuss some lingering issues.  Why then, would my boss request that I come in to meet to discuss these issues?  Is it that my boss does not take depression seriously as an illness? Is it that my boss figures I'm physically able, so surely I could stop by the building? 

I don't know.  I asked in the email.  The email in which I responded to all the issues that were to have been addressed in the meeting.

My stress level is pretty high today, but I'll be fine.

Monday, May 5, 2014

What are we doing to help?

A friend posted this article on teacher burnout on her Facebook wall the other day.  This clearly defines who I have been for a while now.  Sadly, I can see these symptoms settling in on many of my co-workers.  If we can identify the warning signs of teacher burnout, what is the profession and the whole educational field doing to help?  The answer, from my vantage point is...nothing.

In the Greater Essex County School District, there is a counselor who works for the district and will speak with staff (and family members) for free.  While the counselor likely cannot meet with someone on a weekly basis, like a therapist, there is at least an outlet for staff to address emotional and mental health needs.  That is, of course, in Canada.

In America, way too many people see depression as a weakness.  For example, about a year ago, a principal I know was speaking to me about a colleague who was suffering depression. This administrator said, basically, that everyone gets sad and that this colleague just needed to get over it. I've mentioned before how so many people will encourage a depressed person to focus on  positive thoughts and push the negative aside.  If my brain would have allowed me to do that, I would have.

Recent attacks on teachers are not helping the situation.  People cannot be told that they teach at a failing school without eventually internalizing the implied message that if the school is "failing," the teachers are failures.  Reading between the lines, that is the message. To continually be told you are a failure is to suffer an erosion of the soul and spirit.

Back to my question in the headline, what are we doing to help?  Perhaps districts could band together and pay the salary of a counselor or two who could be resources for teachers in those districts.  Perhaps the two unions could help fund those positions.  Perhaps the two unions could work together and create a teacher crisis hotline. Teachers, active and retired, could man those phones to listen to teachers who need a shoulder.  The public gives teachers very little sympathy, we get summers off and many people seem to resent that fact. We need to talk with those who have worn the same shoes.   Anything is better than the nothing that is happening now.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Goal Setting

I want to make my time off as "productive" as possible. By productive, I mean address the issues that are causing me the most stress and arranging so I have minimized, for the long-term, the stress they cause me.  For me, the two biggest external stress inducing elements are work and house work.  The way I have been handling these two issues leave me zero time for myself and outside interests - thus the depression.

I'm in no hurry to fix everything.  The process must be slow, or I will mire myself in more worry and stress.  Very counterproductive.  Therefore, I have a simple idea.  Each day, I am going to set two goals for the day: one school related and one house related.  No big to-do list. The goals will be reasonable, but essential to gaining control over both issues.

At the end of each day, I intend on writing down the things I accomplished during the day.  I fully anticipate that some of those days will record that I laid in bed and read and napped and that's it.  Those days will be needed.  I have found, however, every time I keep a to-do list, at the end of the day, I end up focusing on the tasks that were not achieved.  I figure if I focus solely on my accomplishments, the positive remains front and center.

My simple goals for today are to grade five papers and to clear two dining room chairs of clutter.  At the end of today, I will write down everything I accomplished.  I'm hoping that I will feel pretty proud everyday.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The struggle continues

I had to finally change my  game plan for coping with my depression.  The dark feelings had greatly increased lately and I knew that I would break.  Instead, I applied the brakes. I applied for and got a family medical leave.  To focus on my depression.  To focus on the various manifestations of my depression.  The gastric problems that have surfaced.  The nightly deluge of tears.  The absolute horrific mess my house is.  No more.  I need to get off the train for a while and regroup.

I made my decision while sitting and looking at the Grand Canyon.   It is such a beautiful place.  I realized that needed peace in order to restore my health.  So, I when I got home, I walked off the edge, into a leave.  I will very likely hurt financially during this leave.  I'm okay with that. Finances can be restored, lost health cannot.  Moments, days, weeks lost to worry and depression cannot.

Today, I start over, with a fresh focus.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

In a Failing School

Education reformers and policy makers have labeled my school a failing school. In order to save ourselves, we have implemented a number of changes.

We hired a turnaround company that has worked heavily with our curriculum, especially in math, science, and social studies.  They have forced the teachers to make in those content areas that have been quite drastic. 

They call these changes Mastery Teaching. This style requires that students take frequent five-question quizzes (checkpoints). Students can take each quiz up to three times. To earn an A, students only have to earn four out of five. The scam is that students have learned that they can skip the final question, which is the most difficult, and still get an A. 

I can no longer ignore it. The grades are grossly inflated. Students are not learning appropriate study skills. But, more will graduate, making us look better. 

Welcome to education reform. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

I only want one thing this year

Right now, people around the globe are placing unreasonable expectations on the new year that is about to unfurl in front of us. I suppose I could do the same thing.

I could sit here and proclaim that I am going to exercise more so I can lose ten pounds.
I could sit here and proclaim that I am going to be civil to those who don't deserve it.
I could sit here and proclaim that I am going to keep a tidier house.
I could sit here and proclaim that I am going to read and write more.

I could sit here and proclaim that I am going to do dozens of things better.  The problem is that I think about these goals everyday.  Some days, I actually accomplish a positive goal.  Some days, not so much. Some days, I ignore all responsible adult expectations and have fun.  That's what makes this journey so frustrating and fun.

A goal for a year, the way I see it, is big and meaningful.  That's why I am only setting one goal for myself.  This goal will be my obsession and will likely alienate a few people. I will also meet many like-minded souls and maybe, together, save the state of Michigan.

My goal is simple: I will spend whatever time I can spare fighting the nihilistic radicals of the tea party and remove them from their seats in the state Senate and the state House and the the Governor's mansion.  I will knock on doors.  I will make phone calls.  I will write letters. I will go to fundraisers.  I will talk to anyone willing to listen.  I will help others find their voices.  The rising oligarchy, lead by the Kochs, must be stopped.

Are we teachers, nurses, autoworkers, ordinary people so frightening to the monied class in our society that they will spend endless dollars pushing legislation to diminish our rights and our wages?  We must be.

Come November 4, I know that I will have done all that I could.  The question is, how many of you will have walked along side of me?