flying with one engine burned out

I mentioned that I have been sick.  The last few weeks have been difficult; I’ve been overcome with a bone-deep fatigue and had difficulty coping with….well, everything.  I was so tired I couldn’t even think straight about how weird this was and how maybe I should call my doctor.  The last straw was when I left the house to pick up my son at basketball practice last Thursday and couldn’t remember how to get to the gym, even though I have been there many times before.  I called a friend for directions and almost started crying.

I called in sick the next day.  (And Chutney sure did miss me.)

The good news is that there is an explanation.  The new medication I have been taking daily to try to prevent migraines (this would be attempt #5, including acupuncture and chiropractic) has hit me with some serious side effects.  I am now off the meds, and each day I am about 2% less exhausted.  At this rate it will be a long time before this stuff is out of my system.  But at least things are getting better.

Last week was particularly hard, I thought.  Marvelous Mittens Day wiped me out like it never has in the past.  We didn’t even get to the big make-a-mitten project that I always do on that day.  By Hot Chocolate Day, the kids were starting to act up, and that worried me.  This class is so angelic!  Something really must be wrong for them to be even close to the bratty side.  And what was wrong, you ask?  Their teacher wasn’t behaving like herself.

That was the other thing that got me to go to the doctor.  If the kids were being affected by my exhaustion and my lack of focus, then I really needed to find out what was wrong and pull myself together.

This week I mentioned to Miss Slinger, “Don’t you think things are getting better?  I feel like things are falling back into place now that I have a little bit more energy.”

She said, “Actually, I never thought they were that bad.  I knew you were really tired, but I thought things were going fine.”


I thought about that a minute and admitted, “I can be pretty hard on myself.”  Last week I wasn’t up to MY usual standard, and that really frustrated me.  Maybe no one else noticed, but I did.  I felt guilt about not doing my best for the children, and not doing my best as a teacher, and that was wearing me down, too.

Which brings my train of thought to its conclusion.  Maybe one of the most important things you need to be a good teacher is to be self-reflective.  I have been trying to mentor a few teachers lately who seem entirely incapable of looking at their teaching and wondering how they could learn something new, or how to improve.  I find that way of thinking really foreign, and am at a loss as to how to proceed with them.

I can always see how I could have done something better.  Maybe that is what has made me into a good teacher?


8 thoughts on “flying with one engine burned out

  1. I’m sorry you’ve been sick, but glad you have a handle on it.

    I share your feelings about wanting to leave it all in the classroom every day. There is nothing worse that finishing a day feeling like I haven’t given it my best — I feel like I’ve ripped off the kids, the parents and myself. I think it’s because for people like us, teaching is a “calling” more than a “profession.” If it’s just a job it’s possible to feel okay about occasionally giving less than one’s best, but a calling has higher demands. It doesn’t matter if other people don’t see it, we know when we’ve not met our own standards.

    Thanks for this post. Get better fast! =)

  2. Amen sister! You hit the nail on the head, self-reflection really is the key to successful teaching!!! Self-reflection is something I always took for granted, I thought all teachers did that. It never occurred to me that not everybody was always seeking out new ideas or ways to do things and that not everybody reflected on their own teaching practices or thought about what they could do differently or better. I also coach and mentor pre-k teachers and self reflection is the most difficult thing to get somebody to do.

  3. I am glad your feeling better!! It is hard to give it your all when your not 100%. Your post is so true… I know when it’s my fault that my gang isn’t acting themselves, and I can sit down and talk to myself or talk to a friend to see what I have been doing that is “off.” I spend a lot of time self-reflecting and believe that is what makes me the teacher I am… not perfect, but always striving to be better 🙂 I love your blog and look forward to reading how your cast of characters are doing each day.

  4. Yes! Great post. Self-reflection is the hallmark of professionals, who elevate their work (teaching or whatever it is) to an art by constantly refining it, even when it’s already pretty darn good. This is a very good thing. Of course, it’s also a good thing to remember our own limits as humans and give ourselves a break when we’re ill or overworked–then start again with fresh energy and focus AFTER a little down time. Please feel better, and thanks for your wonderful blog.

  5. This is why I enjoy your blog – you share about real kids and real teachers in situations that create charming vignettes but rely on substantial expertise. Developing that expertise demands reflection. I have had a difficult time finding other blogs that relate this crucial part of the teaching experience so thank you.

  6. I love your blog. It’s almost enough to make me wish I was young enough to be one of your students! As for being critically self-aware, I wonder if it doesn’t presuppose confidence in oneself that not everyone has. Lacking self-confidence, introspection can seem masochistic. So, in a roundabout sort of way, the fact that you hold yourself to a high standard and don’t always perform by that standard should actually be a source of satisfaction–just knowing that you are able and strong enough to take self-criticism constructively. Also, I know from your blog that you are not a perfectionist. You couldn’t get through one day with all those kids if you were! I do hope those migraines recede.

  7. Mel, thanks as always for the support. I think you may be right about those teachers who feel less confident about their teaching, and why being introspective could be hard for them. As for me being a perfectionist, I suppose I am not. There is too much that comes at you during a day with preschoolers for any perfectionism to survive!

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