What to write in a rough patch

I’ve been having a bit of a rough go of it these past few weeks. I’m a teacher and it’s mid-October, so this is not really a surprise. But it does mean that I’m having trouble deciding what to write. I skipped posting last week in the hopes that sometime this week a post would magically appear. And one did – then another and another. Each day offers me another opportunity to catch a moment and pin it down. Still, I’m having trouble choosing: each one feels like I’m lying a little. Do I tell you how hard things feel right now? Do I talk about my students and our struggles? Or do I capture the ephemeral grace of a moment of connection? Where do I focus? The positive or the negative? Each day, each class period, each activity, each minute is full of ups and downs. Teaching is astonishingly emotional work. 

I try to count my blessings – I really do. My classes are small, my colleagues are supportive, my family is amazing. My students are doing their very best (even when it doesn’t look like they are). I have so much.

But sometimes counting my blessings feels like ignoring the complicated reality of my life. For example, I am overwhelmed by the literacy needs in my classroom and the trauma so many of my students have experienced in their lives. What happened to result in these children reading and writing at these levels? How is it that they have come this far and cannot visualize what they read? How is it that reading and writing are chores they do only when forced, things that are completely unrelated to their lives? At what point did we decide that these children – their unique thoughts, their singular purpose – were expendable? Because I’m pretty sure that someone gave up on them a long time ago. And it wasn’t their parents. How can I possibly convince them that they are important to our world when all I have are 90 days?

Can I be grateful for my colleagues and appreciative of the good will of those who run our school board while still being disappointed when our precious professional development time is sliced and diced into pre-chosen bits that don’t nourish our actual professional lives? Can I be a critical friend to my employer? Who do I ask for the support that we desperately need in order to become the educators our students deserve?  

Even outside of school things are complex. My family lifts me up, but I need space to talk about the complicated bits of my home life – like the four of us (plus the cats) living in a two-bedroom apartment for months while our home is being renovated. 

I know I will look back and laugh. I can even tell you some of the things I will laugh about because there is humour in all of this. I could tell you about the amusing conversation I had with a student about a book (let’s just say that he does NOT know what he’s reading), about the staff’s subtly terrible behaviour during an unproductive PD moment (we really are worse than our students), about how a sex worker buzzed our apartment door repeatedly last night because her client was not picking up. Sometimes laughter is all I’ve got.

But I’m so tired. I’m tired. And I guess that’s my slice of life right now.

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[Post-script, added by husband:  What Amanda has neglected to mention and which I view as highly relevant to this post is that, up until last week, she was taking four courses simultaneously.  She’s down to one, but it involved a super-human push. Picture the most recent incarnation of Wonder Woman, but with less armour and combat and more research and writing.  This, on top of all of the above. And still she’s there 100% for her students. I would tell you she’s amazing but she would be too shy to include it in her post.]  

16 thoughts on “What to write in a rough patch

  1. We’re like kindred spirits here. 🙂 October is a hard month for teachers! I’m up late working on an assignment for my course, trying to write a few progress report comments, and catching up on a some required reading (not fun and kind of unenjoyable if I’m being honest and my Master’s Degree was supposed to be for fun!) I’m glad I”m not living in an apartment, so you’ve given me a blessing to count that I didn’t realize I had. It’s easy to get bogged down in the hard, and easy to present only the good to other people. Thanks for being honest. And thanks for publishing your husband’s comment!

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    1. Um… he added that after I wrote. Gah. To be fair, he’s more than a blessing: he’s my rock. Guess I’ll leave it in. He’s tried this several times before. And someday I’ll write about apartment living in a tiny space with a family. It’s been – ahem – educational…

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  2. So much to love here. You’ve captured life, the ups and downs. And that ps from your husband. Wonder Woman in deed- juggling so much with grace and love. Thanks for sharing it all.

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  3. This is an amazing post, filled with much to love and much to mourn. I can relate to so much of what you have written. I imagine the concerns I have for my fourth grade students and their lives are compounded by the time they reach high school. “At what point did we decide that these children – their unique thoughts, their singular purpose – were expendable? Because I’m pretty sure that someone gave up on them a long time ago. ” I worry so much about our society and our misplaced priorities, and how children so often come to school..to life..burdened by choices they didn’t make. I also see the beauty in your post–in your humor, your dedication, your relationship with your husband. I am certain that you make a difference for your students every single day. And, on a lighter note, I can’t wait to read the slice about the sex worker phone calls!

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  4. OK, I love the postscript left by your husband! I can relate to the complications of life. Sometimes we push so much to make it all ok, that we don’t feel the feelings we need to feel. Congratulations on finishing three courses on top of teaching. WOW!

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  5. I’m glad you chose to write this post. It feels so honest and so full of your real thoughts and concerns; so filled with your life. My favorite part might be the postscript. You are a Wonder Woman. I’m glad you have someone who recognizes it and celebrates all that you are.

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  6. October is when it all becomes so real and it sounds like you have way more than a “typical” October on your plate. I loved reading the snippets of your life and your husband’s words at the end. How are you managing it all- yikes!?

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  7. I feel you and agree with all the comments above. We had conferences last week, which meant two 12-hr days. UGH. I felt like I was running in place the two weeks before trying to get ready for them. I have a stack of essays that were turned in the day before conferences that I haven’t touched. I am just grateful that No-School-November is almost here. I hope to slow down and breathe soon.

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  8. You’ve got more than your fair share going on and I’m glad you gave the telling some space. I feel for you & wish I had a little stash of magic I could send you to provide a breather over here, a stretch of relief over there. Alas, I don’t have that magic to send. You do have all my respect and admiration, though. I see you.

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  9. Best post-script ever. (He’s a keeper!) I know where you’re coming from and wish you resilience in reserves. My eye was twitching intermittently the entire 2nd half of last school year. It completely stopped during the summer. And, now, in October? Non-stop twitching. Lovely post~

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  10. When tired it is so difficult to make choices. When tired it is hard to feel elevated. When tired the world looks a bit darker and less colored. I wish that you will find time and head space to restore your energy. Your husband’s words are uplifting.

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  11. This slice makes me want to reach out and hug you! This is the reality of life and you are brave to write the reality. We all can relate on some level to you, your blessings and your questions. Here’s to brighter, well rested days ahead! xoxo Thanks for sharing! PS Your husband’s honesty is an obvious reflection of his admiration and love for you!

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  12. Just coming across this now. It’s impressive that you can write, even when you’re struggling to know what or how to write. I’ve had two consecutive silent weeks, where my intention of writing on Sunday night turns into ‘Maybe Monday’ and then ‘Too late, it’s Tuesday.” So many of the things you write about are resonating with me, even though I’m not taking four or even one class right now. October is a lot. Thank you for putting it onto the page. in all of its conflicting and complicated forms.

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