Keep Moving Forward
My life revolves around the 180-day school year. The end of the year happens in early June and the beginning of the year happens in early-to-mid August. We have less than a week left, but most of my classes (which are controlled by state tests and standards) are done.
This time of year is, historically, a very stressful time of the year. The students have checked out. Exams are just around the corner. Final grades are due. Rooms must be cleaned, organized, and prepped for summer. The schedule gets messed up, and did I mention the students are checked out?
The last few years have been horrifically stressful. This year hasn’t been as bad. I think it’s because a lot of factors have changed: I’m in a stable, supportive, and non-selfish relationship with someone who understands my responsibilities and stress this time of the year. I have a secure job, in that my contract has been renewed so there’s no stress or fear that I won’t be brought back. And I’m managing my time wisely so that I’m getting work done and not bringing it home with me.
There are things in our lives that we tend to see on repeat: end of the year stress, patterns in relationships, etc. Sometimes there are patterns that end up with good results, and when that happens, we continue to do the same things to get the same results, but what I’ve noticed in a lot of my students and friends and even in myself: we tend to continue do the same things that get negative responses and expect to get different results.
People continue to hang out with friends that hurt them repeatedly, expecting them to stop.
People continue to procrastinate, even though it continues to cause them stress.
People continue to not study for test/exams and expect to do well.
People continue to act the exact same in relationships and expect them to work out.
Just because the people or situations we find ourselves in change does NOT mean that our continued negative actions will suddenly create positive results. No matter how much you like to avoid confrontation and not communicate with your partner, it won’t work out. No matter how much you enjoy procrastination, it won’t make you stress less.
The world is going to keep moving forward, and we need to make sure that we’re moving forward as well.
Last year, Erin and I were travelling back and forth to see each other on weekends. Our long distance relationship was added stress, but we knew that it wasn’t going to be that way always (Erin was planning on graduate school and a move to South Carolina from where she lived in North Carolina). Because of the back and forth, my portfolio for my continuing contract, and lack of time management (thus creating a ton of grading for me to do at home), led to long nights of grading feverishly rather than spending time with Erin. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, I started talking about hell weeks.
Now, let me stop and for a moment and say the following: I love my job. I love teaching. I love the students, and I love science. I was born to be an educator, which is not something everyone can say. Teaching is not easy. It’s NOT something that someone does because they can’t do anything else. If you can’t do what you teach, then you most definitely cannot teach it. But the last nine weeks of school suck. There’s spring break, standardized testing, more standardized testing, and finally… exams. There are weeks on end of messed up schedules, class disruptions, and hours and hours of the fine balance between classroom control and student realization that they outnumber the adult 30 to 1.
After three years of teaching and a year of student/intern teaching, I have come to affectionately call the last nine weeks of school “hell weeks,” and when I said this, Erin said, “It’s not going to be like last year, is it? Because last year sucked for you… A lot.”
I thought about it for a minute, realizing that the same thing was happening over and over every year, and that I needed to stop the pattern. So I did. I made sure that I stopped bringing work home when the fourth quarter started. I spent my time at work doing my grading and planning, so when I got home, I could relax and spend time with Erin watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which she’s never seen before.
I realized that this end of the year was going to keep happening, and no matter what I do, time is going to keep moving forward. For me to keep moving forward and save myself from the repeated stress of hell weeks, I had to change my behavior. The same goes for all aspects of our lives.
If we’re seeing the same patterns in our life and our relationships, and we’re not happy with the outcomes, then we need to look at what we can do to change those patterns of negativity in our lives. Only then can we move forward and leave the negativity behind us.