Why Teaching Helps My Anxiety I

I wish everyday ended like today. 

It’s Week of Prayer, and I’m high on words of affirmation. You see, I’ve been taking some days off to finish my Master’s observations at a nearby high school (it’s a long story…sigh), therefore preventing me from relishing in my classroom as much as I’d like. Today was one of the few that I could stand for hours that race past. 

“She’s back! You guys, she’s back!” 

Their joy is palpable. Their smiles, sincere. My heart, bursting with gratitude. 

They tacked notes on the colorful wall that had my name on it. Inside, adolescent scribbles told me how I am the best teacher ever, that they’re praying for me, that they’re grateful I treat them like adults (respect, always!), that I light up the school...

I wish everyday ended like today. 

I sped through grading as the sun hung low. I retrieved an escaping balloon for a grateful sophomore; they’re decorating for Breast Cancer Awareness Day. All on their own. They even organized a fundraiser…just because that’s what they do. I told this sophomore’s class how much I love the students at this school. I couldn’t feign this kind of love if I tried. It’s nothing short of miraculous. 

I drove home, telling my favorite human journal how much I enjoyed today, how my cup runneth over, how I was made to be a teacher, how these students bless me so much. 

I wish everyday ended like today. 

...But they don’t. 

Every Sunday evening is the same: panic attack brewing just under the surface. Is this the week that the students will finally realize I’m a fraud of a teacher? Will the bell ring, scholars enter, and I stand agape, aghast with nothing to give? Will I finally snap, say something discolored with hues of missed devotional time, carnal nature, and not good enough? Will I oversleep, leaving my preparation time zapped, my devotional time impossible, my stomach empty, and the whole school…disappointed? 

These may sound unreasonable. And they are. But anxiety never requires reasoning. Questions like these (times infinity) swirl; and I waver. Am I really supposed to be a teacher?

The anxiety builds as I sit passive in another’s classroom. They begin class. I jot down their classroom management. They assign. I scribble something about educational assessment (is it bad I know it’s a stretch?). They discuss. My hand aches as I trace the letters of “engaging instruction”. The time yawns between the last moment I stepped into the classroom. In that chasm, all of my favorable experiences vanish like the selective amnesia it is. Surely I have forgotten how much I irritate the kids. Maybe I overlooked how my lesson plans are useless. I don’t think that student was making progress; now that I think of it, I probably missed what he needed altogether! A stranger’s class progresses, but my mind spirals and obsesses with negative hypotheticals that turn into perceived reality. 

This was yesterday

Then…I step into my first class. Today. The bell rings. Young minds cross the threshold of my room that loves sunshine. One of the ten quotes the punchline of my favorite joke. He does it everyday. I laugh everyday. I can’t help it.

We discuss. We read. We laugh. We ponder. I share parts of my heart. They listen like I’m the most important person in the world (for a few minutes, at least). We conclude. A particular student approaches my desk. 

“How’s YOUR day been so far, Ms.-?"

I answer honestly. “Well, it wasn’t that good this morning, but then you guys came in and made it all better.” You always do.

He beams at my response, grabs his book bag, wishes me well, sets off for the next class. 

My next batch of scholars enter, bringing another wash of joy and questions and personality and grace. 

So much grace. 

I wish every day ended like today. But the days that do provide enough standing for the days that don’t. Gradually, nearly imperceptibly, I can sense Jesus using these positive experiences of influence and affirmation and intentional love to dislodge the intense anxiety that some would define me by. Jesus makes no such definitions. Jesus gives glimpses of purpose and growth and grace. Jesus instead defines me by who I am. And I am His. 

So much grace.