Why Teaching Helps My Anxiety II

Click here to read part I

Weekends are the hardest. 

Paradoxical, this teaching. Monday to Friday is a blur of preparations, gone before dark, back with the sinking sun, washed dished, and (mostly) dreamless sleep. On Fridays, two of my English scholars have the same prayer request during worship: that the weekend goes by slowly. 

And it does. Painfully slowly. 

As quickly as my mind unravels from the tightened spool of Week 12, it snaps taught with anxiety over Week 13. I drift between being lonely and craving quiet stillness. 

Weekends are the hardest. 

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The Sunday anxiety returns. My mind swirls, upends, dives over all the things I must needs do before that second bell rings. The gravity of my job loses all sense of joy and purpose and, instead, is swallowed by responsibility, pressure, lofty expectations. 

The Sunday night sleep is fitful. All thoughts turn towards me: how will I do it? Should I assess tomorrow? Review? Insert a random grammar worksheet for kicks? Did the student in the back of that class, on the right, almost hidden…did he turn in the last assignment? Why didn’t he? Does that grader know that I appreciate her easy cadence and integrity? Did I forget to tell her? I didn’t clean today. I really should. Maybe I could get up an hour earlier and vacuum the living room, then read that book, and what did my colleague mean by his comment last Thursday? Does he dislike me? Maybe if I could try to talk differently, then....

My mind swirls, upends, dives. All the possibilities of things I could have done wrong are suddenly reality, and my mind centers on so many facets of me.

This continues for 12 long hours until…

...almost suddenly...

...my mind tilts. Shifts. Bends. Changes. 

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12 long hours later, ten enter. One rolls his backpack, another avoids eye contact (he didn’t turn in his homework the night before…again), another smiles shyly, another brings her never-ending soliloquy, another just says “hiiiii!”. 

Thoughts of all the other things fade. 

At this moment, they are all the things. 

There’s no time to be self-conscious or anxious—indeed it would take more focus to try to be so—for my world has been swallowed up by them. My apartment still needs cleaning, but my mind is focused on the otherness of these students who have captured my heart. The supremacy of anxiety has been supplanted by the supremacy of these students who need to learn comma usage, even if it kills me! It’s all-encompassing, but in a rapturous way, never (yes, never) a burdensome one. They are only a burden when I forget the privilege, only when they became “the students” and not the ones I know by name, only when I get caught up in the focus of me instead of the focus of them. 

Weekends are the hardest; because they’re the hours I’m separated from the physical reminder of why I do what I do. 

A preacher friend once told me that Jesus calls the weakest people to be preachers and pastors because they have to be instructed to focus on others; it has to be written in the very essence of the job description. 

Teaching helps my anxiety because it causes me to lose my obsession with myself and necessitates an obsession with others: first, Jesus as the ultimate Teacher, Sustainer, Grace-Giver, and Lesson Planner (how teachers do it without Him is an utter mystery), then, them, the teenagers who are learning to be themselves in more ways than I can trace. I'm convinced Jesus made me a teacher to save me. And He’s still saving, sanctifying, causing me to fall more and more in love with Him and them through this teaching thing.