The other day, I got some great advice about how to fix some problems I’ve been having with my book. That night, I worked on it a bit and the next day woke up chomping at the bit to play around with it some more. I couldn’t, though, because I’m teaching summer school. It’s a nice schedule (only 8-12) so I told myself I’d just work on my book in the afternoon after work.
That day in one of my classes, there was some student drama. I’ve become a lot better about being more proactive and maintaining control of the room when a kid has a behavior issue, but afterward I always feel like I’ve been run over by a truck. It’s incredibly mentally fatiguing. I got through the rest of the day alright, had a long conversation with another teacher and an administrator about the issue, and went home.
|This is what happens when you google "Compartmentalize." Such pretty compartments.|
The problem with situations like that is that it’s rarely an isolated incident. A student acting out is almost always a tiny, tiny manifestation of greater issues kept hidden under the surface. It could be a million things: There could be something going on at home, maybe the student hasn’t eaten anything for a day, maybe there’s a medical condition I don’t know about, maybe the student is acting out because they’re overwhelmed or bored with the material, maybe they’re having an issue with another student.
Every day with these kids I play Dr. House trying to diagnose why they’re acting the way they’re acting. That’s why, when a student has an outburst, it’s never just over. You can’t leave that behind when you leave school. All your mental energy for the rest of the day is focused on trying to tease out why it happened and what you can do to handle it better tomorrow.
I got home after school and felt totally unfocused. Just five hours before I couldn’t wait to tear into my book. Now, I just felt like taking a nap. I call this “teacher brain.” It’s a feeling that sucks away all motivation to do anything but obsess over teaching. It’s good for my job. It’s not good for my writing.
I find it very difficult to compartmentalize the different areas of my life. Normally, like now, one aspect totally consumes all of my time and energy, and almost everything else (like blogging, consistent reading and writing) falls away. This makes me feel incredibly guilty.
Last year was my first official year teaching, and the first year is notoriously rough (so is the second and third, but I’m not going to think about that). And it’s possible I am improving: Though it took a couple hours, eventually I did get down to the café and put in some really productive writing time. I’ll call it progress.
Do any of you deal with issues like this? What are your strategies for compartmentalizing your life?