This Friday Fail is a tough one to write. This isn't about short circuiting something or not giving myself enough time on a project. This is about STRESS
In May this year my doctor signed me off school with stress for the rest of the term. Looking back it was quite a funny appointment! The doctor was one I had met through playgroup and knew quite well. Before calling me in, she asked if it was okay that it was her. As I walked through the door I said
"Yeah, it's fine. Once you don't mind me crying like a baby" Then the flood came. Sometimes it's really good to cry. To admit that things are not okay. People were asking me "How's things?" And my usual respond "Yeah, fine. Busy!" wasn't cutting it anymore. I was trying to say "I'm overwhelmed, I feel like a terrible teacher and that I'm failing my students." but the words didn't come out until the doctor asked me "How are you?"
I was teaching at an amazing school. The students were great, really motiviated and well behaved. My head of department was great, really supportive and had already made changes in my timetable to help me. The senior team were great. I was working part time. It was a local-ish school. On the surface, this was my ideal job. It was well paid too. But the stress of teaching A-Level Computer Science was too much for me. The content was beyond anything I knew. I didn't have the time to learn the content well enough to teach it. When I tried I gave the wrong information and had to back track in a different lesson, confusing the students. They were an awesome group of students - they wanted to learn, they wanted to know more. But I couldn't teach them. And this is A-Level. This is their future. And I was fucking it up. I felt helpless.
I have many support groups in my life, but felt no one really understood this problem. I make a lot of things, I publish a lot on my blog and twitter and I felt that my Twitter fan club has the wrong view of me. Yes, I can make my stairs light up but I can't explian stacks to 17 year olds.
My family were surprisingly supportive after I was signed off for stressed. An old fashioned group of people, I thought they'd never understand it but my brother and I had a great talk about it and he said he would be always there if I needed someone to talk to.
I spoke about it to my husband regularly. He had lots of suggestions and advice. Also the Computing At School community obviously had lots of ideas/resources to help me. But in my heart, I knew, I didn't want to be a teacher. I didn't want to stand up in front of groups of students every day. My heart wasn't in the profession. As well as having no time to learn about stacks and queues, I didn't want to. And that broke my heart. I'm passionate about computing education but not passionate enough to study the materials to help my students?? I was stuck in this endless loop and my constant conclusion was that I was a horrible person and teacher. I didn't care and I shouldn't be allowed to teach.
At the time I was training for the Dublin Marathon. For some people running is a mental break from their worries. For me, it's a time to spend thinking about them over and over again and becoming even more stressed. After returning home from my run sobbing on more than one occasion I quit running. Another failure.
I'm glad my doctor signed me off. It's a line under my teaching career. A spot to start over from.
I'm not a horrible person. I wasn't even a bad teacher. It was just the wrong career for me. I'm lucky that I could leave when I did.
I'm still dealing with issues of being a failure, but if you ask me if I'm okay...
"Yeahg, fine. Busy!" is my genuine answer