42. So you to think this is you
Burnout, identity, a meme
What I’m up to
My students finished their Junior Research Project presentations today, which means we are officially done with the hardest part of the year. For the most part, they killed it. I am very proud.
I asked them to fill out a reflection survey today, and I loved their shoutouts to each other. I also loved what they identified as their biggest takeaways. One student wrote, “I can do much more than I think I can.” Another wrote, “Ask more questions.” And another wrote, “Procrastination will come back to bite you in the butt.” This is the stuff we teachers live for.
My friend S and I are spending our Saturday mornings checking out cafes around our city. This week’s was a winner.
What I’m reading
The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. I gave my AP English Lit students a practice multiple-choice exam, and it included an excerpt from this novel describing the character Isabel Archer. I felt so seen, then embarrassed for feeling seen — so naturally, I immediately checked out the book.
I asked Anna and Paul to read the passage, and Paul said, “I don’t feel like this is you, but it is so you to think this is you.” Hahaha.
My students are done with their part of the JRP, but I am still grading the last few papers. I know it seems like I’m just ridiculously slow, but… this class is supposed to be 17% of my job, and it is really hard to juggle everything.
What I’m thinking about
It has been a very productive but exhausting week at work. I actually tried listing all that I accomplished this week, but it read too much like the gross humble-bragging-about-busyness our culture incites. In this case, I really don’t intend this as a flex. I am tired and frazzled when really, I aspire to be one of those people who move through life effortlessly. (Haha, but really.) There was a minor crisis this afternoon that pushed me to a state of panic, and I think that’s a pretty clear sign I’m at max capacity.
This is making me do some thinking. How do I fix this? How do I make changes now so I can prevent feeling like this next year? Because I’m pretty sure this is par for course every spring… I just forget.
I think I need to send a reflection survey to myself and ask myself the same questions: “What is your biggest takeaway?” As much as you can, clear your schedule around this time. Stagger deadlines. Don’t be surprised or take it personally when a good number of students beg for extensions at the last minute. “What did you do well?” The students have grown in skill and maturity, and most say they felt supported throughout the process. “If you could do it over again, what would you do differently?” Cut preliminary research time. Add more time between drafts and before the presentation.
My former student M posted a meme this evening of an arrow pointing to a speck in the galaxy with the caption, “you are here, crying in the shower before work.” So apt — the crying 😂, but also the fact that really, I am but a speck (and so are my problems).
Tomorrow is a new day.
What I’m learning
For staff devotions this week, my friend W talked about identity. He asked us if there are identifiers that used to be integral to our view of self that no longer apply. He shared that he used to identify as a runner, until one day he realized it’s been 16 years since running was a regular part of his life. I used to identify as an extrovert. It was an identity I loved, and, in some ways, I mourn losing this part of myself.
But we get to gain identities, too.
My friend C just started a newsletter (which she is currently keeping private or I’d share it here!). She listed me among an impressive list of writers who “inspire [her] with their courage to create.” This is ridiculously humbling, as C herself is an excellent writer/poet, and… I don’t even call myself a writer.
This is funny because I used to write for a living, and now I teach writing for a living. That said, if anything has made me feel like a writer, it’s writing this newsletter.
I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I committed to grappling with ideas and words on a regular basis, whether I feel like it or not? Maybe it’s because I stopped thinking about being a good or bad writer once I decided just to do it?
Whatever it is, I’m learning: what we do defines who we are.
What I’m doing
Going on early morning walks with S. We gave up pretending it is exercise — now we stroll in our pajamas with our cups of coffee and it is wonderful.
What I’ve saved
I saved a bunch of articles this week but haven’t had time to read them. Here are the few I’ve bookmarked to read later:
“The Missionary Kids are Not Alright.” I saved this but can’t bring myself to read it yet. (Christianity Today via G)
A profile on a mob chef. (Vanity Fair)
Here are a few I actually DID read:
The guy I “dated” for two weeks in middle school :) is now a researcher at Penn. He is studying primals, and he just launched a column in Psychology Today about his research. It’s fascinating stuff!
My former student G wrote this op-ed for her school paper (and it was subsequently picked up by her local paper): “Good Refugee, Bad Refugee.” Please read it.
Finally, I’ll leave you with these thoughts on “comfort and safety” and “equity and justice” from Girl Power, another take on what I’ve been wrestling with daily.
Until next week,