Thursday, September 7, 2006

Stress Increases

School carries on. What beautiful country it is here. Our class rides on a bus into Parry Sound through hills and valleys, through forests, big rock cuts of pink, grey and white granite. I take the students to the park for their swim tests. My class consists of a wonderful group of grade 8 students. It is rare to find such a congenial group. It is a blessing, since I am stressed beyond belief. My biggest problem remains what NOT to teach, an article I published on my website. There is so much we could do, but we must focus on the assigned curriculum.

As we work through the History textbook I begin to question the purpose of it all. What meaning does this have for these young people? Many cannot read the text. I am faced with students with varying abilities and interests. With huge social, emotional and cognitive needs I wonder if I can do it. I am hard pressed to wonder how to make this work interesting. I used to love what I do. I am well respected in my previous school board and assisted other teacher with their special needs students. I am having a great deal of trouble making decisions and dealing with day book plans, seating plans, the requirements of the principal for special needs students, curriculum plans and the bureaucracy of this work.

When I arrive back at the school, after this beautiful day on the shores of Georgian Bay in Parry Sound, I dismissed the students. My principal has left a note in my mailbox requiring my presence in her office. How peculiar as I examine my feelings around this: being called to the office still, at nearly age 50, gives me butterflies in my stomach! The principal calls me in to talk to me and tells me that she is very upset with my timetable. I had been over it several times and have revised it, even though we cannot stick to it since the camping trip dominated most of our time in the first two weeks of school. Any timetable must be tailored to the particular class, as each classroom is made up of particular characters and must be influenced by learning needs, learning styles and learning abilities. I begin to question my abilities to manage the classroom to her satisfaction. This aside from my fears about my ability to actually create a curriculum that is meaningful and effective for these students.

As the stress increases I realize that I may not be able to cope with teaching. Workplace stress results in 35 million workdays lost each year, according to the Alberta Mental Health Board (AMHB). Mental illness accounts for up to 40 per cent of short-term disability insurance claims and 50 per cent of long-term claims. I know I am not alone in feeling depressed. I know that my situation is out of my control. My pressure at work is causing me more stress than I can imagine. It used to be a safe place where I could escape my worries over my father and deal with an incredible class of young people.

In the publication by the AMHB, they cite a Toronto-based Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health report. This publication states that employees in the workplace who report a “consistent level of stress” are twice as likely to become depressed. They go on to say that stress in the workplace has been narrowed down to ten key factors: “lack of control over daily tasks, office politics, lack of communication, inconsistent or unreliable performance reviews, work/life conflicts, lack of company leadership or direction, unclear job expectations, random interruptions and unreasonable workloads.” I know I am well up on this checklist. I wonder if I shouldn’t find someone to talk to again. I am worried about going to counselling through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) again. I let it go.

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