Most of you probably heard before I did, but last week, the Northwest was battered by a huge storm, at nearly hurricane strength. Over a million people were out of power and heat! Five days later, many of them, including a lot of my family, are still in the dark.
I can commiserate all too well with this, except the communality. Last December, I myself was a victim of a blackout. Unfortunately, it was a purposeful, vengeful, and insane act inflicted on my roommates and me by landlords. It lasted nearly two weeks of early December.
The light is gone by the time I got home, and it was quite cold. We couldn't eat anything nonperishable, and there are only so many snacks one can consume. Showering in the dark was quite an adventure; that led to a sprained toe. At first, the shock kept the boredom and worry away. But then, I had a meltdown. I couldn't handle the dark and the wonder. When would it end? What the hell was wrong with those people? Why weren't the police or 311 doing anything about it? How am I supposed to move out if there's no lights or internet at home?
All this insanity (there was one day that we had to call the police THREE TIMES) meant that school was completely out of my mind. I'm not sure how I got through the days, and I spent most of the evenings at my grad school's library. How grateful I was for the heat and light and free internet!
After days of obsessively trolling craigslist and calling, emailing and visiting potential apartments, eventually I found a place and moved out as soon as I could. I took one day off school to pack, and soon had to remember that in addition to unpacking all my stuff, I had to pack for a holiday vacation. Totally forgot about it for most of December. I was too stressed and exhausted, and mostly I just wanted everything to be over, and calm again.
It's been a calendar year since that chaotic month. This December has been 'normal,' thank goodness.
So far this school year, I have not taken any days off. Four straight months of reporting on time to teach the children, and it's taking its toll. Except this year, I don't have any natural or landlord-made disasters to blame.
In November, I began toying with the idea of a mental health day. Now I don't remember why; it was probably just on principle. I think I was approaching and/or hitting that wall of winter blah and teacher winter burnout. There were already so many days off or not spent teaching that month, that I couldn't let myself take an extra one off.
But now it's December. After two months of almost no five-day weeks, we're on the fourth in a row. It's late in the month. When I was in sixth grade, we were already out of school by now. Other states are already done for a whole two weeks, or more. We're all aching for some free time.
Kids are starting to leave for vacation. Those still here are definitely getting antsy and rowdy, anticipating the coming freedom. Teachers are starting to get a bit cuckoo. Our faculty especially is having a hard time; we have a lot of classes that have no teachers (they left! before December! just left!), so everyone has been getting inundated with upper-grade (ie, devils) coverages.
All of us are wearing thin on patience, let alone "innovative teaching." Right now, it's innovative just to be there every day. The only energy we have is to gripe or count down days. We only hope to survive with a modicum of dignity, that maybe a handful of kids might have learned something today. Everything feels like a struggle, and there's no relief when a day is over, because there are more to come.
Depressed immune systems don't help. It seems like we're all at least a little sick, and it lasts for ever. This is my third week with just enough of a sore throat to make it an inconvenience, discomfort at the end of the day. Not enough to justify a day off, but enough to make teacher talk a pain, literally. And just in general, despite the unseasonable mildness, we're all tired and exhausted. I just want to rest!
I'm so out of it that I scoff at preparing for my trip. Pshaw, it's still over a week away! I've repeatedly ignored the need to book accommodations for the trip I'm taking next Monday. I have nowhere to stay on my last night in Amsterdam and an early flight on New Year's Day; I think I'm going to have to sleep in the airport. At school right now, I'm doing my best to push through every day, and try not to think too far in advance, lest I suddenly find this teaching business utterly ridiculous, and skip out of the building, never to return.
Really, isn't it a 'natural' disaster to be surrounded by adolescents for the majority of the day? Give us a break that's longer than a week!