I may have waited too long…

1 May

Perhaps  10 years is too long in this particular setting.

It has been awhile since I updated this blog. I have been busy, and the business is reaching a feverish pitch as annual reviews blend in with end of year checklists and tasks and re-evaluations and on top of that, my own campaign to find another job.

All of this adds up to more stress on top of a job that has been stressful all year long with all sorts of issues. But I have always met all of the challenges and dealt with them. Every year, I somehow make it through and marvel at how I ever did it.

Not everyone can handle the stress that is involved with serving individuals with severe disabilities. But most teachers I know do not cite the students as the biggest stressors. Lack of administrative support and the huge burden of paperwork rank among the top reasons educators leave the field of special education.

I have not talked about a former colleague of mine lately, although he does occasionally keep in touch. The stress on him was so heavy that he had a nervous breakdown and was carried out on a stretcher…more than once. I remember thinking those few years ago that I did not want things to get that bad. And maybe then it was that I began to look around at other options.

My first 6 years of teaching here, I drove the bus for our community outings, and so each year I had to get a bus physical. It wasn’t much of a physical, but it was at least blood pressure, pulse and weight. And none of those numbers fluctuated very much. I was generally healthy. However I did smoke. Smoking, besides all the health and social costs is also expensive and addicting. It was the fact that I was tired of being an addict that I finally quit a couple years ago. And then my weight ballooned so badly it was impacting my knees. So I began a diet and exercise program and managed to get the weight under control. All of these measures helped buy me more time and hopefully extended my shelf life.

But the load and stress this year has finally taken its toll. I was feeling a bit dizzy the last couple of days and had the school nurse take my blood pressure. And sure enough it was high. Not ER high, but a source of major concern nonetheless.  The paras got a bit worried and called the nurse to check me again in the afternoon, and by then I was back in my normal range.  I half-joked that they were overly concerned because if something happened to me, they might actually have to do some work!  Ha ha!

So I am wondering: Are there a number of other teachers out there stressing more than usual this year? Has it taken a toll health-wise? I know I have a number of areas where I can improve my life style, mainly getting more sleep and laying off the caffeine. Those two alone can probably get me back in the normal range if I can also reduce some stress. Hopefully I can survive the next couple of weeks when all my annual reviews are done and I have less overhead….hopefully. They always like to pile on more and more at the end and so much of it seems needless.

I do want to write more, and that is one way to vent off a bit. And I also want to do a little series about the past ten years “by the numbers.”

But I need to make it through the next couple of weeks without having to be carted off in a gurney!

12 Responses to “I may have waited too long…”

  1. Anonymous at 9:29 pm #

    Totally with you this year. Between the VAAPs, our version of the GAA and a student being thrown into my just balancing class of students that set everyone (including me) off, I am waaay stressed out. I am so tired of being forced to give students a test that only tests how well I set it up, since it has no relevance to my students’ education.

    • Daniel Dage at 2:30 pm #

      You know what? I think the GAA may have based on the VAAP. Thanks for nothing VA! Haha! — you’re right those things are always stressful especially if you are concientious enough to actually care about how the students will be able to function in real life. Unfortunately there are no state standards for toiletting and feeding independently.

  2. K at 7:54 am #

    Almost every teacher I know is either on BP meds. or anti anxiety meds.
    Can you answer a question for me? If the state is doing away with 1st. and 2nd. grade standardized testing because of the budget cuts, does this mean those who teach that level in special ed. will not have to complete the GAA? K

    • Daniel Dage at 2:27 pm #

      That is a good question and I would imagine they would for two reasons: One of course is that the GAA is supposed to be a substitute for the testing. The other reason is that there is money involved in actually doing and scoring the GAA and providing manuals and training for everyone. Testing is expensive which is why they are dropping it.
      thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Anonymous at 9:50 pm #

    I am a media specialist at a center school for people with significant needs. I started on BP meds back when I was a classroom teacher. Most of my colleagues too are on BP meds or develop other health issues. Such is our lot, I suppose. Get meds or get out 🙂

  4. Miss Y at 8:27 am #

    This is my first year as a teacher in a classroom with kids who have severe disabilities. Yesterday, when one of our higher needs students was absent and my afternoon meeting was cancelled, I took the opportunity to go home sick so I could get some much-needed down time. The stress has been interfering with my sleep and given me gut aches, as much as I love my students, my staff, and my job.

    • Daniel Dage at 2:22 pm #

      You know what? I’ve never done a “mental health” day. I know a lot of teachers do….does it really help? I guess my thought is that we do get a fair number of breaks (and now furlough days) and I try to pace myself on those. But I am a huge fan of snow days! wOOt! Especially here in the south where it melts off by noon and you can still go somewhere if you want!

  5. Tandy at 11:18 pm #

    I really don’t know what it is but this year has seemed a lot more stressful than others. Granted I am overloaded, but I always have been. This year wasn’t as bad as three years ago numberwise. My kids are great. I have some problem students but who doesn’t. It just seems like this year everything has been so much harder to deal with. Perhaps it’s because I was not recovered from previous years stresses before the new one began. I don’t know. I do know that I have taken one “mental health” day and spent the day at home, doing nothing I didn’t want to. I highly recommend that, of course with my students I have to be sure to schedule those in advance and get the right sub and prepare the students for the shock of me not being there. It’s tough. Not for the faint of heart. It was also a monitoring year for our school. Hmmm, think that may have something to do with extra stress. I know I haven’t had time to take care of myself as much as I should. I’ll work on that next year.

    • Daniel Dage at 2:19 pm #

      Yes, I totally relate to feeling the drag from previous years pull you down before you’re completely recovered. and that was part of my deal, too. I was walking back into something I had been trying to escape from for several years! Thanks for reading and commenting and be well!

  6. k brogden at 7:02 pm #

    You so made me feel not so alone and isolated with my SPED thoughts. I’ve decided to retire and move on. I loved the kids and always will….it’s the adults that always drove me nuts!!!!

    But you….you are driven and so much younger than me. Please keep us posted on your journey. We are a special ‘teacherhood’ of our own!


    • Daniel Dage at 2:16 pm #

      Haha..thank you! I always enjoy your comments and am so glad to have been out there for some moral support if nothing else. I actually did apply in your district (I think) but most schools are waiting before they hire as they can afford to wait. And you are right…the adults in the process do a lot more to confound things than the kids could ever do!

  7. elona at 8:37 pm #

    In the summer when I’m not teaching my bp is low normal. In the fall when I’m back to teaching reluctant/struggling students my bp is high. This happens every year. It doesn’t seem to matter that I enjoy teaching kids who need extra support. Teaching is definitely a stressful job. I spend a lot of time and energy trying to reduce the stress I experience as a teacher. Tandy mentioned mental health days. Sometimes that is the answer.

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