Happy new year! And I'm feeling like it really is a new year/new phase of life. Let me explain.
Some of you know that I have had some significant feelings of inadequacy in recent months. This is a concept that crept into every aspect of my life. I was feeling uninspired in classroom, which was so distressing to me. But then I noticed other areas that were slipping out of control. My exercise and training had completely fallen by the wayside. I had lost my propensity for organizing and, as a result, my house felt in complete disarray. I even felt like a lousy dog mom. And I remember seeing a tweet that mentioned inadequacy, telling folks to make sure that if you're feeling less-than, it should be with respect to your own practice and that you should not be comparing yourself to others. And honestly, that made me feel worse. I HAD fallen victim to imposter syndrome. It has been an honor to be the Vermont Teacher of the Year, but it was extraordinarily stressful as well. I am just incredulous that I am in the company of some extraordinary women. (But we have established a strong bond, and I am so excited to meet and spend time with the other northeast TOYs at NECTFL next month.) I couldn't help putting myself up against this exemplary group and noticing all of the things I WASN'T doing. And yes, I recognize that this isn't healthy, but unfortunately, I learned to do this at a very young age.
So you may be wondering what the point of this post is. I am writing this on the heels of a solid 8+ hours of sleep after averaging three hours over the past few nights. (Nothing like organizing your closet at 3 AM when you can't sleep!) Sleep definitely affects my moods, but I realized that I had slipped into a mini-depression. Depression and I have had a long and torrid relationship; there's a period of about five months in 1997 that I literally don't remember. It's been an ongoing war, and there have been some pretty horrible battles. (I have the scars to prove it.) This fall I frequently asked myself, "What's the point?" Not as in "What's the point of living?" but "What difference will this workout make? Does my teaching matter? I don't have the energy to fold the laundry, so why should I?"
But I'm hoping that's in the past. Where am I now? I might go so far as to say I'm feeling good. I upped my meds. I started with a new therapist. And I'm being honest with myself. I've found myself thinking in the past, "Hey, I can beat my depression. I'm stronger than it, I don't need drugs." Oh, Allison, really? Don't be naive! If you suffer from depression, or anxiety, or any other mental illness, It DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE WEAK. Recognizing that you are struggling is a huge sign of your strength. And that's where I am right now.
So I'm hoping I can continue on this path; I am cautiously optimistic that things are turning around for me. As I write this, it's 6:45 AM, the day we return from vacation. I'm still at home, with my tea, trying to cram and see if I can start a particular lesson cycle in less than two hours. I actually WANT to plan my lessons, which is more than I can say for a month ago. And that's embarrassing to admit. (I have A LOT of work to be doing right now, but I wanted to get this post out ASAP. I felt it was too important not to share, especially with the clarity of a solid night's sleep.)
Know what's great? Picture Talk. It is so low-prep but allows for SO MUCH INPUT (which, in my room, leads to so much organic output!). And you don't need to spend hours combing the Internet for pictures. I mean, if you're snowed in and want to throw yourself down a photo rabbit hole, I say go for it! But here's a little teaching hack for you: The National Geographic Picture of the Day. New day, new image. Job DONE.
If anyone is good at exploring different cultures, it's National Geographic. So do yourself (and your students!) a favor and check this out. Something new, every day, and it's literally just a click away.
Allison Litten, the 2019 VFLA TOY, teaches French at the Marion Cross School, a public K-6 school in Norwich, Vermont. This is her twentieth year teaching, and seventeenth at Marion Cross.