This Toast is Burnt.
Updated: Nov 25
I've always thought that stretching myself to include people was part of my job. To go above and beyond made me feel like a superhero. I felt worthy and loved. OK, so now that the world is topsy-turvy and upside-down, times have changed. I've felt really stretched lately and I've had to remind myself to activate my boundaries a few times. Saying "no" but not feeling guilty has been the name of this new game!
A little background. I'm not sure what happens physically when we're teaching online, but I actually feel like my soul is getting sucked out of my body and through the screen. I'm not even exaggerating. It feels like it's sucking the life out of me. I suspect it has to do with the amount of energy we‘re expending while teaching. It definitely requires more animation and exaggeration than in real life. What are we... twice as animated? Triple? Dunno. And to be clear. I love what I'm doing. I'm happy teaching my lessons and the children are the light of my life. But, at the very same time, I am aware of the extra feedback that I'm getting just from my own image on the screen. It's like teaching into a mirror all day. I can see my face, my gestures, and hear my voice, and I'm getting immediate feedback. My internal voice is then activated and on overdrive and is very noisy telling me things like, " You're not smiling!" and "Oh, that's better." Or, "Well that was a weird facial expression. Do you do that a lot? Is that a thing?" It's this dance that goes on in my mind all the while chanting phonics rhymes and dancing spelling rules. While it creates a good "show", it's. absolutely. exhausting. I long for the olden days when teaching meant just one group of live 7 and 8 year old children. No parents, tutors, nannies, or grandmas listening in. How easy was that?
Today I had a student forget to show up to my online class but since I happen to know the parents, I texted them a reminder. That's just what I do. I help people get back on track and do it with a smile. And the student appeared as if by magic on the screen. In the very next class, I had another student not show up, but this time I didn't have their parent's cell phone number. So I let it slide. In the third group, someone else didn't show up, ugh! No cell phone number, but that student did finally end up arriving in the last 5 minutes of class. So, I decided to stay late to help that student get caught up. That's part of my job... but I was starting to get that feeling... washing over me. That soul sucking feeling. I wondered if I had made the right choice. Later I received an email from yet another parent apologizing for yet another absent child. They forgot. They wondered if I would be free to reteach the lesson to their daughter. At this point my energy had been drained from my body and my answer was this, "I'm sorry but this toast is burnt." I was kind of surprised at my response but it felt so right and without apology, I pressed send. For the sake of my mental and physical health, I made the decision that it's not my job to track people down. I'm sorry but this toast is burnt.
So, when parents say, "Thank you so much for all that you're doing, what can we do to help you?" I would say, write down the schedule. Teach the children to also look at the schedule and start learning how to read the clock in real time. I often ask my son, "Are you aware of the time?" Or, "How are we doing on time?" even if I already know the answer. I want him to start taking responsibility for his schedule, which he does as a middle schooler. It hasn't always been like this but it takes time and practice.
So the lesson of the day. Using your boundaries actually makes you a superhero for yourself and for everyone else by preserving your precious energy. You are worthy and loved just the way you are.