The Grieving Process

You know what’s weird? I actually went through a grieving process when I left teaching. Like someone I love had died, I grieved. I “cried” for the loss of the routine I knew, the highs, even the lows which I had come to despise. I missed them; I missed the worry, and the anxiety, and the feeling of being needed all the time. All that stuff I had come to hate and dread was suddenly gone, and I was left with the feeling like I had been abandoned, even though it was I who had abandoned teaching. I was like a little kid standing in an empty concert hall going, “Hey, where did everybody go?”

The routine I knew was gone. Every summer, when all the grades are in and all the books are put away, and you’ve given your keys and your keycard to the front office lady, your body goes into extreme relaxation mode. You do nothing but sleep and eat for at least three weeks. My cooperating teacher Roseann Blum used to explain it as “There’s a REASON schools are closed in the summer.” If we had to teach all year we’d go crazy or die of exhaustion. This is what I tell people who say asinine things like, “Wow, must be nice to have the whole summer off!” Believe me, all this time off is a double-edged sword in the clearest sense.

You feel so exhausted by the time summer rolls around. Mentally. Physically. I wish I could show everyone the faces of my fellow teachers around May 20th or so. Haggard is a word that comes to mind.

Summer is the time to do all of those normal things that you didn’t have time for during the school year, like going to the dentist, or getting your car inspected. You think, “Oh, I’ll do it this summer when I have time.” Then summer hits and all you want to do is sleep. I never understood teachers who work summer school. Yeah, the money is great and it’s easy work I’ve heard for the most part, but yikes. I’m just too damn tired.

Because you’re so spent from the school year, you really don’t start feeling normal until mid-July. Then, the first of August, something else happens……your body gets more rigid. Your mind starts to tense up. You start to make lists. Do I have this done? Do I have this ready? Mentally and physically you are gearing up for the school year to come. I’ve talked with so many fellow teachers and all of them say this happens to them.

And some (like me) start to have nightmares. It’s the first day of school and you have nothing done. No posters on the walls, no lesson plans, no seating charts. And the class you’ve been given is a class of monsters, the lowest of the low, the dregs. They are shouting, throwing things, as you try and fail to gain control. Then you wake up sweating, your heart racing.

I’d love to hear from other teachers who have had this experience (weird, I’m still calling myself a teacher). Totally irrational nightmares that occur every summer whether you’ve been teaching 3 years or 30. I always know when it’s July because that’s when the nightmares come. And they don’t really stop until the first week of school has been completed. By then you kind of know what you’re dealing with.

And the funny thing is, I had these nightmares this past July too. Even though I had quit teaching. It’s like my body couldn’t give up the fact that I wouldn’t be put through this process anymore. Like a drug addict going through withdrawals. Just last night I had a dream where I had shown up for work, but had no classes and so was hanging out in the faculty room. People were walking around saying, “Why is she here?” Mentally and physically I’m still dealing with this subconsciously and it’s very strange. I’m not teaching anymore but my inner self won’t accept it yet.

Another funny thing? I think I’m going to miss the nightmares. After all, they are part of that routine I had become so used to…….how can you miss something that made you miserable? Any therapist would have a field day…

2 thoughts on “The Grieving Process

  1. I quit teaching this past May, and it’s the best thing I could have ever done for myself. While I do go through moments of feeling guilty, like I sold out, overall I feel refreshed. My husband jokes that it’s like living with a new woman….and I have to agree with him. I laughed when I read about your nightmares of not having seating charts or lesson plans ready. I used to dream that I was standing at the overhead, explaining the difference between an adverb and an adjective. Those days are gone now and I am so happy I got out. Congrats to you for doing the same!

  2. Congrats to you too. I also feel like it was the best thing I could have done for myself, and my husband agrees 🙂 I’ll teach again somewhere, somehow, just not in the same way. Best wishes to you, and thanks for the comment!

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