I broke down this morning.
Not in the literal sense – I drove into work just fine, my 13 year old car making the trek across town with relative ease. (Note to self: buy new windshield wipers…the current ones are streaky.)
I broke down in the emotional sense. Sitting at my library desk, thinking about things, I started crying. A lot. And there were no windshield wipers to dry my tears.
I feel mom-guilt. A lot of it. If you don’t know: my kids are in grade 4 & 6. In short: I miss them…and I feel like I’m missing out on time with them when I’m at school. I’ve long believed that being around in the middle/high school years is much more important than being present in the infant/toddler years. Little ones, while lovely, don’t remember that mom was gone all day from 7:00-5:00. My 9 & 11 year old do. They go to before/after care each day for 2-3 hours while my husband and I go to work (and beat traffic). I feel like time with them is finite and going quicker than ever before. Both children have activities (music & sports) that take up much of our after-school hours together. Don’t get me wrong: I love teaching library to children, even the one who calls me Missus Poopy Poop Head. But today, it hit me just how much I was missing my own children.
I feel pressure. You guys, let me tell you: Charlotte Danielson can take a hike. Her book & chart that is used to assess of my level of library performance will never, ever hold a candle to the expectations I put on myself. You might not be surprised that I struggle under the weight of my own pressure. Seeing things like ‘proficient’ – ugh. (Note: I’ve taken to cc-ing my assessor on every email that provides evidence of distinguished practice. And bringing unrequested evidence of distinguished practice to pre- and post-conference meetings. Because.) Then there is the double-edge sword of social media. Oh, social media. I read about and see the wonderful, creative, amazing lessons my colleagues (like you!) teaching, and I am inspired. I am amazed. I want to do those things, too! But there’s the lurking pressure that what I am doing isn’t good enough. That I am not enough. That I’m falling behind.
I feel unable to fully succeed. Let me be honest here: my love language is Words of Affirmation. I need to hear that I do well to feel valued. Colleagues will tell me they appreciate my work, and that’s good. Parents do, too. So, in a sense, I’m in a good spot. But remember that pressure to excel? I hate knowing that as a librarian in a larger school, with little technology, with a fixed schedule, with no makerspace, and with no desire to spend more time at school for evening events (see: guilt) means that getting Words of Affirmation outside of my room is a long shot at best. What is worse is knowing that earning Words of Affirmation / recognition is virtually impossible for school librarians in tougher spots than I’m in: those whose districts shuffle them among 2 or more schools, those whose schedules are back-to-back-to-back with no time or energy for innovation, those who have no budget. Again, in a sense, I am in good spot. But I cannot deny the feeling of not succeeding. (And if you’re thinking: “lady, are you crazy? Look what you’ve done over the years!” – see the paragraph above. The pressure I put on myself is intense.)
I feel stressed. Working full-time in a US public school is hard. In London, I worked FT…but at an international school where there were 10 classes that each had under 20 students and few to zero behavior issues. I had the time to connect with students and teachers. My own children attended the school where I worked, AND I rode the bus to/from school with them each day. Working FT today – with 28 classes a week (24 of which I teach*) – is taking its toll. I’m not seeing my own children (see: guilt). I am stressed because the library is not where I want it to be in terms of collection, and I don’t yet have materials teachers are requesting (see: pressure). I am stressed because there are so many questions that I have where I don’t know the best way to get them answered (thank goodness for my friend Julie, who answers the phone and helps me in any way she can…I’d be adrift without a life vest without her). The good news: having 17 years of teaching/librarianship in my back pocket is my life vest, my life preserver. I know vendors, I know Destiny, I know libraries & literature. I cannot fathom the stress I’d feel as a late-hire rookie teacher-librarian.
So – the guilt, the pressure, the stress, the expectations: they caught up with me today. And I broke down.
But why share it here? Because this is real. Too often, only the pretty Instagram-worthy parts of life are highlighted. Not today. Keeping in all the hard parts of life as a working mom isn’t healthy, and it isn’t realistic, and I’m doing a disservice if I ever let anyone believe that I’m doing it all. Because I don’t. And I can’t.
Today, I dried my tears and taught the day. I knew that when I got home, I’d be writing this brutally honest post. Know that I see you, I know how hard it is, and I am in the same boat. And tomorrow, I’ll get back in my trusty car, drive to school, and get back to it…with a fresh box of tissues nearby for the moments they’re needed.
Cheers, y’all. –arika
*Long story short: I’m out of contract, and my district is contractually obligated to provide a 0.1FTE overload librarian. I could get extra pay for teaching the extra 0.1FTE, but I feel that sends the district a message that (a) my management time is not valuable, (b) I can be paid more to work, and (c) that I’m setting a precedent (read: if I do it once, I’ll be expected to do it every year). As a suitable 0.1 (half-day) librarian hasn’t yet been found, there is a sub for a half-day each week…and I write the sub plans.