A Case of the Shoulds

I have been battling a sickness. It has zapped my patience. It has left me exhausted. It is weighing down on my already weary body.

I have a case of the shoulds.

I don’t know about you, but the end of this school year has hit me hard. Honestly, I am hanging on by a thread.

My patience with eighth grade girls rolling their eyes at me, is gone. My enthusiasm for endlessly encouraging students who tell me to leave them alone, has waned. My feelings of unwavering positivity for students who repeatedly push every single button I have, has left.

I am tired. Teachers get tired. This is nothing new. One hundred and eighty days of performing in front of a not-so-polite and not-always-attentive audience, is tiring.

This is not the first time a school year has left me drained. But this year does feel unusual. Not because I feel that much different, but because I feel like I should.

The shoulds are a double whammy. They show up when you’re feeling depleted and then beat you up for feeling that way. The shoulds steal your energy. They make you feel crazy on top of feeling tired. They make you feel worse, when you already feel bad.

The shoulds whisper in our heads and taunt us with guilt.

“You should have more energy.”

“You should have more patience.”

“You should keep feeling passionate, until the very last day.”

The shoulds tell us that good teachers don’t feel this way. The shoulds make you question yourself.

The shoulds remind us of news stories featuring passionate, energetic and sparkly teachers winning awards. Teachers with undying energy. These teachers are always smiling. Their students are always smiling. The community, parents and news reporters are all in awe of their service.

They don’t have the shoulds.

It is the end of the school year, and there is a common scene playing out in school hallways everywhere. Let me know if you’ve seen anything like it.

Two teachers approach each other from opposite directions. As they approach, the teachers share exasperated, tight smiles.

Teacher A exhales heavily, with something of a sigh or growling sound, rolling her eyes and giving Teacher B a look of complete and utter exhaustion.

Teacher B responds with an equally despondent look, which morphs into a tired, half-smile as she whispers a knowing and encouraging, “Twelve more days.

Both teachers respond accordingly with feigned, hopeful smiles, feeling mutually understood for the moment, and continue on their way.

At this point in the school year, most teachers acknowledge the exhaustion. They acknowledge the frustration. They acknowledge the desperate countdown to June.

But, do they acknowledge the shoulds?

I don’t have a cure for the shoulds. I’m just hoping I’m not the only person who has them. I’m sure most people will say I shouldn’t have the shoulds, but that doesn’t really help me stop them.

If anyone has a cure for the shoulds, please let me know. I would love to hear it. For now, I’m just hoping to get the conversation started.

I think it is something we should talk about.

1 thought on “A Case of the Shoulds

  1. I relate. I have shared the countdown greeting, “2 more thursdays to go”, “only one day of finals left”. I’m also out of the ability to give even one more push to a reluctant learner by year end.

    Thinking about it, I realize I balance the shoulds with counting coup. I teach High School as a math learning support teacher. I love graduation. So many souls getting dipolomas that worked with me on math classes. I count coup for each one. Finals find me at a small grading party with my 9th grade algebra coteacher. Kids focused all year on anything but school – 9th graders – but here’s one of our students with my modified final and they showed their work! Right idea, but a sign was dropped, 8 out of 10 for that problem. I can see how the student used pictures to organize the givens and create a formula, just like we worked on in class, I’ll count coup for that student passing their final.

    Reflecting on the many small wins helps with the shoulds. They weren’t all wins, but some were. Be sure and notice them. Next year will be even better. Expect something wonderful.

Leave a Reply