Back to School Anxiety: My Normal

So,  today I went looking back through time using my Timehop app. You know, Timehop Abe just loves taking us back through time, right? I realized something as I scrolled through the years. Every single year at this exact same time, I post a variation of the same thing on the Facebook.  Anxiety-ridden, unable to sleep, and worried about getting it all done, I always post something about my excessive worry about the impending first day of school. This happens to be my ordinary; my status quo for back to school.

back to school anxiety

How does this happen every single year? How do I wind up never feeling like I have enough time to get it all done? Surely in the almost two weeks of teacher work days before school starts, I have time to set up a classroom, fill out modification sheets for 23 students, make copies of goal sheets/behavior plans, get a roster completed for 67 students, write lesson plans, plan with my coteachers, make sure I’ve got classroom expectations set, and breath. Right?

Oh, but then there’s the meetings. The endless meetings. The three days of workshops. The meeting with the parent. The staff meetings. The meeting with the team. The meeting with the school. The meeting with the grade level. The meeting with my department. The meeting with my coteacher. Someone stopping by to ask me a question about a student. The sudden realization that a student that wasn’t there suddenly popped into our caseload and now I need to figure out where the student came from, if we had the paperwork, and what we need to do to get it before the year starts.

Suddenly I realize that I still haven’t finished filling out my modification sheets. The roster hasn’t been completed. I’ve got no lesson plans. I still haven’t met with my math coteacher. I still don’t know exactly what I’m doing with my language arts coteacher. And we still have crap in our resource room that we shouldn’t have that no one else seems to care about.

All of these things are completely normal. It happens every year, yet somehow I survive. Somehow we carry on, and the year moves on. Maybe things aren’t perfect. Maybe I hate not having 100% of the cogs in place. I will have 95% of them because I’ll stay up late when I shouldn’t, spend more time at work than I should, and bug the crap out people until I have answers about the important stuff. It’s just in my nature to want things in order. That’s my normal. That’s what’s ordinary for me. And that’s why I find myself posting the exact same message on Facebook every single year in different words.

I cannot control the chaos of the world. I read the book Who Moved My Cheese. I’ll never learn the lesson that’s integral to that book enough to apply it to my life. Perfectionism and order has become so ingrained at this point that I feel I’m a lost cause. But perhaps admitting I have a problem is the first step.

 mama kat's world famous writing prompts

What about you? Are you the type of person who has to have things in order, or are you okay with just taking things as they come? 

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Why I Have Mixed Feelings About Going Back to School

It seems like just a week or two ago we got out for summer break, yet the time has come for another school year to begin. I teach, so I went back to work last week. Yes, the madness and chaos of the back to school rush has begun. Teachers decorate their rooms, go to workshops, and get together for planning sessions. Parents get the shopping lists and buy back to school clothes for their kids.

Look all over Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest and you can tell it’s time for Back to School. You can also tell there’s a complete lack of consistency across the board when it comes to how people feel about it. Some parents throw up memes indicating that they’re ready to party as soon as their kids get on the bus. Other parents express anxiety about the year to come.

wide rule college rule back to school

Me? I have as many mixed feelings as the general public.

On the one hand, I’m excited to start a new adventure, both at the school I work at and with my son. I’m starting the year on a new team and partly in a new role and my son gets to start his year in a new grade level with his peer group. I’m happy that my son will start the year in Inclusion classes this year instead of in a self-contained classroom. I’m also glad that his school seems ready to work with us. As far as my work goes, I’ve started off on the right food with my administration and we’re working together to meet the needs of our students. I’m thrilled to say that I actually feel that I’m having positive communication with everyone I’m working with this year. All of these things are good.

On the other hand, I foresee the year creating a situation where I’ll quickly fatigue. I will not have the time to plan that I will need, which means I’ll wind up bringing even more work home than last year. Half the time to plan means half the work will get done at school than I was able to get done last year. Squeaker will definitely have homework every night and he didn’t have that last year. I’m happy about that because I want him to progress, but I also know this will require me to spend energy that I will have very little of. We’ll have to come up with a process for getting him to complete work and really stick with it. As he gets used to new routines and expectations for independence, I expect his frustration will create more behaviors, at home if not anywhere else. I pray that I will come up with a swift solution to all of these issues.

When all is said and done, I know we’ll fall into a pattern of some sort and we’ll adjust to this whole “back to school” thing. I’m nervous as hell about starting anew, but we’ll get used to it just like we always do.  As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to this coming school year, “We Got This.”

 

How do you feel about going back to school?

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Why Advocating for My Son Matters

I know how some people look at me now. I’m that crazy mom. Any mom that cares enough not to stop advocating for her child must crazy, right? I know what’s right for my child. After all, who knows him better than I do? I’ve lived with him his entire life. He’ll turn eight in October and I’ve seen him through everything he’s been through. Aside from his father, who knows him better than I do? Certainly not the school system or the specialists. I do.

Yet, when I express my opinion about what’s best for my child in a meeting, whose opinion gets shoved aside the most? Mine. And in a way I get it. I’m a special education teacher myself and sometimes parents get emotional and can’t think beyond their raw emotions. They need time to process. The thing is, when I’ve processed and I’m thinking logically and I know the research and I myself am an expert in the field, don’t you think someone ought to listen to me?

Oftentimes, lately, no one does. I have perfectly sound reasons for what I believe. I can show them the research behind what I’m talking about. I can provide evaluations to back up my statements. And it still takes and act of Congress to get anyone to take my statements seriously. I’m seen as an emotional, unstable, illogical parent that’s just not thinking clearly. They must know what’s best for my child, right? In truth, they know what’s best for their school. They know what’s easiest for their school. I, too, know what that’s like. But I also know the law, the rules, and the regulations.

And in case you read my last post about not knowing how to move on, I decided not to move on. I just couldn’t do it. My son deserved more than that. I thought back to a time when he had teachers that believed in him and he actually did work above his grade level as a result. When expected to do more, my son will do more. My son will rise to the expectations presented to him. If the expectations are low, he will rise only as far as expected. As his mother, I believe in him. I made that clear. I made it clear that if no one else would teach him 2nd grade material, I would, even though it went against IDEA – Section 300.116, which says that consideration is given to any potential harmful effect on the child or on the quality of services that he or she needs; and a child with a disability is not removed from education in age appropriate regular classrooms solely because of needed modifications in the general education curriculum.  Notice it doesn’t say developmentally appropriate regular classrooms. 

I got a phone call yesterday and I they informed me  that he would be in the 2nd grade. We’re having a meeting next week to go over his IEP and discuss the needed modifications in the classroom. I will meet his teacher and hopefully go over the curriculum and get a heads-up on what he will need. I’m hoping to get a jump-start on things. I’ve already perused her website and started getting resources together for him. I’m proactive that way.

advocating

The lesson: When it comes to advocating for your child, do your research. Make sure you know what’s right for your child. Know enough about it to talk about it calmly and logically.  And in the end, when you know what’s right, don’t give up on it. Your child only has you.

 

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Does Time Heal All Wounds?

Some people say that if you wait and you’re patient, you can recover from anything. There’s that old adage that time heals all wounds. But sometimes I do wonder about the truth in that statement. Does time heal all wounds?

does time heal all wounds

I must know at least five people who either have PTSD or whose husbands/brothers/grandfathers suffer from it. PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is something that someone can get after seeing or living through a dangerous event.  You can get PTSD at any age. Most people think of war veterans when they think about PTSD, but this also includes survivors of physical and sexual abuse, accidents, natural disasters, and other serious events. Someone may event get PTSD after a friend or family member experiences danger, gets harmed, or suddenly and unexpectedly dies. One might argue that with time, those who suffer from PTSD will recover, but it really takes more than just time. Someone who suffers from something truly traumatic can’t just wait it out and hope to recover.

Serious symptoms result from non-treatment of PTSD, including re-experiencing symptoms (flashbacks, dreams, and frightening thoughts), avoidance symptoms (staying away from reminders of the event, feelings of depression or guilt, loss of interest in activities, memory loss), and hyperarousal symptoms (being easily startled, feeling on edge, difficulty sleeping, anger outbursts). None of these symptoms just go away with time.  You may feel that you can suppress them by pushing the memories back (avoidance), but other symptoms may occur as a result, like depression, nightmares, irritability, and other symptoms.

I’m not an expert on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or a doctor. I mean, I have a BA in Psychology, but that doesn’t qualify me to give advice on the issue. But, I know from personal experience that ignoring PTSD doesn’t make it go away. In fact, it only gets worse over time. I was once told by a therapist (because, yes, I suffer from it too), that it can actually amplify the disorder when you continue to push it back and push it back for so many years. The anxiety that goes with it, the desire to avoid reminders of the experience, the nightmares and flashbacks…they just get worse.

It’s like at first you don’t feel it at all, and then, years later, it hits you like a sledge-hammer because you kept avoiding it. It’s better to treat it early on.

Treatment options according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, including:

  • Exposure therapy. This therapy helps people face and control their fear. It exposes them to the trauma they experienced in a safe way. It uses mental imagery, writing, or visits to the place where the event happened. The therapist uses these tools to help people with PTSD cope with their feelings.

  • Cognitive restructuring. This therapy helps people make sense of the bad memories. Sometimes people remember the event differently than how it happened. They may feel guilt or shame about what is not their fault. The therapist helps people with PTSD look at what happened in a realistic way.

  • Stress inoculation training. This therapy tries to reduce PTSD symptoms by teaching a person how to reduce anxiety. Like cognitive restructuring, this treatment helps people look at their memories in a healthy way.

There are other treatment options out there, but the NIMH recommends talking to a therapist about those options. So, does time heal all wounds? Maybe not. But time, and a little help from others probably will. I think it’s a long road to recovery when you go through something traumatic, but the outcome isn’t necessarily bleak, especially if you have a good support system.

The important this is to get help as soon as possible and build a network of support people. As tempting as it is to avoid thinking about the experience and dealing with it, believe me, avoiding it does not help. If you know someone who suffers from PTSD and is in crisis, at first you may need to help arrange appointments and be that support person during the appointments. Help ensure (s)he gets to the appointments on a regular basis.

If you know someone who is in crisis and thinking about suicide,

  • Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273–TALK (1–800–273–8255); TTY: 1–800–799–4TTY (4889) to talk to a trained counselor.
  • If it’s really serious, call 911 or go to the emergency room. Do not leave your friend alone.

Just know that time alone may not be the ultimate healer, but time, support from friends, and learning strategies to help you get through it will help you heal.

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