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  • Writer's pictureDerek Stoppels

I'm so stressed out!

What a time to be alive! We're on day 33 or 34 (I don't even know anymore) of this social distancing/quarantine/self isolation era and it's really got me down this past week. I miss people! I'm a really social dude, and it's been really hard for me not to see my students every week, not to say hi to them in the hallway. I really miss the energy in the classroom. I miss seeing kids figuring things out together. I miss the "lightbulb" moments.

I'm collaborating with some really great teachers on some really great things these days, and this year, but it's so hard no getting to see anyone. It's hard because there is no tried and true way to do things these days. All I'm trying to do, is to do right by my students. I know these are crazy stressful times for everyone, and there's no getting around that. But school has to go on, and we have to do online learning whether anyone likes it or not. But there's a lot of talk about being supportive of the students who might be having a difficult time at home. And my question is why now?! Why now, is the school, and board, and ministry, so worried about not adding too much stress to these kids lives because they may be living at home with parents who work all day and need their computers. Or they live with parents who have lost their jobs. Or they have family members that have died of COVID-19, or are sick with COVID-19. Or kids have 4 siblings and two parents and every needs access to the two computers in the house. Or they're dealing with new or old mental health issues.

If you go back and look at the earliest posts on my Instagram or YouTube channel, I bring up the fact that these things are happening to kids all the time and I'm really glad that now people are starting to realize that school is not the most important thing in life. I think, and would argue, that learning in the most important thing in life, but school is not. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad we're thinking about these things...I'm really glad about it. But at the same time it sucks that we needed a global pandemic to start seeing things differently.

I'm stressed out by hearing about teachers trying to fit a square peg in a round hole in that they are trying to bring the traditional model of teaching and learning into an online forum. I'm stressed out that the focus is still on assessment, and not on learning. We're getting directions from the "higher ups" to chill out and slow down. They're telling us that the curriculum should still be followed but to take a "less is more" approach and only focus onthe big ideas. I love this model! I love that the "higher ups" are seeing that this is not a terrible way to learn. I recently watched a TED talk by Sugata Mitra who said (something like) "the age of knowing is obsolete". And I totally agree, and this is the time for use to get away from worrying about the little details in the curriculum. But it's still not happening. There are a lot of teachers still focusing on the minutia, and trying to assess students online while reducing the opportunities to use Google and ask their friends. This stresses me out. Why are we still trying to limit students ability to do research and sort through the good and bad information on the internet? Why do we (teachers) feel like we're the only ones with good information and can't, or don't want to, trust students to figure things out on their own? Why are we trying to reduce their opportunities to collaborate when we're in a time of isolation?! Because the assessments are still more important than the learning.

I'm stressed that I'm going to be judged when I go back to school for what I did with my classes or what I did not do with my classes. I'm stressed that I don't know how this ends, how do we come out of this (I'll call it a) quarantine. I'm stressed by the news, and that Donald Trump is more concerned about the economy and his reelection than about peoples lives. This virus isn't even under control yet, and we're talking about how do we start opening things up again? More people are going to die. I'm stressed because it could be me. I'm stressed because it could be my kids, my wife, my parents, my brothers, my inlaws. I'm stressed because I'm at home all day long (literally), day after day after day, and I feel like I'm busier than ever!

And the worst part about it, is I know that none of the things I am stressed about are in my control. I have to do a better job not getting stressed about the things I can't control. Maybe this whole thing is showing me how much I crave control in my life. Maybe that's the root of my problem. Maybe I just need to get better at rolling with the punches.

I need to do better at disconnecting. I need to do a better job at not paying attention to the things that rattle my cage. I need to be more firm in the boundaries that I set for myself. This whole working from home things is really messing me up. I have this constant guilt that I'm not doing enough for my students. But if I start doing more for my students, I'm not doing enough for my family. When I'm with my kids, I'm okay to be present and in the moment with them, but every second of down time I have, my mind is back on school. As soon as the girls go to bed, I feel like I should spend the rest of the night in my office, even though I already spent my day in there working, and doing good work. Why do I have this constant urge to do more work?

It's all been affecting my sleep patterns these days. I'm dreaming more than ever, and I can't remember the last time I had a good night sleep. I'm exhausted all the time.

The good news is I'm getting outside everyday still. I need to make a more concerted effort to get my heart rate up, and do more physical activity, but I'm getting fresh air everyday. Also, I've come up with a plan that hopefully I can stick to where I have turned off a lot of the notifications on my phone so that I don't get sucked into a downward spiral of stress on my down time. I've come up with a better work schedule that works for me and for my family, and the hardest part of all of this is to stick to it.

Part of me wonders what this world is going to look like after this because until a month ago, technology seemed to be all consuming. Now, we rely on it more than ever. When this all ends, will we realize how important human interactions really are? Will we realize how technology controls us, instead of us controlling technology? I'm working on not being a slave to technology, and that means shutting it off. I am not going to be available to students, parents and colleagues at all times of the day. I need to start worrying about the things I can I go talking about control again. See what I mean? I'm a slave to control! I gotta let it go. Be more like Elsa, and Let It Go!

I'm so thankful to have 37 acres of forest that I can get out onto and explore and run around in, and enjoy and I am going to make an effort to tell myself that if something happens that isn't on these 37 acres of mine, I have to not worry about it. I can't always help everything that happens on my property, in my house, in my head and in my body, but I certainly can't help the things that happen outside any of those places. I need to do a better job rolling with the punches and letting things roll like water off a duck's back.

But it's really hard.

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