As I lie awake pondering what lies ahead on day 2 of the second week with students as a Kindergarten teacher, I am all at once overwhelmed by the magnitude of this task. Being back at work full-time is the first time I have had to use my brain continuously for 8 hours straight since November of 2011. I mean this with all seriousness. If you have been around me, you know that in the beginning to promote brain healing, I was required to take naps each day and went to bed by 8:30. Slowly that was moved to only taking a nap when necessary but making sure I took some time to close my eyes each day and let my brain rest and now…. I am faced with the challenge of teaching 23 5 and 6 year olds. My first reaction was to jump ship, give in, and say “I think this brain injury got the best of me.” I mean how could tasks at school that were previously routine require such cognitive demand? And as has been true of me in many areas of my recovery, I have been hard on myself since starting the new school year. Brain injuries are a tricky thing because they are not visual in any way. I look the same as I did at the beginning of last school year, but inside, I am working so much harder.
It is important to remind myself that teaching has never been a walk in the park. For the last four years, during the first few weeks of school, Glen would have to convince me not to quit! 🙂 He would tell me each year “babe, you said this last year too. You will get through it.” The absence of his devotion to my success and being able to break down my day with him has been palpable. So, for me, along with my return to work has been my obvious return to work without Glen. And it hurts.
I believe to be a good teacher you are always striving to give your students the best learning experience. Always thinking of new and engaging ways to teach them, refining activities that you have done in the past. I still desire to do those things but for whatever reason I have been unable to ask for help in the areas that I am struggling. Instead of asking for help I’ve just been feeling like I have to prove to myself and to others that I can do it all and my brain is just fine. After having an emotional session with the counselor yesterday she told me that my brain is not fine and I have to stop acting like it is. I have been through major emotional trauma and major medical trauma. She was making sure that I realized that I have to ask for help when I need it. All people do. Brain injured or not. That no one has as crazy of expectations for me as I have for myself. So today I feel like I am going to start on a new page. I am going to start on a blank page and become the teacher I am now, not hold myself to some expectations I had of the teacher I was before. And remind myself constantly that at the end of the day whether I did the exact reading lesson I wanted or not, my students are leaving the room with a smile, hugging me, and saying they can’t wait to see me tomorrow. And because I teach Kindergarten I have already received quite a few “Mrs. Walker, you’re the best teacher ever!” And that is why I have to keep fighting, because it’s not about me, it’s about them.