A few days ago I posted about an incident that had me
dwelling pondering on my autism. The rest of this week could easily have been another example of things that on some level help to remind me that I’m not actually abnormal… well, I am abnormal, but only because I’m not neurotypical. But I’m not abnormal aside from my well defined abnormality.
It’s confusing, I know.
I feel like this week’s DSF Rewind should be some variation of Alice in Wonderland, though, perhaps not the Johnny Depp version.
Not sure quite where he went off the rails, as they say, but his work has become more and more disturbingly inane, and even a tad bit insane if you ask me. He’s gone way off the rails!
Back to the point, though: this past week was STAAR retesting week.
For those of you not in or from Texas, the STAAR test is the state test that determines whether or not a student is ready for college.
Or that’s what they say it is for… really it is some politician’s way of saying that teachers aren’t doing their job properly so they can find reasons not to give schools the necessary funds to keep good teachers and to buy necessary supplies.
Instead of being a way to help the students to be college ready, it has become a “gotcha” for teachers. Teachers are judged based on their students’ scores, and their lesson plans are scrupulously monitored; they are subjected to random observations and asked to provide explanations about why they are doing certain activities.
And to someone coming from basically any other field, that seems like the right way to do things. Manufacturing plants undergo random safety inspections and there are quality control personnel to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
Those sort of things work when the product you’re putting out is meant to be identical, but no child will ever be truly identical to another. Not even twins or triplets or any other number of multiple births. Even with identical DNA, those children will have different personalities, different strengths or weaknesses, different interests, and different memories based on all of those differences.
In short: Education cannot be run like an assembly line.
And while educators know this, the politicians who get to determine our salary and whether or not we’re valuable as teachers do not. In fact, they find such arguments as proof of a teacher who isn’t doing their job. They would tell you that anyone who says such a thing is trying to find an excuse as to why they are unsuccessful.
I would tell you that’s true to a point. I am trying to explain why I’m not always successful, when I know that I have been successful in the past, when I was allowed to do things my own way without having to explain, in detail, every aspect of every minute of my day.
So it is an excuse, but it is more than that: it is an attempt at a logical explanation as to why lawyers and politicians aren’t capable of making educational curriculum. I would never try to tell a lawyer how to mount a defense, or tell a politician which tax laws are valid or not valid. Those people went through tons of training or experience to learn how to do what they do. So do teachers, but because they are treated like garbage, we lose the good ones. The average span of a teaching career is something like 10 years, with most new teachers barely making it to 5 years before they quit.
Because of crappy policies and ridiculous state testing like the STAAR test.
End of rant.
Because of a slight slip up the week prior, I had not signed the necessary paperwork to give a test. Also, I had a class during the first period of the day. As such, I was babysitting the same class for three days straight. No lunch break, no conference period, no bathroom break. Is that legal? Technically no. I’m sure some government agency would have a fit about it if I were anything other than a teacher, but it was necessary to ensure that students had the appropriate testing environment to pass the tests that were being given.
So, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I was with the same students. All. Day. Long.
Not allowed to watch movies (though some of them did on their own electronic devices). Not allowed to let them go anywhere lest they disturb a testing room. Not allowed to even let them have lunch with their friends.
You can imagine the noise level by the end of the day. I tried to write a little to keep myself occupied on something other than the noise. Which would have worked, except the room we were in had no heat… except for a small space heater under the teacher’s desk, meaning the kids (and the noise) were crowded nearby.
And so, I was stuck in that room for three days with the same students with basically nothing to do (it’s almost impossible to get them to do work under such conditions), and only moved from that spot when I had to walk with them to the cafeteria to pick up their lunch and then to walk them back to the room.
Yes, they even had lunch, at their desks, in the same frozen room.
Then Thursday and Friday, they had me set up to watch 5 classes as they rotated through their day. Just me and one other adult. A sub who really didn’t care whether the kids stayed in the room, or if other kids came in. So long as they were quiet and not disruptive.
But 5 classes worth of kids in one room (albeit a large room) cannot be quiet.
By the end of the day Thursday, I was about to snap. 4 days without a break (though I finally got a lunch break on Thursday) was too much. I even had to be careful not to snap at my roommate’s kiddo because he couldn’t understand why I needed to be in a room with absolute silence and why, though I’m normally very interested in his dragon game, I could not even feign interest in it.
The result has been that I’ve been absolutely useless all weekend, trying to recuperate. I”m sure there are neurotypical people who do the same, but even though I had lots planned for this weekend, I couldn’t even function to even take a shower until this morning. For me, it’s not a matter of not wanting to do something, or even a case of depression (though most people assume that). It’s a matter of trying to recharge my social tank because it’s been stressed to the point that on more than one occasion I was ready to blow.
A student asked me if I had snacks, and I yelled at her. For one thing, it has been the first thing she has said to me the last 8 times she’s seen me; that’s rude. For another, my social tank was so depleted, I was incapable of tact.
The only thing I’ve accomplished this weekend (and I’m not quite finished) is to do my laundry. I’ve still got to swap the loads one more time, but then everything (except what I’m currently wearing) will be clean.
Not sure if I have the energy yet to put it away, but it will be clean. That’s something.
It does bring me back to that article I linked to in the last post…
This little bit is the part that I really connected with:
Lesser known are its effects on executive functioning(EF) — which can be defined as a transit map in our brains that tell us how to plan and organize, keep track of time, and remember information in the moment. Slow EF can bubble into missed appointments, lack of planning ahead, or getting so fervently draw n into the matter at hand that remembering to do basic tasks like washing the dishes fall by the wayside.
I am reminded of a few times in college where I was so overwhelmed with trying to just do basic things that I would quit going to school for a few days. Or contrarily, I’d go to school but not be able to clean my house. And when the time came to clean (usually because I’d completely run out of dishes or places to put the dirty ones), I’d be at a total loss as to where to begin. Sometimes, I would need someone to just sit with me and help me stay focused on one room or task at a time. I didn’t always need them to actually clean anything, just be there so I didn’t start panicking and get so overwhelmed that I just looked past the mess.
That is a thing I can do: look past the mess. I don’t even see it because it’s not important to the task at hand… whatever that is at the time. I mean, of course I physically see it, but it doesn’t process as a thing that needs to be taken care of. My friend the Olde Man used to tell me it was a side effect of my depression… because that was what made the most sense to him. He knew that sometimes when I got overwhelmed, I would retreat into an imaginary world in my head and just exist in bed (kind of like I have this weekend) and not do anything except eat, go to the bathroom, and occasionally watch a movie or read.
I know now it wasn’t depression. Or if it was, it was a comorbid condition. Like this weekend, I didn’t feel down or empty like most people who are depressed. I just didn’t have the energy or the want to go and do anything. I didn’t have the energy to face people, and even the times that someone delivered something to the house (Christmas presents from Amazon, and take out), I didn’t really want to speak to them, or interact overly much.
I just needed absolute me time.
And that’s okay.
Anyway. That was my week. I did also buy me a new phone, so if you haven’t heard from me, and you usually do, that may be why. It has more memory, but I didn’t think to swap over all my contacts.
And in other news, there are a few guys I’m talking to. New phone with more memory means I was able to redownload things like Bumble and Tinder. Plus (and I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet), Mr. Second Chance looked me up on Facebook to try for a third chance. I still don’t really trust him, and I don’t know what it is he’s truly looking for, but he says it’s something real. I’ll give him the chance to prove it to me. Especially since last time I was the one who kind of messed it up… though I don’t know if he remembers that.
Hope things are less chaotic in your world! And see you around the Rewind!!
#DSFWeeklyRewind is a weekly linkup for Twitterites and other bloggers who want to share their week, perhaps with a dash of creativity, and some gratitude. Join us! And invite your friends! It is hosted by Tara over at Daily Smiley Face.