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I am a Center College Instructor, How I Tame My 'Sunday Scaries'

January 22, 2024
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Tonight my husband noticed, and commented on, how good of a mood I am in. Not that I’m not usually a ray of sunshine, but my time to shine typically isn’t a Sunday night. Sunday Scaries. Sunday Shivers. Sunday Shutdown. Whatever you call it, it’s legit.

But this Sunday, I guess I am exuding a vibe of Sunday Sweetness. And I realized why. There is no school tomorrow. As a teacher, and mom of two teenage boys, school is pretty much the driving force in our life. And having a day off has given us an atypical Sunday night of stressless bliss.

And that made me feel some big things.

I love being a teacher but it’s stressful

I love teaching. I love my students. I love the dream of what school can be. And at the same time, it is more stressful than I have ever known it to be.

Maybe it’s the afterrmath of the way COVID placed a deep crack in the foundation of teaching and learning as we all knew it. Blank zoom screens that haunt all of our dreams. The lost years of social and academic connectedness that are so critical in building structures and strategies in school communities. Trying to rebuild it all, and knowing my kids are out there doing the same.

I think about my career choice a lot. It always amazes me that I opted to re-enter the doors of middle school-a place where I spent some of the worst years of my life. Years that made every day a test of resilience and courage; that bent me to a point of almost breaking. Years that most people would run in the complete opposite direction of they ever were given the choice.

Stepping into Sunday is stressful. (Photo Credit: Amy Keyes)

Teaching middle school has exhausted me

Teaching middle school has accelerated the rate of gray hair growth on my head, given me a skin thicker than a Komodo Dragon, and has exhausted me to a level of tiredness I’ve never known. And while I embrace it with my whole heart, I know that “School Year Amy” is definitely not the same person as “Summer Amy.”

So when I think about how overwhelmed I sometimes feel as a teacher, it gives me a great pause to step into the Sunday night of kids. Mine and everyone else’s.

I watch my own high schoolers, week after week, shouldering the weight of the world that is school. Trying to manage it all- the work, the tests, sports and clubs, the social rollercoaster that at times, can overtake any ability to concentrate on anything else. And I see their bodies crumble as they walk in the door- letting go of the frustration of coming home from an entire day of working so hard to tune in to what they are supposed to, and tune out the rest.

And they breathe. But only for a second.

After a stressful day at school there is more to be done

Because, they aren’t even close to done. There’s more sports, chores, siblings to contend with, homework to do, and whatever other personal secrets they have locked away to navigate as the night progresses.

No wonder everyone is exhausted.

Friday nights feel like a big exhale out. And Sundays feel like we are all gasping for the air we need to do it all again. And that is a hard truth to unpack.

I know what Mondays bring for all of us. The stress of the cycle restarting. Everyone bearing backpacks of things that can never fully be unloaded over a quick weekend-sometimes even a lifetime. An unbalanced scale of emotion and overwhelm that only tips back to equilibrium in the summer sunshine of June. And, only for a little while. And, really, not even for everybody.

I wish Sundays could feel more like the rest of the week

Sundays feel like the end piece of bread in the package. The one that you know will never really hold together the whole sandwich that you are trying to make, but you have to use it anyway. Trying to build enough foundation to hold it all together, but knowing that the heart of it is all going to fall out again when you take your first bite.

And I wish Sundays could feel more like the rest of it. Just another part that adds up to the whole.

I keep trying to put my finger on why it isn’t that way-why the load can’t feel more balanced. Dispersed in a different way. I know that school will always carry some sort of weight on the shoulders, but I can’t understand why that weight has to be so heavy.

I guess, for now, I will continue to try and unpack what I can from those backpacks, and hope that someday, Sundays will just feel like another day rather than something bigger.

More Great Reading:

Dear Graduates, Your Middle School Teacher Remembers You

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