01 February 2017

Way too much stress (Day one as lead teacher solo)

Might be selfish to say I'm going solo when the school's principal is jumping in as a so-called assistant in my class ever since my colleague resigned. But not knowing how long your superior is going to be 'assisting' in your class can most of the time just creep you out.
Day one and I already had pain in my abdomen for ten hours straight.

Not sure if it was the stress but I didn't feel comfortable working like that. I mean consider all this:

  • my boss 'assisting', which is cool, but that means she's also observing and watching every single decision I make and every single step I take
  • Then she takes all that observation, puts it in a pot, heat it on a stove, give it a taste, and if it doesn't taste good, she pours it all over my face asking me if I know what that just tastes like (well at least that's how it feels but maybe I'm just too sensitive)
  • she's superficially nice but it gives off warning signs... like one moment she's your bestfriend and the next she's calling you out on your bullshit. I will not entertain this anymore. She needs to learn my personal boundaries.
  • One moment she talks about organisation, structure and rules but the next moment I realize we're running out of laundry detergent for the laundry room and ended up not having enough clean towels for the school
  • Things that must be prioritized are superficial things like preparing ourselves shitless for the school's first anniversary just to celebrate it with all the parents for one hour (?!)
  • .... while here I am trying to understand why she would neither allow me to buy a simple thermometer for our classroom nor to request tall cupboards to be secured into the walls because there is a danger that they might collapse hence causing injuries.
  • when she is there the little children start crying (and I get the shit storm because apparently I 'spoil' them if I don't discipline them not to cry when strange people they don't know well are in the room)... I mean toddlers are supposed to just pull themselves together and snap out of it, I guess, coz rules are rules. Sure, I can live with that. But if they end up as beaten up as I am inside then we know why.
  • She keeps asking me if I'm okay. And right now I figured it out. When she does that, she thinks I'm not okay.
  • She keeps asking if I need help. And right now I also figured that out. When she does that, she thinks and believes that I really, really need help. I say yes I need help, then she's gonna say I chose to make things complicated. If I said I don't need help, then she's going to say I should ask for help because it's not good to 'work under stress'
  • When she talks so much and I listen, she gets a little annoyed and keeps asking me if I get it. And if I say "Yes", that's not good enough. It has to be Yes, bla bla bla... This constant hunger for input is enormous.
This lady is not only creeping me out. I find her confusing, contradicting and cunning like a fox. Her skills in achieving her ends.... astronomical.

My main priority now is to get her off my back even if that means I have to put every other task away. I'm gravely annoyed by her constant asking and talking. I'm an introvert and that thing just makes me space out and my mind go blank. I need people to leave me alone and people to not come at me with ideas like a bulldozer full of rocks and sand. That's just how it feels. But it's unbelievably hard to explain why and I don't even see the point in explaining why. I see the point however in setting a boundary. A boundary clear enough for her to know: "Look, you don't have to talk too much. I KNOW what you mean. What part of YES I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN do you not grasp and understand?"

It makes me feel stupid and unprepared.
Overwhelmed and pretty much like a punching bag.

Some things I wish she would consider when interacting with me (her subordinate):

  • Being attentive towards others and being VERY clear about her own intentions. Stop asking me "Do you know what I mean?" and start talking to me like: "I'm sorry to interrupt. I can't help but realize that you seemed a bit overwhelmed. I wanted to ask if that's the case. And if so, I have some ideas that could help. Would you like to hear them when you're done with (insert whatever she just interrupted me with)?")
    I can't stand hints. I can't stand beatings around bushes. It's just really annoying. It's like that feeling you get when trying to catch a chicken.
  • Treat me the way she should honestly treat me as a colleague and not be on a casual basis as though we're friends. We are not friends, my dear. As much as we see each other five times a week. And I don't care what position a person has. Mutual respect is the only way we can work together merely at the lowest of the low.
  • She needs to stop coming to me in the middle of whatever I am doing and trying to talk ideas into my head while I try to put a toddler to sleep for example. Seriously. Can it wait until we are outside? Can I grab a pen and paper first? Can we sit down? Can I have a sip of water first? Breathe? Can it wait? My God, it's annoying.
  • She needs to know that I know she is observing me. She needs to know that I know she is demanding of me. And she needs to know that I know she wants every single aspect of our work to be carved and filed down to flawless perfection. I am a perfectionist but I am not obsessed with rules. I am a perfectionist but I am able to prioritise. I am a perfectionist but I accept things the way they are if that is the best they can be. And I am a perfectionist and that is why I come first.
  • She needs to know that I work on the principle of mutual respect, appreciation, tolerance and understanding. All the things that growing up in Singapore has taught me. And all the things that make me a proud Singaporean. I was born and I grew up in a country that has pressured me, punished me, destroyed me, nurtured me to the personality I am today. And there is nothing that can change that. So I really want to accept her the way she is, and in return demand that she accepts me for who I am. And we work our teamwork around that.
  • She needs to stop intruding into my work and lesson plans. She needs to let things happen and let things be. It is easier for me to deal with a mistake I made and to learn in that way, than to have someone handling me all the time like a doll. Because if I have questions, I will ask. If no, then no. It still makes me wonder how people are so irritated by my quiet nature. Doesn't mean something is wrong with me if I don't say anything. I think I have to clear this up in my team. People just go crazy if I don't small talk, complain or start some kind of conflict.
  • She needs to stop breaking my personal bubble and come to close to me. Ugh.
Okay now I think I got most of my frustration out from today and I can peacefully go to sleep. Still can't believe we are celebrating our school's first anniversary, because as far as preparations go, I am being quite apathetic about it. I just don't see it as important right now.

My colleague just left and I have to take over the role of group lead now. Our classroom dynamics just got thrown out of proportion because a long-loved teacher is no longer present and we have to set new rules, start afresh. I regret the fact that that colleague was too good for our team, because when someone is leading, everyone else does nothing but follow. But without a leader, you learn to survive the hard way. So for every loss there is a lottery. For someone else somewhere.

What's important right now is keeping the teachers that are left, whose energy hangs by a thread, onboard. What's important right now is to make our daily routines, daily transitions and daily tasks function in school with a clear set of rules and regulations for all teachers, parents and children to follow.
What's important right now is to set clear boundaries when it comes to breaking these rules.
What's important right now is to make sure that I learn the tools of the trade as quickly as possible so that I can reduce my stress.

So help me Courage.

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