Do you ever wake up and just want to throw in the towel? I had a day like that yesterday. I couldn’t bring myself to read the first section of the New York Times. I fled for safety in the Science section (a favorite of mine); and while I gained some strength from reading that “Cataract Surgery May Prolong Your Life,” I ran screaming from articles about how “Air Pollution May Harm Babies Even Before they are Born” and “The Scallop Sees with Space-Age Eyes.” I guess I didn’t want to think about eating shellfish that could see their human predators. Let’s not even talk consider the story about ice melting in Greenland. The day was off to a bad start even before I finished my coffee.
So, how do we cope with the barrage of bad news that can assault us daily? How do we process stories about dubious tax reform, sexual harassment, nuclear threats, concealed weapons, massacres of innocent people in public places, discrimination, the loss of public lands, the assault on immigrants, and the ongoing devaluation of public education? Hey, our members of congress have even proposed to eliminate the small deduction educators can take for classroom supplies purchased out of their own pockets! And I could go on, but I will spare you since I am sure you have had days like mine.
I recognize that I am now a retired educator, and I have more time to obsess about these issues. I would be compelled to put them in some better perspective if I still had to address all my classroom and administrative responsibilities. Working educators do not have my advantages. So, since I have the time, I have started to think more about how to stay sane in this world of daily offenses. Here are some of the strategies I use, and perhaps they could help you cope too. I resolve to:
- Control the impact of troubling news by establishing a pattern for reading newspapers. I often start reading a section I find appealing—arts, science, food—and then work my way into the harder news by hitting the editorial section next. I read my favorite columnists, the editorial statements, and features that catch my attention. Once I am inoculated with some good writing by trusted authors, I move to the first section and tackle the headlines. I admit that I might reverse the process if some critical event has occurred.
- Visit my favorite social media platforms to see what is cooking on Facebook, Twitter, and my favorite blogs. Because I signed on to these feeds that interest me, I often find they are places to connect with people and issues I find compelling.
- Sign off social media before getting ready for bed. Hey, do we really need all that chatter echoing in our heads when we try to go to sleep? I find myself waking up in the middle of the night with the troubling news interfering with a night’s sleep. Twitter before bed doesn’t help.
- Avoid trolls on line. I enjoy reading Twitter and Facebook postings by people I respect, including political leaders, but I do not interact with the trolls on their feeds. I think there are better uses of my time than confronting haters on line who use the cover of distance and anonymity to spew venom. I try to remember that some of these trolls could be fakes, bots created to disrupt. I am not going to change a troll’s mind. I believe there is a time and place to call out the haters and to try to reason with those who can reason, but social media may not be the best venue.
- Do something concrete each day to address troubling issues. Again, I recognize that this is much easier for a retired person to accomplish. Still, even a busy working person with family responsibilities might find that it doesn’t take long to Tweet, post a comment on Facebook, send an email, make one phone call, or use Resistbot to send a fax to a legislator. Even taking action only once or twice a week can make us feel more in control.
- Remain professionally active. I like to stay connected with other educators. Professional organizations like NCTE, NJCTE, NJEA, and CEL can give us the means to interact with colleagues who care about their work. Remember to write. Keeping a journal helps us reflect. Write for publication. Contribute to professional journals, newsletters, and blogs (WRITE FOR THE NJCTE BLOG!). Draw strength from your caring network of like-minded professionals.
- Exercise to beat the stress. I know, it is easier said than done when you are working full time and have family responsibilities. But it truly helps to reduce stress if you do something you enjoy—walking, yoga, jogging, exercise classes, dancing, whatever appeals to you and fits your schedule.
- Continue to have fun. I think we all benefit from taking little family excursions, meeting friends , watching a favorite TV program, carving out time for pleasure reading, pursuing hobbies, meditating, whatever works.
So the next time you are ready to throw in the towel, take a little time to think about some options to keep you focused and happy. Don’t give up!
Written by Pat Schall, NJCTE Board Member
Posted by Audrey Fisch, blog editor for NJCTE
New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English