PTSD: Perfectionist Teacher Stress Disorder.

All my life, I’ve been a perfectionist. When I was about five-years-old, I had to see a doctor because I was getting these headaches at school. While talking with the doctor, he asked if we could play a game; we tossed a ball back and forth, and every time I dropped it, I apologized profusely.

Every. Single. Time.

He said I didn’t need to apologize, it was okay, it was just a game — yet I still said I was sorry for dropping the ball (literally and figuratively).

As I got older and started getting homework, I wanted to make sure my homework was completed to the fullest. As soon as I got off the bus and into the house, I was at the kitchen table doing my homework, because that was the responsible thing to do. My parents would help me with my homework when I needed assistance, but my dad would always help me with math. Now, you should know that math was my LEAST favorite subject in school as a child, and that’s saying a lot because I LOVED every little thing about school. Math was hard for me, and my dad would help me but never just give me the answers. In hindsight, this, in my opinion, is best parenting practice, but it wasn’t a favorable choice when my eight-year-old self was lying in bed with tears in her eyes because her homework was incomplete.

Y’all, I can’t tell you how many devotionals my dad and I did during our evening prayer time that revolved around Matthew 6:25-34.

My strong perfectionist preference dates back to childhood and continues today into my young adulthood, which is both a blessing and a curse.

Blessing: I LOVE my job. I do my job, and I do it extremely well. I am thorough in my planning, and I pour hours of my days after school making sure everything is ready and high quality for my kids. I adjust instruction based on student needs, I analyze student data to inform my instruction, I’m very particular about formatting my anchor charts and SmartBoard files, and ultimately, I just care a great deal about my job. Teaching is more than just a job to me, and I take every ounce of this profession to heart. Those children are my top priority, and I will do everything in my power to give them the best dang instruction I possibly can, all while getting to know each one of them individually throughout the process.

Curse: I LOVE my job (yep, curse, too!). I love my job so much that it’s part of my every thread of life. I don’t think this is necessarily always a curse, but when I’m doing so little in my personal life to counteract the work part of my life, then it can be worrisome. Because I care so much about these kids and the instruction I deliver, I have a very hard time turning my brain off from school-related things. It’s *very* hard for me to go to bed at night knowing something didn’t get finished or isn’t ready for the next day (sounds a little reminiscent of a few paragraphs ago, doesn’t it?).

Many days, I don’t mind that I work as much as I do — I love that God put this passion in my heart to educate, and I’m so blessed to know that this is the calling He has for me (this is a manifestation of His Spirit — how humbling and exhilarating!); despite this, it can still be discouraging at times when I step back and see a to-do list that seems never-ending, like there’s no slowing down in sight.

After talking with my dad about this earlier in the week, I realized something. I realized that maybe, just maybe, God knows what He’s doing better than I do, and that MAYBE I’m working like I am because I’m able to work like this in this season of my life. I’m young and single and still learning about how to be a great teacher, and I have nothing but this passion driving me. Maybe, just maybe, it’s okay that I’m working so hard, so long as I’m not making teaching my idol. I know I’m working for a greater good, for God’s glory (Colossians 3:24-25), but the importance of my personal health should still be a priority. I’m looking for equilibrium between loving my work and doing personal things that make me happy, like write or read or play music. My course of action?

  • I need to set boundaries on school time and me time. I need to pause and understand that if everything doesn’t get done, it isn’t the end of the world, and it’s okay to have fun when it’s a school night.
  • I’m finding more things that I don’t HAVE to do and I’m delegating that work to my TA, which I think will end up being really helpful. I showed him how I format my SmartBoards, and he’s going to try to make those on Tuesday’s teacher workday, copying and pasting from my plans.

I also have realized that finding balance is not easy, especially when you love what you do. The professors I had in the School of Education always would tell us that it was most important to take care of ourselves so we don’t burn out, but that’s SO much easier said than done. I am very cognizant of the fact that I need to keep my mental/physical/emotional health stable, but more often than not, if I have to choose between finishing a school-related activity or doing something for myself like play guitar, I almost ALWAYS choose the school-related activity.

Essentially, I’m still working on this whole professional/personal life balance, and sometimes I wonder if teachers are ever truly able to achieve that.

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2 thoughts on “PTSD: Perfectionist Teacher Stress Disorder.

  1. Challenge Accepted | From One Teacher To Another

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