I know that someday you'll find better things.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Imagine my surprise when Mia’s preschool teacher pulled me aside at pickup time to conference about some concerns. The words “conference” and “concerns” seemed so schooly and official—not really what I’d expected from a child care center, even if “Learning” was in its title.

“Is there something going on at home?” the teacher asked. I was immediately grateful for her gentle, quiet tone. I was also completely flummoxed by the question.

I’d been the teacher who’d asked that question before, usually when a student was having violent or emotional outbursts, or clawing at his or her paper with a pencil, making deep gashes in the notebook.

“Um,” I replied, still so puzzled by the question that I wasn’t even self-conscious about my inability to be articulate. “Uh… hmm…” I stalled. “Well. Ah, hmmm. I can’t really…um…think of anything,” I stammered. Jeez, this was becoming painful.

“You see, Mia has always had such a joyful spirit. She’s always brought such a happy energy and enthusiasm to our class.”

Where on earth was this going, I wondered.

“For the last three weeks or so, she hasn’t smiled. She hasn’t really wanted to play with the other kids, either. Have you noticed this at home, too?”

I had not noticed this at home.
I hadn’t noticed anything at home.
My ears filled with what could only be the sound of my soul shattering.

I was so stressed out from that situation at school—from trying to document accommodations and adapt lessons and create visual aids and reinforcements and research the best ways to reach “twice-identified” special ed gifted learners (while still meeting the needs of the other 80 kids) that I hadn’t interacted with the family in…

…at least three weeks. Probably more, to be completely honest.

The only time that I ever really saw them was at the dinner table, which I routinely had to excuse myself from due to spontaneously bursting into tears if my mind had wandered toward all the additional work that the evening would entail.

Until that point, I hadn’t really thought about how my stress was impacting the family. I knew it was hurting me—I was hardly eating or sleeping, and the gripping panic attacks were definitely taking their toll on my health—but I was so consumed by the situation that I didn’t even consider the ways it might be affecting my family.

This could not continue. I knew I had to make some serious changes as soon as possible.

I’ll always be grateful to that preschool teacher for giving me the wake-up call I so desperately needed. If she’d been the kind of person who only took action for the big things—violent or emotional outbursts, paper clawing—who knows how long and how far things might’ve spiraled out of control?

We are definitely on the road to recovery. The proof is in Mia’s smile as she skips out of kindergarten at the end of the school day. And because I’m a stay-at-home-mom now, I get to be right there to see and appreciate that joyful spirit that I’d previously only heard about.


  1. I’m so happy to hear about your road to recovery. Teaching can be grueling and heart wrenching on a family.

    I recently resigned from teaching because I couldn't handle it anymore. I loved it, but it was destroying me. You can read about here → http://pursuingcontext.com/blog/2013/9/and-i-walk-away-or-how-i-decided-to-quit-teaching

    Thanks for being open and sharing this. It gives me hope.