Sunday, September 19, 2010

Don't Judge an Emotional Basketcase by its cover

So a student walked into class this last week and the first thing out of her mouth, before she even sat down, was this:

"Is this class gonna make me cry?! Because I'm already an emotional basketcase!"

In my mind, I'm thinking...Woah, girl...welcome to middle school, this is what we like to call dramatic overreaction.  The bell hasn't even rung yet and we're already talking about breakdown?  

It could probably be argued that this statement pretty much sums up the majority of middle school girls in any given time and place.  However, the way she threw her emotional state out there struck me as so honest.  I mean, I feel like an emotional basketcase sometimes.  For example, today I had about five time-consuming things to get turned into my supervisor, lesson plans to think about, LOTS of laundry and cleaning that's been building for some time now, no groceries in my house, and job applications looming.  I could go on, but it would start to get ridiculous. Just typing that list makes me hyperventilate a little bit.  These are not large or daunting tasks.  It's simply that the pile-up of mundane things in life can make anyone into an emotional basketcase.

I'm sure the things in this eighth grade girl's life might seem mundane too, if she listed them out like I just did.  But they're big things to her.  Just like my things are big things to me.  That's really all that matters when we start to feel overwhelmed by life.  It's easy to dig yourself into an even deeper hole once this happens.  So, from this dramatic outburst I gained two pieces of wisdom.  First, being an emotional basketcase happens.  Just get out of it one step at a time.  When I started to feel like there was no way I was going to finish everything, I just picked the easiest task on my to-do list, and I did it.  Then I went to the next and the next.  Blogging was somewhere in the middle of my list, so I am no longer an emotional, overwhelmed basketcase at this point.  I'm getting closer to the end of the list and much less overwhelmed.

As a teacher, I learned something else too.  Don't judge an emotional basketcase by its cover.  While my things are small things that snowballed into one big thing, some kids have one BIG thing.  and it's eating them from the inside out.  I still don't know exactly why this girl was an emotional basketcase on this particular day, but I respect that maybe her thing is a big thing, like divorce or the loss of a best friend.  I don't want my class to make anyone cry, but I do want it to be a place where kids feel like they can work it out.  One step at a time.  Sometimes that's all it takes.

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