COVID-19 has changed our lives. Working as a media specialist, or any type of educator, is overwhelming and stressful right now.
I rarely have insomnia. A few years ago, we moved from our home state of Texas to North Carolina. My husband didn’t have a job. I slept fine. My daughter left for college. I missed her, but didn’t miss any zzzzzzs. I started work at a new school, and then another. Still sleeping. COVID-19 popped up. I have a pretty strong immune system and rarely get sick. It was on the other side of the world, nothing for me to worry about. Even as it moved closer, I continued to sleep well. The governor closed the schools until the middle of May. I miss being around people a little, but I like working from home, too. Our son came home from college for the rest of the semester, so we were empty nesters for about a second, but that was ok. I continued to sleep well.
Until I didn’t.
Maybe I was more stressed than I realized. Maybe I needed to take a step back.
Working from home
For the most part, working from home has been fine, despite the questions from neighbors and friends. “So, I guess since you aren’t at school you can’t work? I mean, you don’t have a class or your books or anything.” I keep busy. We all do. I create and post lessons. I brought home 8 boxes of books to repair or process. I have curtains to sew to replace the ones in the media center that have been up for 20+ years. I attended some professional development and may complete my Google Certification, Level 1. I listen to audiobooks while I work, and I chug along on my to-do list. The state is still getting its money’s worth out of me.
Overwhelm has set in
To overwhelm is “to give too much of a thing to (someone); inundate”, according to Oxford. Overwhelmed is not a word I use to describe myself often. I might be busy, or tired, or have a lot on my plate, but seldom do I feel Overwhelmed. But recently I realized that maybe the reason I wasn’t sleeping had less to do with the temperature of my feet and more to do with feeling overwhelmed. Every time I open my school email, a publisher offers free ebooks. They scream in 24 pt red font, carefully centered, “Please share with your staff and students!”
Another company offering a free library of “learning materials” for a limited time. Copyright laws are relaxed so we can read to students online, but each company’s stipulations are a little different, so I have to research them for the teachers to make sure that we are compliant. And then each publisher wants an email of what we read, where, when, and how it was shared. Really? Who is reading those emails? I appreciate the generosity of those companies. I really do. But it is like the floodgates opened, and I was overwhelmed.
And can we talk about the Zoom meetings? The novelty has worn off. I had 3 scheduled yesterday. I meet with people more often now than I did in the building. I’m not sure why that is. Zoom meetings make me compare my spare bedroom’s decor to your living room. That is stressful. I gaze at what I imagine is an amazing vanilla latte in your oversized Eiffel Tower coffee mug while I hold my Coke Zero can. Besides the superficial, the meetings themselves can be stressful.. I think the companies and the hosts of the meetings intend to make things easier, but too much of a good thing? It’s just too much. My "too much" is different from your "too much," and we each need to know our limits.
How I'm dealing with the overwhelm
If I am overwhelmed, an almost-empty-nester with kids old enough to do their schoolwork by themselves and make their own meals, I can only imagine what parents with young children feel. To get myself back on track and sleeping again, I wrote down four guidelines to help me make it until we go back to school. Seriously. I wrote them down and posted them in my office/spare bedroom.
Do what you can do. That's all that you can do.
I will not skip dinner because I am looking for the perfect tech tool for my lesson. I will not stress about losing books. I will not spend days creating perfect lessons. I will not attend optional Zoom meetings if they are truly optional. I will not measure myself against another professional.
I am going to take care of myself. I will take my lunch outside and listen to the birds. I will take care of my family. I am going to eat right and exercise, and FaceTime my mother, and order groceries online. And I am sleeping again.
My students will be ok.
We will be ok.
My name is Julie Overpeck. An elementary school media specialist, mentor, presenter, middle grade book reviewer, and queen of the #libraryhack, I am a Texas girl in North Carolina with 18 years in education and 14 years of public school library experience.