It’s such a joy to watch others recognize that the moment they’re experiencing, whether it seems good or bad, positive or heavy, exhilarating or exhausting, is an important part of the creation of who they are and will become. It’s not solely, but I tend to live vicariously through others. I’ve been on medical leave since the middle of January, this year. I’m working through the frustration, the fears, the loneliness, the worry, as well as the joys, the peace, the love that comes forth when you have a health issue that people really have a hard time relating to. I’m hyper sensitive to fragrances. Some, not all. It’s manmade chemical compounds, we think, which cause me to have severe facial hives that burn, swell and itch horribly. If the exposure is dangerous enough to my body, my eyes burn, redden and swell as well, so I have to carry an Epi-pen everywhere I go, just in case my body goes into anaphylaxis. There are thousands of ingredients in fragrances, so my allergens cannot be narrowed down to be treated.
My health challenges stem from female high school students, mine, who thought it was so funny to watch me go through the stages I just mentioned. I’ve always had sensitive skin, but have been able to cope with the world quite happily without endangering myself. Also, for these students, it was great that I’d get ill enough to have to get a sub, because everyone knows that you don’t have to do any work when there’s a sub! Therefore, you don’t have any tests, or even a final! Those things can’t be expected since the “real” teacher wasn’t present. WRONG. A good teacher still creates a learning environment, which I did through my sub plans, but most students didn’t choose to participate in that particular environment.
So, three of my five classes were exposing me with increasing frequency and intensity during the first semester of this school year. I’m a FACS teacher (Family and Consumer Sciences) aka Home Ec. You know, it hasn’t been called Home Ec. for over 20 years, yet if you say that’s what you teach, everyone knows basically what you teach. Funny. Only it’s so much more now–it’s not about “homey” stuff per say, but about possible career options young people might find interesting.
My classes for the past few years have been Housing and Design, Family Living and Parenthood, and Child Development. I could NOT have gotten better classes to teach! I love these three subjects. Seriously love helping young men and young women find out stuff that may make their lives easier, better, more comfortable. Confirming stuff they’ve hopefully heard at home, or sharing unknown but VERY important information that could make a difference in their lives, now or in the future. Opening up lines of communication, providing the ability to see other versions, and maybe teaching empathy. Making them THINK about the pros and cons of spanking or hitting children, for example, as well as learning other options to use instead. Helping students understand that their environment, whether a house, condo, apartment, mobile home, basement, room, or wherever they call “Home” is important for emotional and mental health. That colors really do matter differently to each one of us. That you don’t have to have the newest and the biggest to seriously be content and happy.
I love what I teach. I’m supposedly adored by a many of my students (according to them, according to how many former students came by for daily hugs as I did hall duty, and according to my subs sharing with me.) Yet, I cannot be there, due to a few. They ruined it for all of us. And are probably really proud of themselves. Those poor children. What on earth would go through your mind, making you feel like it was okay to accost someone who is “nice and really cares” with a substance so dangerous that it could potentially kill. And how is it that no one, not one single student, would dare come forth to tell on those students. And how is it that those who supposedly cared wouldn’t step in as they saw the attacks happening to stop the perpetrators with a few words. It tells me that there’s too much fear. Don’t get involved. The payback will be so much worse, you’ll wish you’d never done it. I cannot imagine living in a world like some of my students. I step forward, at the store, when a parent is losing control with their child, and maybe provide a way of handling it. Maybe they just need a moment of support from another adult, or a second to catch their breath. I’ve interacted with children, reinforcing the caregiver’s ideas, because sometimes, even toddlers need to hear that the adult is right. I step forward to say something’s not ok or acceptable. Apparently I’m unusual. I wish I wasn’t.
If I wasn’t, I’d still be teaching the stuff I love to teach. I’d be living a normal, outgoing life, instead of a semi-hermit lifestyle. I’d be moving forward, instead of struggling day in and out, worrying as I enter the grocery store or a restaurant, wondering if there will be a dangerous exposure to a scent that smells lovely. I found out something this past weekend. A hose broke on the washer and we have to wait for the part, so we went to the Laundromat. No biggie, right? We’d dry the clothes at home. Not a favorite hangout, but I did it for years before I got a washer and dryer of my own. Guess what’s there? Lovely, clean scented clothes. Clothes detergent that caused me to get hives; burning, itching, swelling hives. It didn’t progress to my eyes or respiratory system, but ohmygoodness. I cannot go to the Laundromat. huh. I knew some detergents bother me, because I can’t go down the cleaning aisle at the grocery store. And a freshly laundered jacket belonging to one of my son’s friends caused hives when he came over to play. In my own house! I hadn’t thought about GOING to the Laundromat, and the possible danger. Now I know.
All of this is due to some 10th, 11th, and 12th grade girls “playing a joke” on a nice teacher. My life is changing. I don’t know where it’s headed, but I’m on a journey. All the moments matter and it’s very important for me to remember that happiness comes from the journey, not the destination.
Warm wishes on your journey,