The black fog arrived early this year. In years past, it had begun swirling above my head some time in May. But here it was, a month before Spring Break, and it was already hovering over me with its tendrils reaching menacingly toward my skull. In but a few moments, it had invaded my brain, darkened my heart, and smothered my soul.

It was only February.

Anxiety awoke me nightly and filled me with self-doubt, worry, and fear. Adrenaline coursed through my bloodstream, jolting every single cell from its slumber. My pulse raced and despair left me exhausted and sweating despite the fact that I was rendered motionless, unable to flee.

Every thought in my head was about school:

“These kids aren’t even close to where they should be at this time of the year.”

“Nothing seems to motivate my fifth hour.”

“Have I lost my touch?”

“I’m getting nowhere with my lessons.”

“I spend all of my time with discipline.”

“Another meeting?”

“I have no clue what I’m going to do in the morning.”

“The state test is coming in two months!”

“What will the data say about my students?

“What will it say about me?”

Two hours passed before I finally fell asleep. Two minutes passed, and the alarm clock announced the start of another day.

Fatigue followed me through each day in my classroom, and the fog clouded my vision of who my children were and of what I wanted them to learn. Desperately, I continued trying to be my best so that they could be their best. But I was tired and downhearted.

Before I knew it, another sleepless night was upon me.

Early one morning, I dragged myself into the copy room. A younger teacher was already there printing volumes of worksheets. I placed my quiz on the other machine and pressed the start button.

My colleague asked for advice on how she should work with one of her disruptive boys. Having once been a principal, I muttered a few words of wisdom and wondered if the suggestions I offered would even work with my own kids.

She thanked me and then caught me off-guard with her next comment. “You know,” she began, “you really inspire me.”

I chuckled, weakly.

“No, I mean it,” she said. “You are my inspiration. My students are so far behind this year. I feel like I spend all my time correcting their behavior. I can’t even teach! And testing is coming! I worry so much that now I can barely even sleep at night.”

I started to object, but she cut me off. “You’ve been a teacher for a long time. You have so many great ideas. You always seem so positive and willing to help. You love your kids and they love you. I strive to be like you. You are such an inspiration to me.”

My quizzes were ready and warm, and I collected them from the copier. I shoved them into my messenger bag. A bit embarrassed, yet humbled, I thanked my fellow teacher, wished her a good day, and headed for my classroom.

I physically felt the black fog release its hold upon my soul and saw it intermingle with the still-dark morning sky. I felt inspired myself, recharged, and ready to give this thing called school yet another chance.

And that evening (after I graded the quizzes), I fell asleep – and stayed asleep – until the morning arrived.

Copyright, Tim Ramsey, 2018.

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