In which I need to make “tired” a category

I am a vile, achy mess today, and I don’t know what I did to deserve it. Last night was all stress dreams, and I woke up with a headache; all day I’ve been having to remind myself to relax my jaw. Other than … y’know … all this (waves vaguely) I don’t have anything in particular to be stressed about, like, nothing’s happened, and there’s no reason for me to be trying to break my damn teeth.

There was about a 10-minute break after the word happened just then, where I just sort of stared off into space, not doing anything.

I would like my shots now. I have to get out of this house. Fucking Indiana.

In which that’s a new one

Periodically I’ll let my students work on a site called Quizizz. There are three Zs in Quizizz and I think I have them arranged correctly but I can never be sure; I think they change it from time to time. Quizizz is one of those sites where it’s best used with an entire class at once, but doing it asynchronously works just fine as well; the students are asked questions and provided four answers, and points are awarded based on 1) whether the answer was correct and 2) how quickly the answer was provided. You can also set the quizzes so that the kids can take them as many times as they want, which is fun for the more competitive ones. I typically will take it once and offer a small number of extra credit points to anyone who can beat my score, which is definitely a thing that happens, especially if I fuck up and actually miss one.

Quizizz also allows the kids to customize how their names are displayed, which sounds like it’s an opening for XxXMelvinThaRaper420XxX (Melvin does not know how “rapper” is spelled) to show up on your list of students, but they either have robust blocklists in place or my students have been displaying a rare level of self-restraint, because I can only think of a couple of times where it hasn’t been immediately clear who a kid was, and they’ve never used anything even remotely inappropriate. Usually they just use shortened versions of their first names and their real last names and it’s not a problem.

Until the last couple, when “Adam Thompson” showed up. I don’t have an Adam Thompson. I also don’t have an Adam or a Thompson. Adam was getting good scores, too, which made it weird that when I was posting announcements to our classroom stream asking who the hell he was, he wasn’t outing himself– after all, if I don’t know who you are, I can hardly put your attempts at Quizizzery into my gradebook, now, can I?

And yet.

Well, today I got a bug up my ass about it for some reason and I mentioned Adam in every single class I had and my instructional video. And I got this email just after school let out today:

And … well. I should have guessed; it’s my student with selective mutism. I haven’t updated y’all on her in quite a while; as you can tell, she’s perfectly willing and able to communicate in writing, which means that teaching her during a pandemic isn’t really all that different from teaching any of my other students. This is another manifestation of her social anxiety, though, and it’s a new one; she wasn’t doing this earlier in the year. I told her that now that I know who Adam is I’m okay with her continuing to use that name on future assignments if she likes; I see no reason not to allow it, and now that I know who Adam is there’s also no reason to mention that name again in class either.

I did have a trans boy in my class last year who let me know that he wanted to be called Ryan partway through the school year, and I’m intrigued that she (my current student, not my trans student) chose a boy’s name, but I don’t think this is a deadname sort of situation– it’s a pseudonym for her assignments, more or less the exact same thing as me using Luther Siler, which isn’t my name, for my books. That said, it is another knock-on effect for the same social anxieties that have led to her not having said a word since she was in 5th grade, so I’m going back and forth on whether I should pass this up the chain and let the counselor or the psychologist know. I know the last time I mentioned her one or two of you had previous experience with kids who didn’t talk, so if anyone has any suggestions I wouldn’t mind hearing them. I don’t think she’s in danger or anything like that, I’m just trying to decide if this is something that should be alarming at all. I’m leaning toward no, but I’m not done thinking about it yet.

In which I require psychiatric help

I am going to be continuing to work from home for the foreseeable future. New Covid cases in Indiana and in my county have skyrocketed since our school board made the decision to return to school, (scroll down and select the state) and I don’t actually expect the kids to be back for very long, but I am going to keep teaching from my house, and I’m currently working out exactly how that’s going to work with my various and sundry co-workers who are affected by this decision.

Now, this is not the reason that I’m working from home, but as this whole thing drags on it’s becoming more and more of a problem: masks give me panic attacks, and nothing I’ve been able to do has been able to fix that. Furthermore, none of the masks I’ve found have really made much of a difference, although some are better in some ways than others. Now, to be completely clear: this absolutely does not affect whether I wear a mask in public! I’m just fucking freaking out while I’m doing it. If I’m outside my house and not in the car, I’m wearing a mask, and I’ve noticed that if I’m talking to people it’s generally not bad, so it might be that an eight-hour day where I’m constantly talking to students might not be as bad as I think it is. But I had to go into my building twice today (don’t ask) and I discovered a new wrinkle to this whole thing: even the mildest physical activity makes it a lot worse. Like, say, climbing stairs to get to my classroom. Both times I went upstairs today– a single flight, mind you– I was damn near ready to claw my face off by the time I got to my classroom. I start focusing on my breathing, which leads to heavier breathing, which quickly turns into a really nasty spiral that I don’t like at all.

This is not a call for excuses to avoid wearing masks (and, for the record, my issues with them date to well before Covid-19 was an issue,) it’s a call for strategies for dealing with panic attacks. I’m already on Effexor for anxiety issues, which I continue to think is a lifesaver, but I’m not going to up my dose just because of mask issues, and I’m not convinced that would help anyway. I need, like, concrete strategies for how to trick my brain out of falling into a panic spiral every time I start thinking about my breathing. Because one way or another this is going to keep being a thing for a while, and I need a way to deal with it. Anybody have any suggestions?

In which this is never going to stop

Had a full-blown Teacher Anxiety Dream last night, where I was in my first Chicago classroom in my first post-certification job, and I decided midway through class that I needed to quit. Only somehow I was also still working in my current district, only at a different school, and I was very concerned that everyone understood that I was quitting only the Chicago job and not the Indiana job, because the Indiana job was better.

And then, because I was quitting, I had to talk to the assistant principal about it, only it was my current assistant principal, which in the weird awareness of dreams I knew wasn’t quite right but couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t right. And she brought me downstairs, carrying the few possessions I’d decided I was taking with me, and then I realized that the building had been extensively renovated on the bottom floor, somehow looking like yet another middle school, one I’ve never actually worked in, but hugely ornate and gorgeous inside the rooms.

I’m pretty sure I actually woke up and fell asleep at least once during the dream, too, and went right back into it.

Stupid brain.

Last night’s anxiety dream

Sunday night’s dream was that I was late to a concert and then when I got there I was the only person in a mask, plus a nice little dab of high school anxiety. Last night, I had a dream where I was the only other person nearby while a cop was being brutal and abusive toward a Black woman at a traffic stop, only I couldn’t figure out how to get my phone to record a video and by the time I managed to parse the UI he already had her in his car and had driven off.

The really ridiculous part is that the dream also included the post-arrest Twitter rant I went on, which was about, not policing, not a description of the arrest … but about how app designer’s obsession with subtle UI elements has led to a world where something simple like “I want to record this thing happening in front of me” requires me to carefully look at every part of the screen in case there’s a tiny, 50% transparency circle in the top right corner that I’m supposed to naturally realize means “record.”

Which, uh, isn’t how my phone works at all— the “record” button is literally giant, centered, and red– but hey, dream.

More later. If nothing else, I know Mark Oshiro put up another video from Remember that I need to watch and post.