The Sweet Spot — Sophia Johansen

Image: Anh Nguyen on Unsplash


I have reached that sweet spot in the term where all of my classes are completing their practice assessments. This means that for the next few days I will be supervising my students as they agonise their way through the expression of their understanding of what we’ve learnt over the last few weeks.

Of course, this also means that this weekend will be a nightmarish journey through too much poorly articulated prose, consisting of at least 45% artificial additives of the made-up-on-the-spot variety, coupled with both metaphorical and literal groaning that I must be the worst teacher in the world if this is all they can produce after weeks of my occasionally scintillating, although more often cajoling, teaching.

But for now, I’m wallowing in this moment like a hippopotamus in a lagoon. Floating around somewhat aimlessly, aware of the impending crocodile, but enjoying the cool calm waters while I can.

Halfway through the term now I’m finding that I’m still enjoying my job; I haven’t yet fallen to that point where I feel like stabbing certain colleagues in the eye – or the back – or that I can’t get through another compulsory, weekly, whole-staff meeting, that could very easily have been an email, without an expression of mild attentiveness on my face.

After a messy 2018, I decided that coordinating Year 9 wasn’t for me, and neither was working full time. I now have every Friday off to do as I please, which is glorious. And because I’m taking two Year 12 classes this year, I only have three classes in total. Bliss.

At the end of Term 1, however, I found that, despite my efforts to reduce the stressors in my life, I was still close to that edge. The one where my temper and emotions are always raw. I hate who I become when life gets like that – both in and out of the classroom.

I felt at a loss. Why, after doing everything in my power to reduce what was stressing me out, was I still feeling like this? A very good friend suggested that perhaps medication was the way to go.

He was right. I didn’t like the suggestion.

I’m not one of Them. I’m not one of that seemingly ever-increasing number of people who suffer from this modern epidemic of anxiety. I’m not a broken person who, despite everyone’s best efforts, can only be partially put back together. I’ve always been super sensitive, and have hated myself for it, but I guess I swallowed the kool-aid of my upbringing and ‘just got on with it’. Maybe that’s where the crack is. But I’ve never identified as an anxious person, and, to my quiet shame, I frequently, albeit privately, judge those who do because I see them as somehow weak. But then I know, and am good friends with, some incredible people who I have a lot of respect for, who suffer from sometimes crippling anxiety.

I gave it some thought.

On the last day of Term I went to my doctor and we discussed my options. Seven weeks into a course of anti-depressants I’m wondering if the way I feel is because of them, because of the two weeks where I was permitted to not face my students and colleagues, or because of the conversation with my doctor. She advised I focus on what I love about teaching, and try to float over the bits that I don’t. Sensible advice, and nothing I didn’t already know, but sometimes you just need to be reminded I guess.

Or maybe it’s just because we’re only halfway through Term 2.

Is it because of the structure of education in this country that, by the end of each term, everyone has lost it? And by the end of Term 4, the previous terms have all compounded so much so that we’re all sick of the sight of each other, our students, and dealing with having to plan a whole ‘nother year, with those same people we’re sick of, where we have to go through the whole thing all over again?

Spending such a long time in such close proximity, with so many different people, from so many different backgrounds, with so many different values – both students and teachers – means that it all has to boil over at some point I guess. Despite what all of the kids’ shows try to teach us, we aren’t actually going to get along with everyone all of the time.

It would be nice if we got used to that idea; it’s OK not to like everyone all of the time. Even for teachers. Especially for teachers.

Right now I’m not worried about the impending downhill slope of the Term. I’m not even worried about my impending weekend of marking. I’m worried that I’ll get to the end of the term and still feel pretty much like this. So that it is the medication that’s getting me through. And I’m also worried that I’ll feel pretty much the same as I do at the end of every term, which will mean that it’s not.

Sophia is deeply fascinated with the connections we make and have as humans, and words are her favourite way to explore and express this. She loves that she gets paid to analyse the world around her through literature – and to be a spelling and grammar nazi… something she’s been doing her whole life anyway. She especially loves phone calls from her family asking her where commas go, and which is the correct there/their/they’re for the situation.