The pre-Thanksgiving teacher exhaustion is real.
One year, I went almost a full week in which I forgot one of the four very simple steps to make coffee.
Another year, I called a window “the see-through wall” and a spoon “the circle stick.”
In an event I am reminded of via text several times a year from my former coworkers, I completely forgot about my (daily!) responsibility to walk kids from the bus into school and ran—past the bus full of confused kids and our bus driver, waiting—into the parking lot because I couldn’t wait to go vote and also because my brain was broken.
An important point: Teacher exhaustion is, at its core, more worrisome than it is funny.
Teachers shouldn’t be this tired. If we funded schools appropriately, paid teachers what they deserve, restructured teacher retirement systems to be, I don’t know, livable, maybe we wouldn’t have teachers trying to order their morning coffee from trash cans in the drive through thinking it’s the intercom system.
Another important point: We can hold two seemingly opposing thoughts at once.
Yes, teacher exhaustion is a bummer and we deserve better. But when you are in the thick of it, sometimes knowing you’re not alone—and being able to laugh at the ways you’re not alone—is the healing balm you need in the moment. (And honestly, sometimes the bonkers things we do out of exhaustion are really funny.)
Midway through November several years ago, long before Pandemic Tired™ was invented, I asked my readers how exhausted they were. They did not disappoint. I laughed, I gasped, I shouted “NO!” out loud alone by myself. I knew almost immediately that this question would be a yearly tradition. Since then, I have added to this list every year.
Here’s what teachers have told me about this time of year.
“Went to blow a kiss to my teacher neighbor BFF as I walked past her door…”
“…but instead couldn’t focus and blew one while making awkward eye contact with the teenage boy standing next to her.” —Megan
“Complimented my students on their cursing. I meant cursive!”
“Called my teaching partner Chris three times in the space of an hour.”
“Her name is Britt. I’ve worked with her for three years.” —Mikell
“This morning a colleague and I were BOTH so tired we panicked when our weekly meeting disappeared from the schedule.”
“We called a supervisor to find out what happened. It’s scheduled for tomorrow, like it has been, every week since the first week of school.” —CJ
“Transfered ’email Kelly’ onto every to do list for the last five weeks because I can’t remember who Kelly is or what I should tell her.”
“Was VERY close to yelling at a boy who I thought had a vape in his mouth.”
“Turns out it was a Kit Kat.” —Gaby
“Tried to mute a student using the smartboard remote.”
“Emailed the parents about how cold it will be on Friday for field day…”
“…except I was looking at the weather for DC. I live in Houston.” —Meg
“Told my 1st grade class to BYOB, instead of MYOB (mind your own business).”
“I asked a student to, ‘Please recycle this for me.’ It was a Chromebook…”
“Sent an email with the word ‘premenstrual’ instead of ‘premature’ in regards to a job offer.”
“Called a bandage a blood catcher.”
“Student: I have a paper cut. Me: do you need a blood catcher?” —Marci
“Told the cashier that I was not worried about the meat un-colding.”
“He responded, ‘…Thawing?’ I teach ELA.” —Shelley
“Tried to unlock my dog with my key fob.”
*Note: another reader followed up and asked whether she’d meant “car.” Nope. She meant dog.
“I tried to order coffee from a garbage can at the drive thru.”
“Tapped a word in a printed book, repeatedly, to find out the definition.”
“Put cat food in my coffee maker.”
“I was so tired I found a stick of butter in my purse when I got to school one morning.”
“Texted a parent that I was bored at work today when I meant to text my husband.”
May this list serve as the following:
- A reminder that teachers deserve better
- A historical document that hopefully future generations can look back on and reflect with grave solemnity about how little America cared about working teachers into the ground
- Solidarity (and hopefully a belly laugh) for teachers Going Through It