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Re: Stress-it kills

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From: M Ulakovits (msqu_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Wed Jul 04 2001 - 08:23:52 PDT


I arrived at the same remedy as Laura did (for stress) In November of last
year my podiatrist told me I had tumors on the botoms of both my feet. The
next week a neurologist told me I had peripheral neuropathy. It was like
hitting a brick wall. I had been working 24/7 for my students for years. I
was teaching and taking workshops and classes, reading and writing about art
curricula, spent hours daily researching online, listservs. I was very
involved in building a National Board network of support locally. It goes on
but suffice to say, my whole life was devoted to education. Then I hit the
wall. Every year or two, I have been faced with another medical problem. One
year I had four and a half hours of surgery. It told the whole summer to
recooperate and I had to go back to work with a sound system because I still
could project my voice without pain tothe groin and abdome, then I was
diagnosed with mytrovalve prolapse. Another year I was operated on for a
frozen shoulder. Your arm just slowly stops moving ( upward). Arthritus has
slowly taken over my joints-both hands, both hips, neck, one elbow and one
wrist. Currently they are searching for the reason my abdomen has been
distended for 3 months and I have extreme stomach pains,
Theres more but you don't want to know.I was so healthy as a child.

Since all this came on over a period of time, after I started teaching I
just worked through it. I didn't really realize that the stress from my job
was killing me. I put it down to getting old. I'm only 49! I love my job and
I love the kids and I really love art, so what's up with all this stress? I
just do too much. I don't say no enough. But in November of last year, I
started to say no. It was hard at first. Many people just wouldn't take no
from me. As time went on it got easier. I started withdrawing from all
groups that required me to attend meetings after school. I found other
people to take the leadership roles in arts organizations and National Board
groups that I lead. I turned my listservs over to others to moderate. As
much as love the artsednet, I deleted without even reading for a month or so
(ouch!). This summer for the first time, I decided I would do nothing but
try to rest and get well. I pared it down to just three one day workshop
that I took not gave. I usually write 3 to 5 grants each year. I wrote 0 for
next year. Next year I plan to reduce my stress even more by carefully
planning units that will not require me to work myself to death ( in
preparing supplies or cleaning up,etc)

So if some of my peers or classroom teachers think I'm lazy or a horrible
teacher, so be it. I have 15 years left until I am eligible to retire. What
will they do for me if I suddenly couldn't teach tomorrow? I would be just a
memory. Take my advice and think about it. Take a look at your own health
since you've been teaching.
We all have to slow down and learn ways to handle our stress if we want to
be around for the long run.

Martha Ulakovits, NBCT

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