Emotions Like Oceans


Anger. Disgust. Fear. Sadness. These are the characters in the new Disney movie “Inside Out” that so many of my fifth grade students have been talking about. This scene from the preview takes place inside the brain as these emotions constantly interact with each other in what seems like a never ending battle.  As I watched the preview, I reflected back on this school year which is about to come to a close this week. I have had my experience with each of these “characters” this school year…

ANGER: Many times this school year I felt angry and frustrated when no matter how hard I tried, I did not always seem to be able to reach some of my special needs students. I would plan, create, design and research lessons and feel so positive and then I would not get the desired result. I know some of the students tried to stay focused, but so many times this year my efforts to maintain their focus seemed lost. As hard as it was to make sure this emotion was not visible to students, I have to confess there were days it did make an appearance. Luckily, it did not last long once I was able to direct it off the set in my mind by changing my focus.

DISGUST:  Testing! Testing! Testing! Biweekly assessments, weekly tests for report card grades, monthly writing prompts, pages and pages of  “crunch packets” in math, reading and science all to prepare students for state standardized tests which have become more and more developmentally complex and confusing. I realize as a teacher we need to assess our students, but I don’t need to give so many time-consuming tests which all tell me the same result…”the child struggles with ____skill.” I need more of that time to instruct them and give them the small group and one-on-one support they need to be successful. My hope is that this negative performer called disgust, that so many teachers like myself and parents have experienced, will be able to inspire some positive changes on the educational stage over the next year.

FEAR: Will they pass the assessments? How will my performance evaluation be effected by their scores? Did I truly make a difference?  Will they stand strong against peer pressure as they move to middle school? Should I make a change and try something new? These are some of the fearful thoughts that have crossed my mind especially these last months of school. Since I’m more of a worrier by nature this emotion usually impacts me the worst. I’m trying to be more laid back and not let this emotion get a stronghold, but unfortunately there were many times this year that it became the star of the emotional show in my mind. 

SADNESS: Despite the anger, disgust and fear I have felt at times this year for various reasons, it is always sad to say goodbye to the little lives that crossed my path these last 180 days. Even though the range of emotions ran high at times throughout this school year, I cherish the many good times and happy memories that were created with the 22 most important reasons why I teach – my students. I know there is always a purpose, reason or season for each one that enters my life. The sadness I will feel when they leave my classroom for the last time will touch my heart, but in my mind I will try to disguise this one as hope. 


LIFE LESSON: Emotions are like oceans. They come in waves and sometimes we don’t feel them rising up until we are impacted by one or more of them. Fear and sadness in particular are powerful, especially during a storm, and can pull us under and knock the breath out of us. As we come to the surface, we feel lost, battered and confused. We sometimes wonder if we will make it back to the shore safely. As these emotional waves begin to recede, we sometimes feel anger and disgust. We question the reason why we even went into the water to begin with. Through my experiences both inside and outside of the classroom especially this year, I’m learning that it is always dangerous to be in the water during a storm, but unfortunately that is sometimes where life leads us. When we are there, we need to remember to always look for the lifesaver…

“Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves … Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” Matthew 14:24-27