Secret Teacher Problems

I came clean recently about my addiction to alcohol, and this past Tuesday, March 31st, I celebrated 3 years of sobriety.  As problems have arisen (a broken thumb is a fine example), I know that no problem is so big that alcohol won’t make much worse.  Trust me, I’ve tried alcohol as the solution more times than I can remember.  It failed ten times out of ten.

Rewind about 4 years, and you’ll see a teacher who’s put together on the outside, but falling apart within.  I kept beer hidden in the garage, wine stashed in the basement, and vodka in my purse.  All because of fear.  Fear that people would discover the unhappy person that loomed underneath my smile.  After a drink (or five), I could keep up that smile that I believed others wanted to see.  I had a happy marriage, a beautiful daughter, a great job, and financial security.  There wasn’t a reason to not be smiling, so instead, I drank.  And then I constantly lived in fear that my secret would be discovered and that i wasn’t truly as happy as I outwardly appeared.

As teachers, we are all control freaks. Every. Single. One of us.  I’m even exhibiting controlling behavior with my insistence of putting on a happy face outwardly.  It’s a more subtle type of control, but it keeps others at bay from what’s going on beneath the surface.  It’s similar to those who use humor to deflect serious conversation.  If we keep people laughing, we deflect their attention from the pain that lurks beneath the surface.

Yes, the degree at which we exhibit control varies from teacher to teacher, but can you think of anything more terrifying than a chaotic classroom? I know I’ve been awakened from that nightmare more than once.

Even if you’ve had no brush with addiction I’d venture to guess that the Serenity Prayer is something familiar to you:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Putting any religious context  aside, this prayer has powerful implications to the classroom . what is it in my classroom that I have the power to change? Do I have the necessary courage to face the challenges head on? Can I discern the difference between what is teachable and what is not?

More important recently, am I able to take what I preach in my classroom and apply it to my personal life? Do I have the courage to say “no, I cannot,” but more importantly be at peace with a decision to step away?

Because as control freaks, it’s one thing to say no and quite another to accept that decision. Relating this back to the Serenity Prayer, I’m very good at trying to change the things I can. I’d also say I do a decent job at knowing the difference between what I can change and what I cannot. It’s the serenity to accept what cannot be changed that gets me every time.


  1. This is one that I will print out and keep in my bag to reread daily. Your honesty is a gift to everyone who reads your blog, so thank you, once again.

    My addiction is to keeping myself so busy that I begin to lose time to do the things that enrich my life beyond teaching (not that teaching isn’t enriching but it’s not a whole life) – quilting, reading, writing, chatting on line, being outside, exercising – and you are so right, Megan – it’s an issue of control. But the more you try to control, the less you actually do.

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