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through the tunnel

June 15, 2014





The title of this blog post is lifted from a fantastic Doris Lessing short story anthologised in Spectrum One pictured above because my current sense of uplift is caused  by hiatus… I have come through a tunnel  in my own exam marking/ reporting/ summative assessment cycle for first semester.

Notice how I hesitate to say marking is complete. 

Lines of figures are tallied in my marks book. I have illuminated these figures with crafted comments. My swerving/ swooping edits through data entered by colleagues, now stored in the Department’s Reporting to Parents online repository, have come to their ultimate pause.

Feels good. Sweet spot, this moment. Time to probe the sensation like a toothache:

As with any undertaking involving the forced pressure of deadlines, undercurrents of stress and mixed emotions, the last few weeks in our workplace have been noticeably charged. Especially last week in the run-up/ countdown (relative and perspective-dependent) to Friday’s finishing line. Our usually smooth-flowing, orderly practices (timetabled classes, term planner schedule, weekly meetings) were ever-so-slightly awry, and nerves showed signs of being stretched.

How does this manifest?

  • rising irritation;
  • questions/ challenge/ provocation;
  • persistent distractability;
  • complaints;
  • sensations of being ill at ease/ unwell;
  • increasing numbers of relief staff;
  • fallout.

As with Jerry, our young protagonist in Lessing’s tale, teachers demonstrated

…[They] must go on into the blackness ahead, or [they] would drown… (Lessing, 1979, p. 67).


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Whereas Jerry reels from fear within his narrowing tunnel, “cracking” lungs, dizziness, and a final lapse into dark spells of unconsciousness are oddly familiar territory. Here, I find the emotional realm of stress sharply delineated.

According to the literature,

When leaders neglect to consider their own and others’ emotions and are not supported in discovering how emotional meaning-making systems are relevant to relationships, they regularly objectify others as troublemakers, or blockers, in the attempt to assume away their problematic nature by categorizing them. In the reductionism of negating or ignoring the emotional dimension of their problematic persons, only the fallout on others gets attention, and the person whose issues were the original provocation becomes typecast as villain and neglected (Leithwood & Beatty, 2008, p. 147).

My coping mechanisms? Without blundering into self-help pamphleteer mode: I went for a daily walk without fail; undertook meditation practices; observed tensions in myself, and those exhibited by others, without judgement; listened to music while driving; baked chocolate raspberry brownies to share; took photographs of scenery; wrote a poem; spent yesterday afternoon drinking tea with a friend who listened; and explicated here, with you the unseen reader, to make some kind of sense reveal itself.

Selected references

Leithwood, K. & Beatty, B. (2008). Leading with teacher emotions in mind. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Lessing, D. (1979). Through the tunnel In Bennett, B., Cowan, P. & Hay, J. Spectrum one. Australia: Longman Cheshire.

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