I feel utterly silly right now. So silly, that it almost seems a bit embarrassing.
I had to explain to my Head of Department, then my Business Manager, then my Head Teacher, something that genuinely never even became an almost-idea. Until it became a very big issue.
I have RSI in my shoulder.
It started a little over a month ago, just a niggling little feeling on the edge of my shoulder blade. At first I barely noticed it, just a little tingling feeling when I had my arm in a particular position for a while.
Then it started to be a big tingling feeling, almost like pins and needles concentrated into an area about the size of a tennis ball. Then it started aching along with the tingling, but still only when I had my arm in a certain position.
Now it aches much of the time, with the same tingling underlining it. It flares up when I do certain things, like cleaning my teeth or eating food.
The position that my arm is in when it started all that time ago, and the position it hurts the most in now, is the same position it’s in when I do any form of marking – that sightly stretched forward position.
As you will remember from previous posts, I do a LOT of marking. It’s not just assessment marking that I do over here, but a never ending round robin of book marking. When you consider that I have over 420 students, it translates into at least an hour of marking a day (though to be fair some days I mark much less, and some days I mark much more – like the six hours in one day I did to get exams marked a few weekends ago).
Add to that the inevitable computer use (including right now), and you have a recipe for disaster.
Typing doesn’t seem to aggravate it as much (hence why I’m doing this post!), certainly much less than using the mouse does. I talked to our school business manager about it (we don’t have any HR or OHS people), and she provided me with a wrist support to use while at the computer. I have tried that for about a week now, and don’t see any difference – to be honest I didn’t expect it to help, as typing doesn’t seem to be the issue.
We also talked about my posture, which I’ve tried to keep well since I started teaching. It is very difficult to sit properly though when your desk is at a taller-than-desk-but-smaller-than-lab-bench height, and your chair is an non-adjustable stool with a small back. All of the chairs in my room are stools, to go along with the high desks. The other room that is available to me to do work in only has stools as well.
There is no doubt that all of these things are contributing factors to this new issue of mine. The school is somewhat supportive, but big changes would have to be made for this issue to go away, and I’m not sure they are willing or able to make those changes.
And of course I was out of classes today for moderation – which meant over 4 hours of marking and then some data entry.
I am booked in to see a doctor next Wed morning, so hopefully they can offer some solid advice and an action plan to fix this. It’s not like I can just stop marking or anything…
About the Author:
Emily is a secondary science and math teacher in Australia. She enjoys blogging about her experiences, facilitating the ‘light bulb’ moment in her students, and drinking tea and wine. Emily is currently on maternity leave with her first child. You can read more teaching articles from Emily here, or about her life as a new mum over at Actual Mums.