The Stationery Ritual

Last week of August, whilst raking over the embers of the summer break I find myself being drawn into my annual stationery rituals.  I linger in the stationery isle at the supermarket, find myself fantasising in the windows of Rymans.  Stationery is not just stationery to teachers, it takes on this other life.  I have long been obsessed with my September stationery ritual.  The choosing, ordering, cataloguing and organising of new stuff fills my heart with joy.  It gives me goosebumps thinking about the rows of new pens and pencils, scissors in their stands and rubbers at the ready.  I was engrossed by an article in the TES listing the top 5 teacher items of stationery, nothing could break my reverie.

This inexplicable joy felt at new pens got me thinking, feelings never exist in isolation and extreme feelings are always worth thinking about.  Why does this annual ritual exist?  Why am I disproportionately happy?  Does it matter?

My wife who is a non-believer in my psycho-babble nonsense would have said it is obvious that these feelings are just about getting organised and being ready for the new term.  To a certain extent, this is absolutely true but the depth of feeling made me start to explore these buoyant feelings of control, calm and happiness.

This hoarding and cataloguing ritual seems to always take place in between the chaotic events of results day and the first day of teaching.  This makes me think of a rather latent state of mind.  From a Kleinian perspective, latency is characterised as a period of apparent stability where anxieties are repressed, split off and played out in other activities.  Internal conflicts tend to be played out into the external world.  As a young child, I distinctly remember having a vast collection of rubbers from everywhere and I took great joy in possessing and categorising them in different ways.  The collection and collecting made me feel safe.  Tightly controlled. obsessional activity performs an important function and defence against anxiety.

I guess emotionally I am in the perfect storm.  This awkward in-between stage, still mourning the loss of students who have left or the ones we have lost.  I hope they are ok?  Will their new teachers understand them as well as I do?  Will they survive the next step?  What could I have done differently?  Alongside the seismic anxieties that surround the beginnings of new relationships.  Will they like me?  Will I like them?  What expectations will they have? Will I be good-enough?

Anne Alvarez suggests that the calmness of latency is a necessary state of mind that we must return to at different stages of the life cycle.  The defences of latency are at times useful in helping us with any task that needs concentration and the capacity to ignore other thoughts and feelings.  Who would have thought my stationery obsession would become such an important part of my psychic repertoire?

Youell, B. (2006) The Learning Relationship: Psychoanalytic Thinking in Education.