Saturday, August 30, 2008

Teacher Dreamin'

It usually kicks in sometime in August. Early August or late August, most teachers arrive at the point during this eighth month of the year when our job invades our dreams. I haven't as of yet met a teacher who didn't have it happen. I even knew about it before I was a teacher, or dreamed of being one. A good friend from college who began teaching at least 3 years before I did mentioned to me that she never slept well in August. Before she was even consciously aware of being anxious, she stopped being able to sleep. It might have begun in late July those first few years.

My younger sister, The Other Ms. Swamp, started her first year of teaching in her own classroom this week. I think it was late July or early August when she mentioned her first anxiety dream to me. "Welcome to teaching," I replied.

Last year, I caught a glimpse of what anxiety dreams could be on a whole new scale when Nina, the Queen Mother, and I were talking about them. Nina mentioned a dream she had where she came to school on the first day but her classroom wasn't set up at all. (I've had this dream at least 5 times.) The Queen Mother smiled. "I had the same dream last night," she said. "But in my dream, all the kids and teachers got here on the first day and there was no school building. Everyone was walking around outside looking for the school, and I was trying to figure out what to do." I laughed. Teachers dream about no classroom and 20 kids on the first day; the poor principal has to dream about no school, 350 kids, all their families, and 70 teachers!

Our dreams have come up already several times at school this week. One teacher came in my room in the morning to get something. "Last night I was dreaming about setting up my room," she explained, "and I realized I might have left some of the things in my dream here last year." Even while she was sleeping, her brain was working on her To Do list.

Of course, even worse than anxiety dreams is the insomnia. I've come by my insomnia and wandering toes (aka restless legs) honestly -- thanks, Dad. It's not just teaching that does it to me. But the quality of my sleep tells me a lot about the level of my anxiety. If I can't fall asleep at night, or wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep, or wake up far too early in the morning -- if any of these things happens, and my brain can't shut off, I know I'm entering the land of the anxious. A land I often wander into in late August.

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