They have been ravaging my sleep on average three times a week for the last decade—horrible, vivid nightmares. These nightmares are and are not based on reality. Yes, I was a teacher for nine years and during those years, my patience and talents were seriously challenged. That doesn’t mean that it was all bad. Honestly, the first seven or eight were pretty gratifying for the most part. True… the hours were long and the workload was overwhelming, but I did love my students (99.9% of them anyway), and they usually loved me (maybe not at the time I was teaching them, but always in retrospect). Many of them still stay in touch, and I love that. I love to see how their horizons are expanding, where their interests are leading them, and what they are accomplishing. It makes me so proud to see them holding down jobs, going to college, and/or raising children. I feel blessed that they want to share those things with me, and I wouldn’t change my role as teacher for anything.
My last year teaching was, however, another story altogether. It was traumatic… but then, I had switched from high school to middle school and it was, as they say, “a whole nother ballgame”. It seriously did me in—which is why I am now freelancing. If the nightmares had started during that treacherous time, I could certainly understand it. But that wasn’t the case. My nightmares started just before my first full year teaching… I think. I don’t recall having them during student teaching or even when I taught summer school just after graduation. Hmm… now that I think about it… that may be the cause. Summer school was a bit of a challenge—not quite like middle school, but still a challenge.
As for the nightmares, they do vary. Sometimes I am sitting at my desk trying to do something as simple as take attendance only to look around the room and see that none of my students are paying attention to the task at hand. Bellringer activity… what’s that? Ms. V, you must be tripping! No work is being done. Students are desk hopping, making it next to impossible to get an accurate attendance. Students are even getting up and leaving, forcing me to follow them out into the hall and call them back much to their amusement. Sometimes I am standing in front of the class teaching in earnest, only to realize that no one is listening. Again they are moving around the room. They are talking to each other and tuning me out. Some are sleeping. Others are throwing things. Occasionally, a fight breaks out or a student cusses me out… usually just as an administrator comes in to observe.
I wake up stressed, in a cold sweat, and feeling completely exhausted. It all just seems so real. I think it is par for the course with the teaching profession though. I know other teachers experience this phenomenon. Maybe it is a form of stage fright. If you think about it, teachers are performers to a certain extent. Part of the job is to entertain… or at least engage young minds enough to instill knowledge. My question is this: when will my nightmares end? This week makes a year since I stepped inside a classroom, and still my nightmares persist. Is it too much to ask for a good night’s sleep?