September 8, 2013

Maine Observer: As August ends, teacher nightmares begin

Perhaps she can't find her classroom, the alarm fails to sound or she forgot her pants – all things to lose sleep over.

By RUTH DATER

Toward the end of August, kids are tired of summer. They go shopping with their parents for clothes, pencils, notebooks and backpacks to start the school year.

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The children and teens can hardly wait to find out who they have as teachers and what friends are in their classes.

What the parents, children and teens do not realize is that the teachers have their own kind of end of August. The nightmares begin.

A common nightmare is that the teacher cannot find her classroom and the bell has rung. She wanders through the building frantic to get to an unknown destination, down hallways, through cafeterias, even peeking into the custodian's closet. At the height of panic, the teacher wakes up in a sweat. It is just a nightmare.

Another nightmare involves fear that the alarm clock did not go off or will not go off and the teacher will miss the first day, or have to rush to school in a panic and arrive after the bell has rung.

This nightmare causes the teacher to wake up multiple times during the night and check the time and then try to get back to sleep. Finally, at least an hour before the alarm would go off, the teacher gives up on the idea of sleeping and gets up, showers, dawdles over coffee and heads out to the school and the classroom.

Other nightmares range from not being told what subject the teacher is supposed to teach -- and again, the bell has rung -- to appearing before the class and realizing that one is naked or missing his pants.

Maybe this a sign of shock that now he is the teacher and less confident than he appears. Anyway, the teacher again wakes up in a sweat, breathing heavily, finding it impossible to get back to sleep.

During new teacher orientation, I was talking to a new teacher at the coffee urn and I asked, "Have the nightmares begun?" He answered quickly, "Yes!"

I assured him they would go away once the school year started. I had been talking that morning to my daughter, a teacher of at least 10 years, and she had said that the nightmares had come back. Maybe it is just the change of pace from summer, maybe it is anticipation of a new school year, but the nightmares are real.

Some teachers cope by coming into the school and decorating their rooms or copying a syllabus, stopping off at the central office to say hello to the secretaries and office staff, greeting the custodians and making friends with their new environment. All of these things help to remove the stress and, it is hoped, the nightmares.

Finally, the first day of school arrives. The students chatter. The bell rings. The classroom is all set up. The course syllabus is ready to hand out, and the teacher, a little bit rattled from lack of sleep, takes a deep breath and relaxes and welcomes the students to a new school year.

Ruth Dater is a resident of Kennebunk.

 

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