a woman with insomnia laying in bed, awake, thinking about sleep and school

Teacher-Tired: Beginning a New Year

August always means a significant increase in anxiety, constant second-guessing, and list-making. My brain kicks into high gear sometime in mid-July and gives me no rest for a few months. Almost 24 hours a day, I am planning, contemplating changes, mentally rearranging furniture, and anticipating any and all scenarios. Everything I see reminds me of something I am afraid I’ve forgotten to do.

I am a teacher, and there is no tired like teacher-tired.

Running on empty

Spending sleepless nights staring at the ceiling reviewing the next day’s to-do list is par for the course for me. It’s difficult to say if it’s anxiety that keeps me awake or if I just use my usual insomnia battle as an excuse to double and triple check myself. Either way, I look at it, I get a little to no sleep for several weeks at the beginning of the school year. This year has certainly been no exception to the rule.

During a time when I need it most, sleep eludes me. I should be getting ready to meet my students and their parents with a fresh face and cheery demeanor. They deserve the best of me, especially as they begin a new school year. It’s beyond difficult to offer that to them when I am running on half a cylinder. Each of my third graders needs me rested and ready to greet each day prepared and renewed. It is incredibly difficult to deliver both for my kiddos when insomnia is waiting on me each night, ready to reign supreme.

Waking moments of clarity

I would be lying if I said that my teacher-brain didn’t, in some ways, appreciate some of my time spent lying awake. Over the years, 24 of them to be exact, some really great ideas for my classroom have resulted from my hours spent tossing and turning. When all other attempts to problem-solve throughout the day have failed, insomnia sometimes grants me answers to my students’ learning dilemmas.

I am sure it’s counterproductive to solving my sleep dilemma, but occasionally I grab my phone and text myself the answer to my most pressing classroom problems. I know I should concentrate on all things sleep, but when you get a good idea, well, you have to capture it, right?

Back-to-school tired

I know things will eventually begin to settle. A little of the back-to-school anxiety will subside to be replaced with new worries. New routines and schedules will become comfortable and cause much less stress. The new year will slowly begin to sort itself out, and it will grow easier by the day. I will take my work home in one way or the other, and my nights will be long--planning and then hoping for sleep that likely won’t come.

Who knows--maybe I wished all this on myself. After all, I often look at my fellow teachers rushing around and wistfully mutter that there just isn’t enough time in the day. I lost count years ago of the number of times I have wished for more time to plan, grade papers, and research.  While every teacher wishes for more hours in the day, not one of us wants those hours gifted to us during the middle of the night. If we could have our cake and eat it too, we would get those extra hours and a little extra sleep along with it.

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