Nightmares and Dreams
When I think of some of the most tough days of my career - many of them wouldn’t, in fact, be school days. I know, crazy right. But seriously, during the low points in my career, it’s been the anticipation of what was to come that has sent me into a trance of despair, rather than the events themselves. My tendency to catastrophize probably played a part. The Sunday’s before the first Monday’s back could fill me with such an all encompassing dread that I just couldn’t escape, no matter what I did. When I think of some of those days - I see utter procrastination as the full extent of what I hadn’t done over that given holiday became stark and clear. The memories of some of the darkest teaching days in mid winter crept into my mind and stayed there like some kind of plague - scraping ice off windshields, a whole School book review when reports are due at the same time, a broken photocopier at the precise time you need it. Those tricky deadlines and tricky conversations from last year or last term reared their head again and particularly the difficult memories of the mistakes and struggles. The evening before could involve a trip to the TES community forum to search for topics around “I quit teaching” or “I want to quit teaching” or “alternatives to teaching”. Cue a few hours engaging in wishful thinking. As Sunday night approached, desperation would ensue as I tried to draw out every remaining minute of the holiday. One such strategy was to watch films into the wee hours of Monday morning. During Sunday day time, this rather pathetic attempt at trying to alter time gave the mind something to cling onto - “the holidays are not over yet!” cried the last passenger left on the Titanic as it descended into the abyss. The alternative to something like a movie marathon was the early night - by going to bed at 8pm, that would mean less time thinking about the day or week ahead and feeling more rested on Monday morning. But alas, this often descended into tossing and turning for hours as the first “briefing” kept flashing through the brain along with mental rehearsals of the years first performance management review. IT WAS NEVER THAT BAD. Well, maybe once, the year I decided to temporarily pack in teaching. But generally speaking - the reality of the dreams was never a nightmare. Hang on, I forgot these kids are brilliant. Wait a minute, I can actually teach - and it’s even slightly easier than last year (every year of experience adds up). The relief after the first few days teaching was palpable - the October half term seemed attainable. Even Christmas suddenly didn’t feel like a speck in the night sky. I can do this! With sanity resumed, some kind of normality could return, although the “Sunday night feeling” would of course resurface - “horror lite”. Since entering international teaching, these feelings have become few and far between - the pressure has fallen away, the expectation to be super man dissipated, the cloud of insecurity lifted. Of course, pre term dread isn’t always about teaching - it’s always worth asking the question - what’s driving this? It’s funny how Sunday night dread usually tied in with unhappy life times. This is the most happy I’ve been in my life, ever, so obviously my train of thought has followed suit. The game changer for me is when I realised that I could actually do what I wanted. There would be costs but professional happiness was attainable and all I needed to do was take a thrilling gamble. That gamble could be changing schools, moving house or simply changing mindset. The Sunday before the Monday can be the perfect time for a bit of positive introspection.