Just like clockwork, my insomnia is back. I find myself checking my phone for the time throughout the night. The glaring numbers cause my eyes to squint in the darkness: 12:30...1:10...2:00...2:15...2:45... By the time 3:00 arrives, I figure I might as well roll with it, and get this day started.
Clockwork, you say? Yes, every August, and every May, except when I was retired, have been the biggest months of insomnia for me. The culprit? School.
Last August was delightful. It was the first August in 30 years that I didn't have a classroom to organize, lessons to plan, children's names to learn. My sleeping pattern was not disturbed by a brain running at full tilt at odd hours of the night. I still awoke early each day, but not in the middle of the night kind of early.
Now when I go to school, I wander around my classroom like a lost ghost. The desks and chairs are so tiny. Nothing seems familiar. I open cupboards and drawers to discover things the previous teacher left behind. Will I need all of this stuff, I wonder? What am I forgetting to do?
It's only been a year without teaching, but it's been 28 years since I've taught second grade, so I'm a little nervous about that. Until I meet with my team, I will be lost, so in the meantime, I fill my time with mindless activities like writing dates in my plan book, filling playground balls with air, and sharpening pencils. (My master's degree seems to mock me at times like this.)
My own teacher paraphernalia was donated to other teachers last year. I gave away everything. Hundreds of story books, thousands of dollars' worth of teaching supplies. I threw away all of my plan books, my documentation, and copious notes.
Now I find myself sitting in a bare classroom, back at square one, knowing I don't have another full career left in me, but wanting very much to offer my best to the children in my class this year. At times I am overwhelmed with inadequacy, and a desire to make a difference.
Friends laugh at me when I mention the butterflies I'm experiencing. "You? You're a pro. You could do this in your sleep." Oh, and I do. I even teach in my sleep. The dreams...they are more like nightmares, really. The crazy things I dream about make it difficult to sleep; missed meetings, children out of control, school days full of madness and mayhem.
Until my little second graders start filling up my classroom that first day, I will be haunted by fears and doubts, and yes, more than just a little bit of excitement.
The night before school starts is always the hardest for me. I'm like a child on Christmas Eve. I can hardly wait to see what the morning will bring. All of those beautiful gifts, just waiting to be discovered after a sleepless night of tossing and turning. I will have nine months to unwrap these gifts given to me, to discover their strengths, and to share my love of learning with them. Teaching is my calling; in my heart, I know that. It will be good to be back at school, doing what I do best.
Now if I can just figure out how to get a little more shut-eye...