I dream about teaching.

Not in the: ‘I’m so passionate about this job it’s all my subconscious can allow me to ruminate on. I’m that passionate everybody. Look at me being passionate! Are you as passionate as me? NO! HOW COULD YOU BE? I AM MASTER OF PASSION’ kind of way.

More in the: ‘Waking up at 3am in a hot sweat after I have already spent a day at work whilst I was asleep’ kind of way.

I wish I didn’t. It’s exhausting. I’ve been a teacher for roughly a decade now and you’d think at some point in time I’d be able to grow up a bit. The dreams aren’t even that good. No-one turns into caramel Angel Delight to then be eaten up by a distant elderly relative who’s suddenly arrived in their horse-drawn carriage  to tell me they’ve run out of frogs for Wednesday. At least that’d be interesting.  What I get is basically a facsimile of my normal day’s work played out in my head. Honestly, what’s the point in that? Freud would not have a field day.

‘You are boring and I hate you.’

It’s nerves. I know it is yet I still can’t help myself. It’s the same every year. If teaching is a performance then this part of the year is when you’re standing in the darkness waiting for the curtain to go up. And it does funny things to me.

I have been reliably informed by my infinitely better half that one of the other charming manifestations of these pre-teaching jitters is that I turn into an absolute and undeniable tool the weekend before I have to go back. It has been noted on several occasions that it’s probably a good thing that I do return to my workplace as at least I will be with members of my own kind (meaning angsty, miserable teenagers who are liable to snap your head off for offering you breakfast.)

It’s nerves. The week ahead looms large in its terrifying enormity and I’ll be damned if I don’t go down swinging. Problem is I waste the precious time I have left boxing at shadows.

So what to do? I guess the alternative to not being nervous is to simply stop caring. I could let go of the dreams and the stropping around and face going back with a simple ‘meh’. Good for me, possibly not so good for those in front of me.

Although they deprive me of sleep, make me desperately unpleasant to be around at points and make me want to hurl, I reckon nerves serve their purpose. They keep you sharp, they make you alert and more than anything they signify that you actually do give a damn. Yes, I’m nervous because I got stuck with a bottom set and I’m going to have to brush up on my Krav Maga training if I’m going to get out unscathed. Yes, I’m nervous that the Deputy Head seems to have taken a dislike to me after I mistakenly asked when the baby was due. Yes, I’m nervous that 8LA may no longer look up to me after I nerve-hurl onto the front row during guided reading.  That’s ok. These are all very real things to be nervous about.

But underneath those fairly superficial worries are some timeless classics. Am I good enough? Will I be able to do well for those in-front of me (after they’ve wiped themselves off, of course). Will I succeed? What happens if I don’t?

If you don’t feel at least a little bit queasy about that stuff then I’d probably suggest a different career. I get nervous and I lose sleep and I turn into a bit of an arse. I think the questions above warrant that at least. Not paralysis, not all-encompassing anxiety, not months off after a break-down, just a little consideration and respect.

Now excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom.



  1. missmcinerney

    ” If teaching is a performance then this part of the year is when you’re standing in the darkness waiting for the curtain to go up.” < Beautiful turn of phrase. Spot on.

    • tstarkey1212

      Thanks for that Laura. Think there are a lot of similarities between teachers and actors (apart from the obvious where they have a tendency to be ‘a bit cracked’).

      Cheers for taking the time to read.

  2. Paul Collins

    Thanks for writing this, it’s definitely struck a cord and you’re by no means alone!
    I’m nervous about:
    starting at a new school (however one where I previously worked as a cover supervisor)
    making that transition from cover supervisor to teacher (to those kids that remember me as a ‘cover’)
    the ICT working in my class
    my Year 9 tutor group
    getting to know my classes
    having everything ready (or not)

    • tstarkey1212

      Hiya Paul,

      Those things on the list certainly cover some of the biggies (non-working ICT often keeps me up late at nights – I can’t tell you how much I hate projectors and their stupid, easy to misplace, teensy tiny little remotes made for the hands of 3 year olds) but I digress.

      All those things on your list come with time – getting to know classes, tutor groups, being in that new role (well done by the way). Be nervous but do me a favour – don’t be too hard on yourself when you start. This stuff’s not easy. Being nervous means you care, caring means you’re going to do great.

      Best of luck.

  3. Julia F

    Last night,I dreamt that my classroom had become a corridor so every time I got into my stride, someone would walk through and all the chairs had been replaced so my huge Y11 boys were squashed into chairs designed for 5 year olds. I’ve been teaching 10 years as well and agree that the fear never leaves you and nor should it.

    • tstarkey1212

      I think that’s it. As horrible as these dreams / feelings are, they’re an indicator that you’re pondering what’s to come seriously. No bad thing if you ask me.

      Thanks for commenting Julia.

  4. jill Berry

    Enjoyed this, as always. Thanks, Tom!

    From the perspective of someone who taught for 30 years, I can say that it does stay with you to some extent. (I used to have pre-start of term dreams about being about to go on stage to perform in a play and knowing I really hadn’t learnt the lines well enough. And sometimes I was naked….)

    But I’d also say that you do become more resilient over time. I remember, for example, taking assemblies when I was in my first school (where I had a pastoral role from my fourth year of teaching) and waking up with a sick feeling on the day I had an assembly, even before I’d remembered that I had. By the time I got to headship I realised I actually enjoyed assemblies (a great opportunity to talk about things that you feel matter, to a captive audience!) and didn’t feel nervous at all.

    I agree that nerves can be a good thing, though. They reflect the fact that you care about doing a good job, and they can keep you ‘sharp’.

    Good luck for the new term/year! Hope it’s a good one for you.

    • tstarkey1212

      Thanks for reading Jill,

      It’s a good point that nerves are often tempered by experience. When I started they were basically all-encompassing but now, well there more like a background hum. It’s great to hear from experienced educators that it does get better (even that they’re often still there).

      Hope you have a sterling start to the new year yourself and that dreams of public nudity are kept to a minimum!

  5. Sue Sims

    After 38 years, I rarely now have Bad Teaching Dreams before school starts; instead, I have the children-out-of-control nightmare when I’m stressed about something completely different (as when my mother was dying). I doubt whether this is particularly unusual.

  6. Anniegottago

    I’ve been teaching twenty years and still get wound up before the start of term. It’s the new leaf of opportunities, a chance to get it right this time (still trying to get it all right…my juggling is getting better though) and the absolute impossibility of having everything in place and perfect before the start of term. Was about to go to bed but now that I think about it, there seems to be more to do than hours to fit it all in. Maybe just one more thing…
    Thanks for the solidarity, it reminds me that there are others out there…

  7. Janice

    I’ve been retired several years now and still suffer school dreams: can’t find my classroom; swimming up corridors etc. Also still get the end of school holiday angst. I feel your pain. Literally!
    I’m not helping am I? Sorry.

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