A restful night's sleep as a teacher? Dream on...

Ever wondered what your dreams of being chased by Ofsted, arriving late for school or teaching a class that's out of control really mean? One teacher deciphers the most common teacher dreams...

Stephen Petty

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Some startling news broke in our staffroom the other morning. On a December snowday, two colleagues from far-flung corners of the school had surprisingly mated with each other and were now expecting a child.

I say “mated” because any thought of passionate romance between this particular pairing seems inconceivable. In fact, the main reason for the widespread amazement was that no-one could recall them ever meeting each other.

It turned out that this sensational little development had merely been inside the head of a third colleague during a particularly inventive dream the night before, though for some reason this did little to quieten the general buzz of excitement.

Teacher dreams

Who said that other people’s dreams are boring? Not in the world of teaching, that’s for sure. Our one-off dreams often bring a colourful new perspective to our workplace, a way of seeing certain colleagues in a gloriously different light.  

Equally intriguing are those other “teacher dreams” – classic scenarios commonly experienced by teachers across the world. A few self-proclaimed dream experts have naturally blogged and blagged their interpretations, but they never convince me.

These people are never teachers. They cannot begin to understand how this amazing but all-encompassing job plays out inside our subconscious heads. Surely only a teacher can sweep away all the pseudo-scientific claptrap and explain what is really going on.

So here, at last, are arguably the five most common teacher dreams, explained for the first time by a real teacher…

Dream one: The one where we dream we're late for school.
Dream expert would suggest: We are perhaps “re-living a childhood experience involving missing a school bus”. 
Real meaning of the dream: We are actually late for school. Remembered dreams tend to happen when we sleep on in the morning. So if I dream that I am late then it usually means that I have slept through the alarm.  

Dream two: The one where we are naked in front of our class.
Dream expert: “Irrational fear of being found out.” 
Real meaning: Fear of being found out that we are a bit weird if we dream this. It might, alternatively, be the result of going straight to bed, maybe after a long session of marking, without remembering to iron and set out any clothes for the next day. Take whichever interpretation you feel more comfortable with.  

Dream three: Teaching a class that is out of control.
Dream expert: “Betrays low self-esteem.” 
Real meaning: It simply means that, in our real world, we are currently teaching one particular group where we are regularly on the brink of “losing it” – particularly during that afternoon slot. The positive thing is that dreaming about that class is better than losing sleep over them.   

Dream four: The unprepared lesson with an Ofsted inspector watching.  
Dream expert: “Our subconscious side is working through various negative scenarios, as a kind of dry run for the real visit.” 
Real meaning: The subconscious side of us is saying “Who gives a **** about Ofsted?”. Our sleeping head is questioning whether we should bother dancing to their tune, given that they still assess schools in so hypocritical, non-formative and inequitable a manner. Maybe we should follow our sleeping heads more on this one.

Dream five: The one where we are running away from someone.  
Dream expert: “We are avoiding someone connected with our work.”
Real meaning: You’re actually right on this one, dream expert. This teacher dream is especially common as there are just so many nightmare figures for us to avoid. It might be a brutish, results-obsessed line-manager, a browbeating headteacher, or it might still be the monstrous Gove-stalker.

Or perhaps we are now chased through the streets by the lost beard of the “blob-loathing” former government advisor Nick Timothy. Or maybe Toby Young’s detached bald head is pursuing us through the air like a guided missile, launched by a cluster of beaming North Korean generals?    

Just me with the Toby Young thing? Fair enough. However, I hope these honest, no-nonsense dream explanations have put the matter to bed, once and for all.  

Stephen Petty is head of humanities at Lord Williams’s School in Thame, Oxfordshire

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Stephen Petty

Stephen Petty is head of humanities at Lord Williams's School in Thame, Oxfordshire. 

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