Teaching without sleeping

19th May 2006 at 01:00
Iwas waiting in customer reception for the results of our car's latest MOT (the poor, shaking little wretch is made to sit the same cold and deeply unimaginative set of exams every year) and I had the choice of picking up either a gnarled October 2004 copy of Maxim or a relatively recent Daily Mail. I opted for the Mail, simply because of the ground-breaking headline on the front: "Sleep - are we getting too much?"

Of course we are. About time we teachers were challenged in our traditional blinkered view that the pallid complexion, the lingering cold and the chronic sense of jadedness can all be put down to overwork. It never even occurs to most whingeing staffrooms that all our minor ailments might be due to over-rest.

Such beyond-the-box thinking should serve as a wake-up call to us all. It certainly makes sense to me. Some of my best lessons this year have followed a long night of singing lullabies to our sleep-defying two-year-old. It's perfect preparation for the next day.

When you've come into school after about one hour of sleep on a child's bedroom floor you have no option but to sink single-mindedly into your work and to coast dreamily and disarmingly through everything. You just know that the only way you will cope is to give it your all with whoever and whatever appears in the pale mist in front of you.

And, let's face it, many of the finest practitioners we meet - confound them -are squally, hedonistic types renowned for sometimes scrambling into school seemingly only a matter of minutes after returning from another of their fabled late-night sessions of pubbing, clubbing and kebabbing.

But even if you do still hold with the "not enough sleep" orthodoxy thereJwasJaJsimpleJsolution alluded to in a separate part of that same newspaper: just catch up by having a kip in front of your class.

In a piece arguing that it is a waste of taxpayers' money to help fund state education in Africa, Professor James Tooley of Newcastle university explained that sub-Saharan state teachers are notorious for going to sleep in lessons.

Consequently, he argued, most Africans pay to send their children to private schools, where teachers naturally feel more accountable to parents for their sleeping and teaching patterns.

So, if you teach in the state sector, take a blanket and pillow in to your Year 9s this afternoon. A siesta may seem an unlikely proposition, but surely a whole continent of slumbering teachersJcannotJhaveJbeen imagined?

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