When pupils turn into 4ft parrots ..

22nd August 2008 at 01:00

It is the first day of school, and the head brings a new child into class. Only, as she steps back, you see not a child, but a 4ft parrot.

And then you wake up.

It may be the middle of the summer holiday but dreams like these haunt teachers' sleep. It may be as far from term-time as is possible but for many teachers, thoughts and fears about school continue to disrupt their long-overdue lie-ins.

Some holiday dreams are downright bizarre. On The TES online staffroom, teachers have been troubled by dreams such as the avian pupil or class desks replaced with bunk beds.

For others, sleep reflects the preoccupations of their waking hours. Elizabeth Connolly, who is about to start her NQT year at Billesley Primary in Birmingham, found herself forced to teach a repeatedly misbehaving class while she slept.

"There were naughty children, not-listening children, running-away children," she said. "A culmination of all your nightmares. It made me think, argh. What's going to happen this year?"

The nightmares do not stop with the first year. Sarah Lowden, who has just completed her NQT year at South Woodford Primary in east London, dreamt her school had been converted into a secondary, with no classroom for her.

"I had such a good year group last year," she said. "Now the whole year group has changed, the dynamic is going to change. So I'm feeling a little bit uncomfortable about going back into school. Going into the unfamiliar is such a big thing for new teachers."

It is not just new teachers who wake up screaming. Hannah Venn, history teacher at Wembley High in north-west London, occasionally finds herself sleep-teaching: sitting upright in bed and asking pupils where their GCSE coursework is.

"You think as a teacher you're going to spend all your summer planning," she said. "But you actually spend all summer worrying about the fact that you haven't done any planning.

"You're worrying about the kids you had last year, about deadlines for coursework, about being handed other people's classes. It's just endless, endless fears."

For others, however, the need to plan lessons over the summer is so pressing that even unconsciousness is no deterrent.

In an impressive display of time-management, Jemma Crossen often dreams about trying out new resources for pupils at Cheviot Primary in Newcastle.

"Sometimes something I've been planning doesn't work in the dream," she said. "Then I look at it afterwards and realise, yes, it wouldn't work. It's very strange, but it does help.

"Teachers are always looking out for things that would be useful in the classroom. I don't think we ever stop."

But psychologist Ros Taylor insists it is possible to switch off during sleep. She recommends meditation before bedtime.

"Think positively and change your dream," she said. "People think they can't change stuff about themselves, in conscious or subconscious. But they can."

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