Zombie state

I am so very tired. It’s so easy to get into deficit with sleep but it’s so hard to get into credit. I seem to be paying off an entire mortgage.

This morning I woke at 2 am because of a squawking cat. I sorted that out, returned to bed and plunged immediately into wide-awakeness. So here I am on the wrong side of dawn writing about how much sleep I wish I had had.

English is a funny language, isn’t it? I can finish a sentence with two hads and it still makes sense. Even better is this sentence: All the sleep he had had had had no effect.

Four hads in a row. Maybe it wouldn’t seem such a thing of beauty if I had had more sleep, but for now I am enthralled by that swathe of hads.

Aside from my lack of sleep, I am tired because life in general feels like a perpetual school camp: constant busyness, all for the greater good of course, but so busily busy. I think that’s why my brain has trouble shutting down at nights.

I once overheard someone say, prior to heading off on an overseas holiday, “I just need to lie on a beach for three weeks and do nothing.” I was gobsmacked. You can lie down? For three weeks? And do nothing? Who has the time to do that?

As it happens I took time off work last week to go on my son’s school camp. It was great fun, but again, very busy.

This is the way of annual leave. You only ever take time off to do something, rather than nothing. Doing nothing is an art we don’t practice nearly enough.

It was a great camp though, jam-packed with cool stuff like rock climbing and slingshot paintball. I don’t remember school camps ever being that much fun when I was a kid. All can recall from my own school camps is being made to do lots of walking.

Just thinking about walking makes me want to sleep.

I was initially unenthused about going on camp as a parent. I really like my own children but the thought of being surrounded by 90 more of them was not a relaxing prospect in the rough and tumble of a busy month.

I have to say though, that after spending a few days with all those kids, I think I understand a bit better why teachers become teachers.

I’ve usually only focused on what I see as the obvious downside to being a teacher, which is that every day you are attacked by zombie-mobs of other people’s children who require constant wrangling.

At camp I caught a glimpse of the upside, which is that teachers work right at the coalface where they get to see little lives being shaped over time.

Children are resilient, passionate and entertaining little creatures. Yes, every child has their own special brand of annoying, but every child also has their own special brand of amazing.

I’m struck by how teachers genuinely care about the kids, even the so-called problem students. It’s also revealing to hear teachers talk off-line about the state of the education system and about the demands that stretch them far beyond their roles as educators. They may go into teaching to teach, but more often teachers become babysitters, social workers, health advisors, counsellors and administrators.

Teachers have my total admiration. I’ll be honest, I think anyone who works all day with hordes of other people’s children must be a little bit mad. But I’m grateful they’re there and they have my respect.

First published in Bay of Plenty Times 3 October 2014. Reproduced with permission. 

See also: Teachers are amazeballs