insomnia and patience

Insomnia and Teaching Children

I have a student I don’t like. I even found myself gloating when he made mistakes yesterday. Did I do that out loud? Could he sense it even after I tried to hide it? Oh, crap!

So far, I haven’t been able to turn it around, to find that one thing I like about him, to draw him into the lessons we both know he needs to learn. He’s arrogant. I have trouble with arrogance. He interrupts me. He avoids writing. He works to distract. He’s disruptive to other students.

Okay, I’ll start. He has brown eyes with a sparkle to them. He wants me to read him a story. He smiles whenever he’s being particularly arrogant as if he knows what he’s trying to do will bug me.

Eh, I’ll have to work harder than that. I’ll have to keep trying to find that way for us to connect. I haven’t found it with him. It’s my job, to find that place from which we can accomplish something.

I have another student who is very quiet, so very quiet. He’s almost silent. But he tries to make me laugh with what he writes. Sometimes, it’s outrageous, but it makes me laugh and like him more. He knows that, so he goes straight for it when he’s trying to avoid serious work. Even when he accomplishes nothing, I have an affection for this quiet and very bright kid, this kid who makes me laugh.

Ah, that’s not all that fair, is it? I’m supposed to be impartial with my students, but I’m not. I’m totally not.

I know I’m supposed to be chatty here, but insomnia lurks in my veins, makes my blood sluggish, fogs my mind, sours my heart against people, even children, and blinds me to beauty and awe.

So every morning, when I get up after five or six hours of sleep, I am a curmudgeon, surly and aggravated. I worry more after only five or six hours of sleep. I know. Many of you out there only exist on six hours of sleep, are grateful for a six-hour night, but not me. If I get less than six, I’m a mess all day. I say inappropriate things, something like what a moderately drunk person might say. I don’t have the patience for my job. I’m caustic.

And I’m telling you that I need patience for my job. Why did I sign up for a job doing something that requires ultimate patience when I am not naturally a patient person? It’s crazy. I work with children.

I know so many patient and cheerful people who should be on the front line of child-rearing and education. They’re wise. They naturally comfort a child who’s shy or sad. They gently challenge an arrogant child. They’re suited.

I’m not, especially after less than six hours of sleep in a night.

That’s why I’m about to go back to bed. It’s my job to get enough sleep so that I can be a reasonable human being. Mike said so long ago.

I had asked him if it ever made him mad when I got more sleep than he did and yet I still complained about it.

We were in the kitchen. It was 5:45am. Neither of us had slept, but I had a chance to go back to bed later. He was in the middle of opening a can of tuna. The cats stood at his feet. I was trying to get into the silverware drawer where he stood.

He stopped and looked up at me. I‘d expected him to say something funny, but his face was serious. He paused, measured his words.

“No. You should work to get as much sleep as you can,” he said. “One of us needs to be able to function.”

What he so politely declined to say was that I was rather like Jekyll and Hyde. I was reasonably nice, though not particularly patient, after sleeping enough, but I was a bear when I hadn’t.

So now, I’m going to take my monster self back to bed. It’s daylight outside, but I’m going to pull the covers high over my head to block out the light. I’m going to close my eyes, concentrate on the swirling nature of the light I see in the dark with my eyes closed.

Do any of you see swirly lights when you close your eyes and try to go to sleep? I do. It’s annoying.

And I’m going to sleep until I’m done sleeping. Then and only then will I be able to walk calmly into a room full of exuberant children who are sometimes arrogant and resistant to learning.

Thank you for listening, jules