Friday, October 26, 2012

Caffeine Addiction, or "Who Needs Sleep?"

My name is Dave, and I'm addicted to caffeine.

So many teachers are, aren't they? I like coffee. I like coffee a lot. When I was a newbie teacher, I often drank five or six cups a day. You can imagine that by the end of the day, my hands would be twitching. That much caffeine just isn't healthy.

After the first few years I cut back to two cups a day: a cup first thing when I get up (love my coffee-pot timer...) and one more when I get to school. That's usually still my plan these days...usually. There are days where I'll have a third cup in the middle of the afternoon. Some days I just need the pick-me-up.

You too?

I wonder about the phenomenon of teachers and their coffee. Did you have that teacher who was always puffing coffee breath when you asked for help? The one who had a mug that never really got washed out, and so the inside was stained? The one who passed back papers adorned with coffee-cup rings?

A few years ago, there was some discussion of whether we should make our school a caffeine-free zone. Many teachers were opposed, and I was one of the loudest--and probably most obnoxious--voices against this idea. I love my coffee. Don't try to take it away from will regret it.

About a decade ago, I actually tried giving up coffee for Lent one Spring. About two weeks in, a couple of very sweet 7th grade girls came to me with a serious request:

"Mr. Mulder? We know you gave up coffee for Lent. But...would you think about starting to drink it again? You're kind of scary in the morning without your coffee..."


Okay, so I'm an addict. I'll confess it. And I'm not exactly making great strides at avoiding caffeine either. I like having a warm drink in the morning, and one that wakes me up a bit is an added benefit.

I would even say there are days I need the caffeine to get me going. The thing is, I sometimes stay up late marking papers, and I need the go-juice to get me moving in the morning. Other times, I'm troubled by insomnia. This seems to be seasonal, but I do have a hard time falling asleep when I have a lot on my mind. Because I often do have a lot on my mind.

Okay, so the band has an unfortunate name, but there's a great song by my favorite Canadian group, Barenaked Ladies. The song is called "Who Needs Sleep?" and it sums this idea up with their typical, quirky, witty lyrics. The second verse goes:

       My hands are locked up tight in fists
       My mind is racing, filled with lists
       Of things to do and things I've done
       Another sleepless night's begun

Here's one of my favorite recordings of the song, from part of their "Bathroom Sessions" series on YouTube:

I wonder how many teachers might agree with me? Those of us who throw ourselves into our work with such vigor and passion that you think we'd be bone tired by the end of the day (and we usually are...), but we care so much about our teaching practice--or maybe worry so much about our teaching practice?--that sleep eludes us? Maybe we aren't trusting enough that the weight of the world isn't really on our shoulders...that we don't really have to do it all and be perfect in every way. Maybe we're trying to hard to meet other people's expectations.


Maybe I need another cup of coffee...

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