Education Opinion

Nightmare on School Street

By Nancy Flanagan — September 02, 2010 2 min read
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Just had lunch with a friend who’s heading back to teach next week.

Last year ended on a bad note for him--a teacher leadership role he’d been promised was yanked at the last minute. He spent a great deal of effort, over several months, defining and outlining the position, proving to administrators that a) he was already providing these essential services to his colleagues and b) it would be a time- and money-saver to actually make them part of his job.

His supervisors agreed--it was a done deal. And then something happened, behind closed doors, and the plan was scrapped. The worst part was that nobody got around to telling him directly--he found out when the fall schedule was distributed and his new leadership job wasn’t listed. A major bummer.

The night before our lunch, he’d dreamt he was back at school, doing the new job. In the dream, he was accomplishing all the things he’d proposed--traveling around the district to train teachers, providing just-in-time support to colleagues, making things better. In this pleasant dream, he was living out his hopes and goals, using his talents.

Back-to-school dreams don’t usually work that way.

My Facebook teacher buddies are currently sharing their annual bad dreams. Culled from their posts:
• The dream where you’re late for school. You know the kids are waiting for you, the bell rang long ago, but for some reason you can’t get to school, no matter what you do.
• The dream where you’re standing in front of the class, and your mouth is moving but nothing is coming out. You can’t think of anything to say.
• The dream where you find you’re completely unprepared (or, worse, naked) in front of a class. You walk into the room and--surprise!-- the kids are there. But you’re not ready.
• The dream where that kid--the one you thought was out of your life forever--comes back, and announces that, yes, you get to spend another year with her.
• The dream where you have to use the restroom, but can’t leave your class. When the bell finally rings, you run down the hall, but the bathrooms are full, or broken--or the stalls don’t have doors. You go from bathroom to bathroom, looking for a private place...

And the nightmare I had every year, for 30 years: I am in front of a large class, and no matter what I do or say, the students won’t shut up or pay attention. I shout, I scream, I threaten--but the students chatter and horse around, as if I weren’t there. In the dream, I am desperate, crying and furious. I always woke up sweating, with heart pounding.

I assume that before-school dreams represent our deepest teacher fears, anxiety-producing situations that were not likely to ever happen, a psychological antidote for worst-case scenarios. Doesn’t explain my friend’s fantasy dream, however.

Teachers, what did you dream last night?

The opinions expressed in Teacher in a Strange Land are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.