Sweet Dreams, Teachers!
The air is changing. It’s cooler, crisper and I nestle into the soft covers soothed by the peaceful calm of early morning. The sun is wafting through the curtains and on the porch outside my window, the rocking chair creaks slowly in the morning breeze.
The sharp ring of the phone jolts me out of my happy place and I fumble for it.
“Hello?” My voice sounds hoarse and drowsy.
“Jennifer? This is the school. Are you coming in today?”
I bolt awake, panic searing through my veins! I leap out of bed and race to get ready, but everything goes wrong. My straightener- which I haven’t used in 4 months- is missing and my hair bears a striking resemblance to Einstein’s. The resemblance ends there, however, because Einstein would have remembered to set his alarm on the night before school starts!
I spill my coffee, can’t find my car keys, trip over the dog…all as precious moments are ticking away and my first block class is sitting, unsupervised!
Such is my nightmare. I have it every year in late August. And I am not alone. Across the nation, the nightmares have begun for teachers; it’s a startlingly common phenomenon.
We were discussing it at a small gathering of friends a few nights ago, swapping dream war stories. Everyone had something to contribute. One of my friends, a younger teacher, has that ever popular “Oh my God, I have come to school butt naked and am standing here trying to teach with no clothes on” dream. I used to have these, I remember, early in my career. I remember trying to stay calm in my dream. I will just act normal, I tried to tell myself. Perhaps no one will notice.
Other common dreams include the return of the student from Hell. The one who gave you so much grief the previous year, the one you thought you’d never see again because he was promoted to the next level…or so you thought. You see his name on your roster and there he sits, grinning at you.
There is always the dream that you cannot control your class, that’s a popular one as well. Last year, I vividly remember a dream in which I was supposed to have a substitute, but then I came to school anyway and walked into my room. I could tell instantly something was wrong as the students- honors students, by the way- shifted guiltily in their seats and avoided my eyes.
This was because they had locked the substitute in the closet.
I was so mad in my dream, my anger came with me to school. I never really trusted that group, after that, National Honors Society students though they were.
Losing a student is another common one, probably more common for Elementary teachers, but I do remember dreams where the office calls for a student who was sitting there in front of me a moment before, but has now vanished. The class watches me as I try to sweet talk myself out it with the Principal.
Oh, you Teacher Haters out there, the ones who look with disdain at our summer vacation, you can have no idea how doubts and fears plague our subconscious. The classroom never really leaves you, even in the summer. I’ve been teaching over 25 years and I still have these dreams. I should count myself lucky though. I have a teacher friend whose insomnia begins in late August. At least I sleep so I can have these dreams!
And the good news is they are just dreams! I have, in fact, never overslept on the first day of school. This is because I set four alarms and this year, one of them is the theme to Game of Thrones, so I am confident that will get me up. The first day of school is never quite as traumatic as the dreams, I realize. I mean, sure, I will have six Ashleys in the same class- each one using a different spelling and possibly even a variation on pronunciation- but I will sort it out eventually.
Like everyone else, I will toss aside the flip flops for my pumps, trade denim shorts for a pencil skirt, and head off to school by 6:45. Yeah, that’s a.m.
And I will, no doubt, leave my lunch on the counter.
Seriously. Happens every year.