Monday, 22 August 2011

Summer Nights: The "Back-to-school Nightmare"

You have a job!  You're teaching Extraterrestrial Invaders 8, 9, and 10!  Be careful!  They bite!
Classroom background image from here under the Flickr Creative Commons license.
I occasionally have a ridiculous work-related dream throughout the school year.  It's always hilarious to wake up thinking that my dream-self has created something fantastic: "Yes!  I should turn all of the desks SIDEWAYS!  Why haven't I thought of that before?"  Fully conscious, I see how the "idea" from my dream could be problematic but, for a brief and glorious moment in the morning, I am convinced that I am quite brilliant.

As September approaches, any work dreams I may experience take a bizarre, negative turn:

It is the first day of school.  I have one year of experience under my belt and have just been assigned a new teaching position.  I am a secondary school Spanish teacher.  I try to explain to the Powers That Be that I don't know more than a hundred words in Spanish, but they tell me that it's enough.  They remind me that I lived in Mexico for a couple of months.  They say I'll be fine; it's "only beginner's Spanish," after all.  As I enter my classroom, I see the worst thing I could imagine.  Occupying ten desks are the Mexican exchange students I taught during my ESL contract the previous year.  They tell me that they are taking Spanish so that they can improve their grade point averages.  My anxiety heightens.  Not only am I unqualified - and unprepared - I am now teaching a language I don't know to native speakers.  As I begin to teach, the Mexican students mock my poor accent and correct my Spanish.  Suddenly, the class erupts into complete chaos.

The scenario above is a summary of one of my first back-to-school nightmares the summer after a temporary contract ended.  It doesn't take an expert to tell that I was feeling nervous about the upcoming school year.  I didn't yet have a position and wasn't sure what the new year would bring.

Honestly, as a few more back-to-school dreams appeared over that summer, I thought that I was losing my marbles.  What kind of person has anxiety-filled dreams about a job they enjoy?  Apparently, a lot of people do.  After talking to other teachers, I have come to realize that some of my most calm and experienced colleagues have a series of dreams and nightmares as September approaches.

When we are awake, teachers look forward to the fresh start that September brings.  We have grand plans to implement and new lessons to try.  I have enjoyed a wonderful summer, but am feeling positive about my new classes and new students.  Still, these pesky nocturnal visions usually begin to creep up between the end of July and the beginning of the school year, intensifying as the first day of school approaches.  Fortunately for me, and the other teachers I have spoken with, the dreams seem to disappear once the year actually starts.  I am always happy to discover that my students are lovely and my classroom floor is not covered with six inches of shoe-destroying water.

I have swapped stories with other teachers a few times over the years and we always have a good laugh about ridiculous dreams centered around the career we enjoy.  Do you have nightmares as September approaches?  I'd love to hear your stories!

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