This is getting ridiculous.
Last night I dreamed I was at school, prepping for the new year, and intensely, obsessively even, searching for just one more desk that didn’t have a collapsed leg.
This is what my professional stress has come down to?
For those of you who don’t work in education and who maybe have been out of the classroom a decade or two, let me bring you back for a second. Remember those crappy desks you had in high school with the open fronts that you could stick your folders in? They had adjustable legs (though the adjusting wasn’t easy as it involved a nut and bolt being removed, pushed up or down a slot, and replaced) and often were stylishly decked out with tennis balls where the feet should be?
That’s what I still teach with.
“Seriously, Señora?” One of my favorite six-foot-two freshman looked at me when he saw his tiny desk. “This is where I’m supposed to sit?”
“Sorry, man,” I told him. “If you’ve got a problem with it, kindly pass it on to the principal. I’ve been trying to get new desks from him for three years.” It was true. I weaseled the desk thing into any conversation I could. Budget requests? Desks. Take on a new mentee next year? Sure. If you give me desks. Good morning! How are you? Desks. I have a one track mind, and it’s kind of sad the track it’s chosen to take.
Curt, my student, crammed himself into his window-side seat. If he pushed his chair way back and extended his legs out, he fit okay. It just made him look like he was chillin’ in a La-Z-Boy and totally checked-out from class. I shrugged. At least his plastic green seat wasn’t one of the ones with a crack in it that pinched your butt every time you sat down.
But desks aren’t the point. They’re just an easy distraction and a current pet peeve.
The point is Teacher Dreams. And I’m not talking the kind of Teacher Dreams that involve winning the lottery, having the Most Perfect Class Ever, or getting to school and having your boss say “Hey, you know what? I’ve got it today. Why don’t you just take the day off?”
I’m talking about the kind of Teacher Dreams that kick in every year, usually around the end of July or the beginning of August and bring back all the fun stress of the school year before for the school year even starts. We’ve all had them. Even today, when I went to a friend/colleague (frolleague)’s house, she was on the same wavelength.
“I had a dream I was back at school teaching, last night,” she said.
“And?” I asked anxiously, waiting for her to be naked, or something.
“And nothing. I was teaching. It was fine.”
Well then you got off lucky, missy.
My Teacher Dreams tend to be much more stressful. The most common is that I can’t control my classroom, the kids are being insolent snots and there is absolutely nothing to be done about it. I wake up pissed and annoyed only to discover it’s a Saturday morning in July. Which, rather than making me feel better, leaves me even more pissed and annoyed that I’ve just spent ten minutes of my summer being pissed and annoyed about a work situation that doesn’t even exist.
It’s a vicious cycle.
My second most common dream is that I forget to set my alarm clock and arrive late to work. Rather than pissed and annoyed, this one leaves me frazzled and freaked out. Usually my principal is in there somewhere watching me be late and taking notes.
I’ve dreamed that an administrator sat me down to tell me, “We’re not sure this is the right fit for you,” that I opened my mouth to start teaching only to discover I had zero plans prepared, and that my students suddenly realize I’m a horrific fake and don’t know how to speak a word of Spanish.
Forget monsters under the bed and things that go bump in the night. When I lie down on a late summer evening, I do so wondering what Horrors of Academia my sleep will bring.
Desks. That’s a new one.
So let’s hear it, folks. If you can beat a crooked desk leg for a lousy night’s sleep, shoot me a line. As for me, I’m off to pop an Ambien and watch a Johnny Depp movie. Some eye liner-wearing, sexy, drunken pirate dreams.
Now that’s what I’m talking about.