Commentary 21 Aug 2009 05:08 pm

Such stuff as dreams are made on*

Here is my Aug. 20, 2009, column from The Alliance Review:

I roam a long hallway, looking for my classroom. I find it, but don’t have a key. I’m magically transported inside, but I’ve lost the textbooks. I open my mouth to speak, but have no voice.

It is the Teacher Dream, and it comes every August. Never in June or July, but always in the eighth month, when weather and calendar are at odds. The dog days of summer, with their heat and humidity, conspire with the rapidly advancing dates, which indicate school will resume soon. It’s my subconscious mind’s way of knocking on my noggin and demanding I rejoin the real world.

Apparently, I’m not alone.

Google “teacher” and “nightmares” and thousands of hits appear. Many have to do with real-life nightmares: Not enough supplies, overcrowded classrooms, lack of administrative support. But subtract those, and you still have a goodly number of blogs and articles about genuine nightmares, the kind you wake up from in a cold sweat, relieved to learn they aren’t real.

A teacher blogger named “Ms. Cornelius” segments teacher nightmares into four categories: (1) teaching a classroom of unruly kids, (2) teaching a topic about which you know nothing, (3) teaching like crazy but nobody pays attention, and (4) teaching during an emergency like a fire or tornado.

Most teacher-dream scenarios fit into one of these. Teaching with your fly open is a (1), teaching when you don’t know the names of any of your students is both (2) and (3), teaching in a room that’s so hot everybody is falling asleep could be (3) or (4) — the latter if the kid in the front row has his hair spontaneously combust.

A handy dream dictionary offers an explanation of school nightmares for the layperson, i.e. somebody who doesn’t make a living by working in one. When other adults dream of being back in school, it means something has happened in their waking life to make them feel like the person they were in younger days.

An anxious school dream — like forgetting a locker combination or being tardy to class — means something in your waking life is causing you anxiety, while dreams of kindergarten and grade school indicate you’ve had an experience with a child that has prompted sympathetic memories.

Not very deep analyses, I know, but what do you want for $2.95 plus tax?

I wonder if people in other professions have similar dreams. Do surgeons dream of cutting open a patient and not recognizing the organs? Do barbers dream of having Medusa as a client? (”Will a comb-over cover my receding snakeline?”) Do airline pilots dream of flying through a perpetual fog? Do secretaries — excuse me, “personal assistants” — dream of typing a never-ending memorandum?

I bet they do.

My attempts to have teacher colleagues cough up nightmares via e-mail and Facebook for this column went largely unanswered. A couple supplied names of other teachers who have had panic-inducing, so-real-it-made-their-heart-pound nightmares, but few were willing to share their own.

So I throw it open to my readers (both of them) to share stories about job-related dreams and nightmares. Whatever you do for a living — from aardvark husbandry to xylophone tuning, tell me how your waking profession has bled over into your dream life. If I receive enough, I’ll print the most interesting — minus names, to protect the innocent and the guilty — in a future column.

Which will spare me from the nightmare that haunts my other profession — the one where the scariest proposition is an empty page.

*The newspaper headline incorrectly read, “Such stuff as dreams are made of,” a common misquoting of this line from Shakespeare’s “Tempest.”

2 Responses to “Such stuff as dreams are made on*”

  1. on 21 Aug 2009 at 1.Joni said …

    Nice column, Chris. I may have shared this with you during our Carnation Tab-filled Saturday, but when I was interning and writing for the festival tab I had a horrible dream that the tab ended up being printed on notebook paper and it looked horrible…all the articles were crooked and upside down. I was so disappointed after all the work I had put into it. I told our good friend Steve about it and he was kind enough to fashion a crappy tab for me as a joke…what a trickster.

  2. on 22 Aug 2009 at 2.D.J. said …

    I work in sales. I have sometimes dreamed that I was back at State Street Middle School, trying to pay attention in class but unable to because my pager and mobile phone kept interrupting me.

    It’s hard to be a good student while customers are calling with questions and orders.

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