Posted in Teaching

A Small, Terrifying Glimpse Into the Subconscious Mind of a Teacher

I’ve had three school-related stress dreams since Christmas. Against my better judgment, I’m going to share them with you.

Dream #1:

This one was a doozy. It went from normal bad to wow-that’s-a-creative-form-of-torture bad to AAAAAAAAA! bad. Here goes.

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It was the first day of the new semester. My first period class (who is sweet, smart, and funny in real life) was being unruly and refused to listen to me or follow my directions. I ended up having to yell at them, and that still didn’t have the desired effect. We got nothing done, and the period ended with me feeling frustrated that they wouldn’t do what I asked and embarrassed that I couldn’t control them and depressed that I’d yelled at them. (This “no one will listen to me, what do I do?” dream is very common among teachers. But things are about to get interesting. And by interesting, I mean infuriating.)

I’m off second period, and I planned to use that time to figure out what went wrong in first period and make a plan for my future classes. But there was a girl in the hallway who was lost. She was new or something. I don’t remember the exact issue, but I helped her find where she needed to be. When I got back to my classroom about five minutes into second period, it should have been empty. Instead, there was a classroom full of kids there. Kids I didn’t know. I was confused.

I gave them something to do (here’s a note card– write your name and tell me who used to be your ELA teacher) while I called around trying to figure out what was going on. I was told that, yes, this was my class now, and I needed to teach them. As it turned out, over the holiday break, the administration had made some pretty massive changes to the schedule without telling any of us about them. We all went from having two conference periods to only one, and we had been given a variety of preps. My schedule (which used to include five seventh grade ELA classes and one Advisory) now had me teaching three seventh grade ELA classes (but not the same ones I was teaching before), two history classes (I don’t teach history), one sixth grade “how to read word problems” math/reading class, and Advisory. Suffice to say, I was not happy about this.

THEN (sorry, we’re not done yet) we were all outside for some reason, probably a fire drill, and were coming back in the building. The science teacher on my team was holding the door for people. He looked into the sky above me and started shouting, “Everyone inside NOW!” I turned around and saw a pink streak in the sky. At first I thought it was just a pretty cloud, then maybe a jet contrail. But I quickly realized we were under attack. We all ran inside and tucked and ducked as missiles started landing nearby. I was crouched in a hallway filled with windows that led to classrooms with more windows. It didn’t feel like the safest place, but I didn’t have time to move, so I just grabbed a composition book and held it over the back of my neck for more protection.

THAT, my friends, is an A+ stress dream.

Dream #2

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This one was, luckily, a lot shorter. I was back at work lesson planning with one of my ELA teammates. I told her some of my ideas for the upcoming semester and she didn’t like any of them. She actually wrinkled up her nose and made an “I-smell-something-gross” face when I shared them. It hurt my feelings.

Dear Real Life ELA Teammates,
          I had this dream BEFORE we met for planning this week. It was JUST a dream and has no bearing on reality. None of you did anything or said anything or wore any facial expressions to cause this craziness to appear in my brain, I promise. If you don’t believe that my subconscious could possibly make up something like that, then move on to dream #3, and you’ll see what my brain is capable of.
Love,
Carie

Dream #3

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It was the first day of the semester (again), and I was trying to teach my first period class (again). This time, the students were not the problem. The problem (and I’m sure this has happened to every educator at one time or another) was that there was a magic spell on the doorway to my classroom, and when a person entered or left the room, a giant pile of vegetables would spontaneously appear. (By giant pile, I mean several feet long and higher than my waist. I know the height because I was standing inside the pile once when it appeared.) The vegetables would then have to be cleaned up and carted away, and I’d try to teach again until someone else opened the door, and it happened all over again. It all took up a lot of time and made keeping my students’ attention quite difficult. The school knew about the problem (the poor custodians had already been to my room with the BIG trash cans about four times that morning) but they didn’t know how to fix it yet.

The vegetables were all the same kind, but the pile was different each time. Once it was a giant pile of sugar snap peas. I popped a couple in my mouth before they swept them up. The next time it was a giant pile of purple peppers, but that time there were also a couple of yellow and red bell peppers mixed in and one pineapple. I pulled those out and had a student put them behind my desk for later. At one point, I left my students alone (it’s cool– they’re good kids) while I went down the hall to ask my coworker for something I thought might help the situation, but, of course, when I left the room to go do that, another pile of vegetables spontaneously appeared, so it was somewhat counter-productive. When I got back, a student from the classroom next door, who had been working in the hallway, was complaining that the custodians had accidentally swept up his binder, which had been covered with the latest pile of vegetables.

Just before I woke up, a guy finally came to fix the problem, but he was the same guy they send to repair our computers, and I didn’t have high hopes that this particular “incident ticket” was in his wheelhouse.

The end.

***

There you have it, folks. This is what my brain does while I’m sleeping. Please tell me I’m not the only teacher who has crazy dreams like this, and make me feel better by sharing some of your own.

The second semester starts tomorrow. If I had to choose one stress dream to come true, it would have to be #3. At least my students were nice in that one, and no one was bombing me. Plus, I do need to eat more veggies…

 

 

Posted in Lists, Teaching

Carie’s Lists: 11 Reasons for Teachers to Get Excited About Back-to-School

BackToSchool

It’s that time of year again. Commercial breaks are filled with bright-colored backpacks and smiling children and actors portraying calm, confident teachers with not a hair out of place. Department stores put up giant signs shaped like pencils and everywhere you look, it’s SALE SALE SALE! It’s Back-to-School time.

But, the thing is, it’s NOT actually time to go back to school yet. It’s still a few weeks away, a few precious weeks for those educators who need every second of their well-deserved breaks. I see posts from teacher friends on Facebook, and I remember what it was like to have my summer cut short by insensitive advertising and early reminders.

Teacher 1– “Stop with all the Back-to-School stuff! It’s not even August yet!”

Teacher 2– “I can’t turn on the TV or leave the house without being reminded that summer is almost over. If you need me, I’ll be sitting at home in the dark eating chocolate.”

Teacher 3– “If I hear one more person say, ‘School is almost here!’ I’m going to snap.”

Poor teachers.

Hiding in your house eating chocolate will only save you for so long. Eventually, you have to accept that it is almost Back-to-School time. Since it’s unavoidable, you might as well get excited about it. Here are some things to look forward to.

11 Reasons for Teachers to Get Excited About Back-to-School

Supplies

1. School Supplies

While the commercials for school supplies may be unsettling, the actual shopping for school supplies is kind of awesome. It was one of my favorite things about being a teacher. When asked why they teach, other people tend to cite things like: an affection for children, a desire to make the world a better place, and an interest in their subject matter. I quickly realized that “the smell of fresh composition books and a love of sharpening pencils” was not an appropriate answer.

2. Free AC

August in Texas means 100-degree temperatures, and 100-degree temperatures mean high electricity bills. Instead of paying for your comfort out of your own pocket, set your home AC to 80 and bask in the freezing cold temperatures of your classroom instead.

3. Get Away From Your Kids

I’m not a parent myself, but I assume that, no matter how much you love your offspring, two months straight with them is too much. I think I’m right, because there’s a lot less complaining about Back-to-School stuff from my teacher friends who have children. Look forward to those hours of kid-free inservice meetings and staff development seminars. Think of it as “me time.”

4. Once Again Be Among the Day People

If you don’t have kids, there’s a good chance you’ve become somewhat vampire-like as the summer weeks have passed. Going back to school is your chance to blink into the sunlight, see what’s changed in the world, be among the day people again. (That first morning, though, might be a little rough.)

5. Annual Strangest Name Competition

Yes, those last few inservice days before school starts can be stressful, but then there’s the moment when you get your class rosters and everything stops while you scan the lists and compare names. I always enjoyed looking for siblings of kids I’d taught and any celebrity impersonators. (I’ve taught Will Smith and Rachel Green.) But the most fun is competing with fellow teachers for the most unusual student names. Unfortunately, I can’t claim to be the winner here. A friend of mine once taught twin girls who both had the exact same name. True story.

Possibilities

6. Endless Possibilities

You have a brand new, unopened planner. The dry erase boards are clean. No one has been late to your class yet or forgotten to turn in an assignment. Maybe this year you won’t get behind. Maybe this year you’ll finally figure out how to grade everything and still have a life. Maybe this year there will be no ill-timed fire drills, few parent conferences, and free donuts every single Friday. Maybe, just maybe. Until it begins, the possibilities are endless.

7. The Old “Naked at School” Dream

With the start of school, you can also look forward to the school-related nightmares. Maybe the “I’m changing clothes in my classroom and I forgot to lock the door” classic or the “How have I taught all day without realizing I forgot my pants?” variation. Or perhaps you prefer the “I’m back in high school and can’t find the classroom for my final” or the “I just realized I never actually graduated college” options. It doesn’t matter what you choose—they’re all good. Just remember, the best part is waking up.

8. First Day of School

I always loved the first day of school. First days are full of excitement and enthusiasm and usually at least one poor lost soul whose day you get to brighten just by knowing where room 1132 is. It may be hard to look forward to the 100th day of school or the 43rd or even sometimes the 2nd, but you should always look forward to the first. Read about some of my favorite first day traditions here.

9. Fresh Start

Part of the beauty of the first day is the fact that it exists at all. Teaching is one of the few jobs I know that has a clear beginning and a clear ending and a little (sometimes not enough) breathing room in between. The fact that you get that fresh start is a blessing. No matter how hard the year is, no matter how difficult the students (or the parents) are, no matter how far behind you get in your curriculum, the last day of school will eventually come, and two months later you’ll get the chance to start all over again. Be grateful for that.

The Many Faces of Ms. Kinder/Juettner - The middle left photo has got to be my first year of teaching because I look 12.
The Many Faces of Ms. Kinder/Juettner, a.k.a A Collage of Bad Hair Days: Here are 9 of my 13 faculty yearbook pics. (The other 4 are MIA.) The middle left photo must be my first year of teaching because I think I look 12.

10. School Pictures

In these days of phone pics and selfies and constant photo documentation, there’s nothing quite so old school as sitting on a stool in front of a blue backdrop and having your picture taken for the yearbook. Back straight, feet on the X, chin up, aaaaaaaaaand SMILE! As a teacher, I never knew what to do with the sheets of photos I was given each year, which is why I have a box full of them now. Still, picture day is a classic school moment and should be appreciated accordingly.

11. You Love What You Do

The best reason to get excited about Back-to-School time? Deep down you love what you do. Yes, you wish the summer were longer; yes, you deserve a much higher salary; yes, there will be days when you will have to force yourself to get out of bed and go back to that classroom. But you’ll do it, and most of the time, you’ll like it. Being a teacher is not just what you do, it’s who you are. It’s who I used to be too and honestly, all those Back-to-School commercials just make me wistful for seating charts and first day packets and decorating the covers of writer’s notebooks.

So embrace the Back-to-School time. Shop for glue sticks with gusto, come up with a wacky new way to organize your classroom, and revel in every unexpected jeans day the administration throws your way. When the first day comes, you’ll be ready. And I’ll be cheering for you.