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 Halloween, Writing

Comfort in the Dark

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[What follows is an anecdote from my experience at the Books with Bite workshop at the Highlights Foundation earlier this month. However, it is also the personal narrative I’m writing with my seventh graders (because I like to multitask). The story is true, but some details regarding other participants and the events they shared have been changed to protect anonymity.]

Comfort in the Dark

When I was little and I got scared during the night, I pulled the covers over my head and squeezed my eyes shut, hoping if I didn’t see the ghost or monster, it couldn’t get me. I guess it worked because I’m still here. No monster ever succeeded.

Now, though, I’m all grown up, and nighttime terrors are a thing of the past. Right?

Maybe not.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a workshop in Pennsylvania with a group of horror writers. I stayed by myself in a small cabin at the edge of the woods with no TV, no internet, and very little cell service. The cabin was cute and cozy during the day, with the windows open and the sunlight streaming in, but at night my cozy cabin became pretty creepy. One evening in particular it showed its sinister side.

The third night of the workshop was “ghost story night.” The other ten writers and I sat in the living room of the meeting house, lounging on comfy couches, sipping cups of coffee or wine, and taking turns telling ghost stories. Only, these weren’t neatly cased in the safety of “fiction.” These stories were true. And they were eerie.

One woman told a heart-wrenching tale about seeing her father’s ghost after experiencing a terrible accident. That one left most of the room in tears. Another woman described a puff of smoke with eyes that used to follow her around her grandparents’ house when she was a child. She didn’t know until she was an adult that the smoke followed her younger brother too.

Some of the stories were funny, some were sad, and some were hard to believe even though the speaker swore they were true, but all of them sent shivers down my spine. Then someone brought up the fact that most supernatural experiences happen between three and four o’clock in the morning, and suddenly the room was abuzz with people saying they wake up at exactly 3:00AM every night. I stayed quiet, but my mind drifted to the night before, when I’d been roused from sleep to see the numbers of my cabin’s alarm clock glowing 3:03. My spine shivered again.

Before long, it was 10:00PM, and the ghost stories were over. It was time to go back to my cabin. In the dark. Alone.

The excitement of the evening and the coffee coursing through my veins kept me up for a couple more hours. First, I sat on the porch writing in my journal and listening to the coyotes howl in the hills. Then I snuggled under the quilt of my tiny bed and read a ghost story (which, in retrospect, was probably not a good idea). Finally, just after midnight, I fell asleep.

At some point in the middle of the night, I became aware that I was screaming. The reason for my screams wasn’t apparent. I just knew that I was terrified of something, and I was screaming. With effort, I managed to wake myself up from this vague nightmare. Then, suddenly, I felt a hand softly stroke my head, running its fingers gently down my ponytail. The gesture was kind, soothing. It seemed to say, Shh, shh. There ‘s nothing to be afraid of, which would have been comforting if I hadn’t been ALONE IN MY CABIN.

At this point, I jerked awake again, for real this time. But, even though my brain was now conscious and every cell of my body was on high alert, I didn’t open my eyes. I did NOT want to see whatever was in that room with me, be it ghost or monster or scary shadow or even just the alarm clock flashing 3:00AM. I did not want to see anything to make my heart pound harder that it already was. I refused to look.

Instead, I pulled the quilt over my head so that not a single inch of me was exposed to the night, and I squeezed my eyes shut until I fell asleep, fretfully, once more.

Then the morning came. Sunlight streamed through my windows. There were good friends and good coffee waiting for me at breakfast, and I felt happy, relieved, and a little curious about what I’d experienced during the night.

One thing I did not feel was childish. After all, you’re never too old to be scared. The night will always be dark, but eventually the morning will come, and you’ll breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you escaped the monster once more.

* * * * *

DON’T FORGET– IF YOU COMMENT ON THIS MONTH’S POSTS OR SHARE THEM ON SOCIAL MEDIA, YOU’LL BE ENTERED IN MY OCTOBER GIVEAWAY!

 

Posted in Halloween, Reading

Review: More Spooky Texas Tales

This post is part book review and part personal horror story. Enjoy!  🙂

More Spooky Texas Tales

More Spooky Texas Tales by Tim Tingle

More Spooky Texas Tales includes modern versions of stories about such creatures as the chupacabra and “Skinwalker.” It wasn’t my favorite collection of horror stories, but it did have a few gems here and there. One memorable line came from “Screaming Banshee Cattle of the Night Swamp.”

In this story, a little boy and his dad are driving across east Texas at night, and the father has just told the son the tale of the screaming banshee cattle of the night swamp, those monstrous cows that look just like the rest of the herd until nightfall when they reveal their long sharp teeth, let out piercing screams and pounce upon human victims. The boy, who only half believes the story, falls asleep in the car.

When he wakes, it is dark and his dad is pulling into a lonely-looking diner. Father tells son to stay in the truck while he gets them some food for the road. But not long after the boy is left alone, the night becomes frightening. The wind picks up, the moon disappears behind the clouds, a storm rolls in, and he begins to hear a high-pitched screaming sound. Terrified, he looks toward the restaurant for signs of his father and sees him, sitting at the counter, laughing and joking with the cook. The author writes, “In the diner, life appeared normal.”

Such a simple statement, yet it holds so much meaning for me.

One of my earliest memories is of a recurring nightmare I had when I was around four years old. In the dream, I am playing in an old red rocking chair in the back room of our house, climbing around on it and hanging upside down in it so that my feet point to the ceiling and my head dangles toward the floor. Just a few yards away to my left, my mom and grandmother sit at the kitchen table, shelling peas into a metal pan and talking quietly. To my right, I can see my pappy walking down the back porch, heading to the door to come inside. The scene is normal, peaceful, right.

Then, in an instant, everything changes. No longer is it my beloved pappy coming to the back door. It is the thing—the monster, the creature, the phantom—and it is coming in to get me. Suddenly, I can’t move; I am trapped, upside down, in the rocker. Suddenly, I can’t speak; I try to call for help, but my voice is gone. The nightmare advances in slow motion. Me, trying desperately to move, to speak, to run… the thing getting closer and closer to the door, reaching for the doorknob, the doorknob turning… the panic growing inside me until I awake, drenched in fear.

The only thing about the dream that remains constant, is the scene in the kitchen. Throughout my turmoil, my mom and grandmother continue shelling peas for dinner, utterly oblivious to my horror, and completely safe from it. In other words, In the kitchen, life appeared normal.

Sometimes, when you feel creeped out, whether justifiably or not, you find comfort in being around others, in joining a group that knows nothing of your turmoil and carries on as usual. There is the idea of “safety in numbers” and the feeling that nothing bad can happen to you if you’re surrounded by friends. But other times… there is no amount of camaraderie that can protect you, no crowd that you can blend into to feel safe. In times like these, the terror has targeted you specifically, and there is no way for others to rescue you because they can’t even perceive your danger. And those are most horrifying experiences of all.

I am grateful to “Screaming Banshee Cattle of the Night Swamp” and More Spooky Texas Tales for reminding me of this.