A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Monday, August 27, 2007

Nightmare in the classroom

It's back to school time for most of us, which is pretty stressful. One thing making this time of year extra fun-- besides the heat and sometimes lack of air conditioning, the money we will have to spend on supplies for our own rooms even though we are tapped out before the first paycheck, and the like-- is that charming little contribution of our subconscious. You know what I'm talking about: the teacher nightmare.

I'm not talking about NCLB-- no, I mean real nightmares.

There are the classics, of course.

1. The classroom full of kids who openly rebel against you as the teacher until complete pandemonium ensues. A spin-off is the one about the one kid who just won't quit until you appear completely insane. Then there's...

2. You arrive on the first day to find that your assignment has been completely changed, and you are teaching the thing you feel least capable about.

3. You are teaching, teaching teaching, but no one is focused on what you are doing, and you feel completely incompetent.

4. There is some kind of horrible emergency, like a fire or a tornado or an intruder, and you are responsible for a classroom of kids. You shepherd them from the danger, but there's one kid missing....

I have numbers one and four most often. I always wake up sweating at about 3:45 and waste a good hour getting back to sleep after each one of these little fright-fests. By then, it's time to get up, and I go through the day feeling just ducky.

What are some of your common teacher nightmares?



At 8/27/07, 9:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


What a great blog! We share a lot of musical favorites, and I particularly liked your piece on the Finns/Crowded House.

I'm writing because I think you have a kindred spirit in Rob Wilder, a fellow teacher who has just published a book called Tales from the Teachers’ Lounge. Rob genuinely loves his chosen career, but that doesn’t mean he can’t see both the humor and pathos inherent to the profession. Rob tells it like it is, with wit and insight.

Like his essays, Rob is funny and engaging in interviews, and he’d be happy to do a Q&A with you on your blog. Here’s the publisher’s link to his book, which includes an excerpt:


Please let me know if you’d like more information about Rob or his book, or to set up an interview.

Thank you for your time,

Deonne Kahler

Robert Wilder, author of Daddy Needs a Drink and Tales from the Teachers’ Lounge. Visit www.robertwilder.com for more info.

At 8/27/07, 11:45 AM, Blogger Robert Talbert said...

I had one last week where I was teaching my calculus course in a room with three tiny (2 feet x 3 feet) chalkboards in the room. The chalkboards, in addition to being small were such that the chalk markings would disappear from them within seconds of writing something up. So I'd put stuff on the board and it would evaporate immediately. Is that metaphorical or what?

At 8/27/07, 12:17 PM, Blogger Rebecca Haden said...

My most common back to school nightmare when I was in the classroom was that I was teaching my class on the beach -- in the water up to my knees. The desks would float and the books would be swept away and I was always trying to continue teaching as though nothing was wrong.

At 8/27/07, 3:40 PM, Blogger Lauren said...

My nightmare is that I am teaching and there are parents coming into my classroom taking the kids out because I am so terrible. The weird thing is that I am always in my first classroom at the first school I taught at.

At 8/27/07, 4:11 PM, Blogger Mrs. Bluebird said...

My recurring teacher dream is when I show up at school for the very first day and my classroom has been changed. The problem is I can't find the new one. It varies somewhat - sometimes I'm in my "old" room and no one comes and then we can't find out where the kids went! Sometimes I'm just wandering the halls trying to find my new room. Wonder if this is the result of having 4 classrooms in my first 3 years?

At 8/27/07, 4:22 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Ha ha! Mine is always a variation on #2. But I've learned to take a half xanax the night before the first day so I can get some rest :). I consider teacher nightmares one of those pesky things They Never Tell You in Ed School. It's always the topic of conversation in the lounge at lunch that first day.

(LOVE teaching without a/c. My 5th hour reeks. I'm thinking of bringing in deodorant for them.)

At 8/27/07, 5:15 PM, Blogger Mike in Texas said...

I'm a gadget geek, so I always have dreams where anything I touch doesn't work, no computers, no phones, no cells, nothing

At 8/27/07, 7:46 PM, Blogger EHT said...

Your one and three are my most prevalent nightmares.

Hey, Deonne (first comment) sent me an email with the same wording--hmmmmmm......:)

At 8/27/07, 8:10 PM, Blogger Mrs. Chili said...

My nightmares usually revolve around my failing to meet a responsibility - sending the students on break and then forgetting to come back myself, not being able to get to work on time (or arriving at the wrong room - or the wrong school), or having a confrontation with a student that gets me in HUGE trouble, even though I don't do anything wrong.

At 8/27/07, 9:19 PM, Blogger educat said...

Um, does no one have the teaching in their underwear dream?

Because if I'm the only one, I'll have to analyze it and I'm not sure I care to hear the results.

At 8/27/07, 11:56 PM, Blogger andbrooke said...

You're not the only one to have the underwear dream. (Whew!)

I think I've had all of the above mentioned (except the ocean dream). The one that scared me the most was one where I had already lost my mind and kept wandering away from school. My coworkers had to keep finding me and leading back. I felt terrible about not doing my job, but then I'd lose it and go wandering again.

Such a strange phenomenon. I do appreciate hearing about other teachers' dreams, though. I feel normal.

At 8/28/07, 3:12 PM, Blogger Ruth said...

I have the one where I'm hunting for my classroom and I have the one where I'm teaching in inappropriate attire. Also the one where nobody's paying any attention at all, or I'm not prepared and I'm rummaging through my stuff looking for what I need.

It's just a variation on the student dreams I used to have, notably the one where I have to go take a final and I forgot to go to the class all semester. Anybody else have that one? I haven't had it for years!

At 8/28/07, 5:15 PM, Blogger QuakerDave said...

My recurring teacher dream is when I show up at school for the very first day and my classroom has been changed. The problem is I can't find the new one.

We start back next week. I had this dream this past weekend. Just like every August.

At 8/28/07, 6:02 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Educat, I have that one-- or I'm naked, or someone is naked. None of these things is pretty.

How about getting in a screaming match with a parent-- who happens to be a board member. I've had that one, too.

I would hate the ocean dream, though

At 8/28/07, 6:30 PM, Blogger 100 Farmers said...

I dreamed that I did such a bad job of teaching that they played a video montage of it at my high school reunion. One problem of going back to the district tht you graduated from.

At 8/28/07, 8:46 PM, Blogger Dan Edwards said...

MAybe someone should start a "Teachers Insecurities and horrid dreams/visions" blog for people to share.....

I doughknow...I have had teacher dreams, but nothing like you all are describing.....at least yet. Maybe I just don't remember them. Then again, maybe, just maybe, I am wired a bit differently than many of you; after all, I teach junior high..... :-)

Sweeter Dreams y'all !

At 8/28/07, 9:38 PM, Blogger Mrs. T said...

Some of these "dreams" have actually happened to me.
I have the dream that I'm somewhere academic and realize far, far into the term that I've neglected some class. Stresses me out.

At 8/28/07, 11:50 PM, Blogger Dr Pezz said...

The only open seat at the staff meeting is front and center...Yikes!

At 8/29/07, 6:16 PM, Blogger Mister Teacher said...

I have the number 1 dream a lot, and I quite frequently dream of screaming myself hoarse at the kids (which I don't actually do in real life).
As for number 3 -- that's no nightmare; that's been my first week of school so far...

At 8/31/07, 2:24 PM, Blogger fillyjonk said...

I teach at the college level and I've had nightmares not unlike #4 - usually the building is on fire, I've got everyone out successfully....but there's one person I cannot find.

I also remember a very specific nightmare (the semester I had the Class from Hell - there were two people in there who'd "check out" regularly - just start text messaging - this was in a class of 40). One of the students from that class (in my nightmare) stood up and started berating me for being boring and stupid and how much he hated the class. And I couldn't get a word in edgewise to defend myself. I woke up in a cold sweat from that one.

At 9/1/07, 7:33 AM, Blogger Marcy said...

The nightmare I typically have is where I oversleep, and miss the first day of classes. However, I haven't had that one in some time.

At 9/1/07, 11:56 AM, Blogger graycie said...

I've often have the one where my room has been changed (usually to share an art room -- I don't teach art -- in the basement). I've been having it, and others, for so long that I have an entire dream/fantasy/horror school that I return to for my nightmares.

I long ago had a colleague whose dream was terrific. She dreamt that she was stalking down a dark alley and would periodically come upon a student who had been giving her a hard time. Then she would strangle the student and stalk on until she met the next one, who she would strangle. I've always envied that dream.

At 9/2/07, 3:49 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Ooooh. That's interesting. But is it technically a nightmare or a fantasy?

At 9/5/07, 11:15 AM, Blogger siobhan curious said...

I have the same nightmare every semester, starting a couple of weeks before school. It contains all of the following elements:

-I arrive at school about five minutes after my class is supposed to begin.
-I am in my pyjamas. I have a closet full of clothes in my office, and for some reason I have to iron all of them before I can choose an outfit to wear to class.
-I have not copied my course outlines/I have copied the wrong course outlines/I haven't even made my course outlines. All the photocopiers are broken.
-I can't find my classroom.
-When I do find my classroom, it is clear from the moment I walk in that these students were expecting a different teacher and/or subject, and are disappointed/amused.
-The classroom atmosphere progresses from silently, haughtily bored to blatant turning their backs and talking amongst themselves to hostile taunts and throwing of objects.
-An administrator walks in to ask if I'd like to reconsider my career path.

Around this point, I wake up.

No joke: it is the same dream every semester, without fail. Sometimes it's even the same class and the same anonymous students.

At 9/5/07, 4:51 PM, Blogger jdenslow said...

I definitely have the teaching in the underwear dream, and I have it when I'm the most stressed out and worried about what I'm teaching (around late February and early March, the long dark night of the soul of the debate coach around here.

Two real-life nightmares for me: arriving to teach my first year and finding out two days before classes began that I had two sections of 7th grade literature. I'd had the job since April.

Another: my first principal telling me at the end of the year potluck that he really didn't think I'd last until Christmas.

Fifteen years later, I started the school year in the same classroom I taught my first year in all those years ago.

At 9/12/07, 10:29 AM, Blogger MommyProf said...

I get to the final exam period of the semester and realize I forgot to teach the class. The students have come and sat in the room all semester. I have something like an hour to come up with a final that they can take, having had no instruction.

Not teaching, but also being scheduled to present at a conference and being unable to find the room because it doesn't exist.


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