I don't feel anxious about the new semester. I'm thrilled to get a whole new batch of kids. I'm thrilled that I get to start over with actual experience as a classroom teacher. I actually know what I'm doing! I have a strategy to help resolve some of the classroom management issues I had last semester. A battle plan, if you will. (I'll let you in on my battle plan later….) I feel prepared. I know what changes I plan to make. I've taught the material once before, so I actually know what it is that I'll be teaching tomorrow and next week and next month. I actually have it all planned out week by week. I know what I want to improve on. I have a plan. I feel great!
My subconscious, on the other hand, is filled with anxiety. Case in point: Last night's very detailed dream. You've gotta love pregnancy and vivid dreams.
It was the teacher's equivalent to the realizing-you're-walking-around-without-any-clothes-on-down-Fifth-Avenue dream. I'm just glad that my subconscious didn't incorporate nakedness into the whole. That would have been even worse.
From what I can ascertain, my subconscious fears three things: 1) that I'll be too nice and flexible at the beginning of the semester again and lose control of my students (imagine someone letting all of the animals out of their cages at the zoo), 2) that I won't be prepared enough and my principal will know it, and 3) I'm doomed to fail and will lose my job.
In last night's dream, it was Tuesday, the first day of the new semester. All of my students had quietly filed into the classroom during first block. They sat quietly in their assigned seats (yeah right – like that ever happens). I smiled at them and welcomed them to my classroom. The bell rang and I prepared to pass out my syllabus and explain the class expectations, rules, and consequences. That's when I realized that I hadn't printed any of those things off, nor had I made any copies of them for my students. Panic set in.
Let me tell you a little secret – panic can never set in when you are a teacher. Students sense panic. They feed on panic. They will turn into raving, rabid, wild, uncontrollable creatures from the depths of hell if you panic. Stay in control. Use a little humor. Distract them. Move on.
You have to go with the flow, regardless of whatever problem you have, adapt, and find a new alternative. The projector doesn't work? Don't just freeze up and let your kids start talking. Give them an assignment to work on silently while you fix the problem. Panic = chaos. It's pointless. Keep calm and carry on, right? ;)
So here I am in my dream classroom and I'm panicking. Great. This can't be good. Stupid dreams.
I rush to my computer and become engrossed in trying to find the files in my teacher folder so that I can print them off real quick. They aren't there. Terrific! While I'm busy trying to find my files, my students rearrange their desks into clusters and start talking. Then they discover a store of candy, cake, and soda (which magically appeared out of NOWHERE) and eat all of it. Teenagers + sugar. Double terrific. They pull out the television (which I don't actually have!?!) and start flipping channels. They find the boom box and start blasting rap music. They begin to start dancing around and swinging from the ceiling and throwing paper and books across the room. In the way of dreams, I'm watching all of this from above going: Where the hell is my dream self? What the hell am I doing?? THEY ARE GETTING OUT OF CONTROL! STOP THEM! DO SOMETHING!
My dream self looks up, mutters "damn!" and hops out of her chair waving her arms, trying desperately to regain control. In a very non-authoritative voice, dream me squeaks, "Guys? Come on! Move back to your seats. Move you desks back into rows immediately! Get down from there! Put that away! Stop that!" Detached-watching-from-above me snorts at her pathetic attempt and rolls her eyes. "Oh sure. Like that's going to do anything!" Somehow, 60 of my 90 minute class period has passed already. What the heck was I doing on that computer? Was I rendered deaf, dumb, and blind?
Then, every teacher's favorite thing happens. The principal magically appears in my doorway, his hands in his pockets and beady, hawk eyes narrowed under his big, white, bushy eyebrows on the chaotic atmosphere. Did you know that principals always appear in your doorway when something amiss is going on? Usually right when you are about to fix that something? It never fails. They have the uncanny ability to appear at the worst possible moment, not five minutes earlier when everything was going swimmingly.
All students run back to their desks and start snickering. "Mrs. Pipsqueak, may I have a word with you?" NO! Not that! Anything but that! I don't want to go to the principal's office! I may be a teacher, but I still have student's instinctive fear of the principal's office! "Y-y-yes, s-s-sir…"
Detached me rolls eyes again. WTF?!? Get a grip!!
"What the hell is going on in there? You've betrayed your profession." I hang my head. Long-winded lecture ensues. I make excuses about how I hadn't made enough copies of my handouts and had just been trying to take care of the problem. Blah, blah. Shame and misfortune upon your classroom. I'm a failure.
He sends me back in to take care of everything and will return shortly to check on me. I go back in and tell my students something along the lines of, "Sorry, I'm not usually like this. We clearly got off on the wrong foot this morning. I need all of you to take out your textbooks..." I drone on and students go back to ignoring me and getting out of hand.
Then, a teacher's second favorite thing happens. Two school board members show up to observe and evaluate my classroom. Panic. I don't have a lesson for them to critique. I don't have anything! My kids are acting like hyenas and I'm doomed to fail! I'm the worst teacher ever! Detached me wonders how a dream could possibly get worse and if my ability to dream should be permanently removed for future sanity…
I babble helplessly to school board officials while fights and make out sessions ensue behind me. Cell phones are being waved around in the background. My ability to dream should definitely be revoked...
Then I get pulled out to go to the principal's office, which, in the weird way of dreams, is located up a spirally, cafeteria tray conveyor belt covered in food... I'm going to be fired. I just know it. I should have stuck to brewing coffee. I'm much better at that. And then the dream fogged up and vanished away into weird dream land… Thank you, subconscious. I'm glad you aren't in charge of my waking, rational thoughts.
In conclusion, I'll definitely make sure to copy all of my handouts for the first day of the new semester during the teacher work day on Monday. Definitely.