HUNT COLUMN: To teach, perchance to dream

Published 9:30 am Saturday, November 13, 2021

By Cathy Hunt
Chairwoman, Troup County Board of Education

As usual when the time “falls back” in the autumn, I’ve awoken in a panic the last two days because the window is already bright with daylight when the alarm sounds. After a startled bolt upright, the realization that all is well allows me to sink back into the pillow and quiet my mind.

Waking from vivid dreams sometimes produces the same reaction. Do you ever do that? Swim up out of semi-nightmarish episodes and say pointedly to yourself: “That’s not real! Stop with that. Relax. Go back to sleep”?

This usually happens to me when I’m having one of what I call my “school dreams.” Even though I retired from full-time teaching more than a decade ago, I still have school dreams multiple times a week. I guess being a teacher is so big a part of my psyche that it’s a role that inhabits my subconscious almost as much as my closest relationships do.

Many of these dreams are positive: everything is clicking in the classroom; I deliver brilliant, entertaining talks to my students, who are perfect, engaged angels; I’m having fun with my colleagues.

Then there are the ones that cause me to say, even while still asleep, “Wake up! This is not really happening. You’re retired, for goodness sake!”

These are not nightmares, per se, but it doesn’t take a psychoanalyst to recognize that old anxieties are surfacing. Here are a few recurring examples of those:

It’s the end of the semester, and I have three tote bags full of ungraded papers. As a matter of fact, I haven’t entered a single grade into Infinite Campus, but fortunately for me not one parent has questioned this. I’m sure to be found out, however, when a student wants an explanation for their final average (which I have totally made up), or wants to know what they made on a particular test, or wants to see the comments on their research paper (which would be none, because I didn’t really read it).

Or: I’m teaching five different courses, it’s 8 a.m., I have no lesson plans prepared for the day, and my mind is manically scrambling for ideas. Or: my classroom is as big as the media center and full of students, I can’t project from one end of the room to the other, and they’re not listening anyway. Or they’re arguing with me.

Or: it’s 7:45 a.m. and my own children won’t get out of bed, I can’t find any clean clothes, and there’s no way I’ll make it to school on time. But I don’t call the school and instead pray that my unsupervised students will behave because they’re happy to have no teacher; they won’t tell on me, and no one will know I’m not there on time. Funny to have agitating dreams about things that never came to pass.

Well, okay, I did pop in a minute or two late on rare occasions, but usually for a very good reason, such as when I stepped out of my car into the sunshine at 7:45 and realized I had on one black shoe and one blue shoe. I did go home to fix that. Most of the time, days went smoothly, and I considered teaching a “dream” job!