Last night I dreamed I was standing in front of a classroom again. But it wasn’t a nightmare. I had clothes on. It wasn’t a comfortable situation either. It was a new teaching assignment with a new classroom and new students I had never met before. And I had been given no time to prepare my classroom or write lesson plans… and I was late. The students were already there. Nervously staring at me, their new teacher, a total goofball-looking goon with a gray beard and goofy Mickey grin on his silly-stupid face.
But the crazy thing is, I could’ve done the job. I have faced the first day of classes 31 times. I know how to do the job and do it well… from memory. I know first-day procedures better than any other lesson type I have ever done. And I got good at it over time. In fact, I reached a point in the 1990’s where I told a colleague, “You know, if I had to pay the school money to let me be a teacher, I would do it. But please don’t tell them that.” And I worried for real a few years later when she became a guidance counselor, because that is only a step away from administrator, and in Texas they would definitely pay you nothing if they could legally get away with it.
But the dream wasn’t totally a regret dream or filled with sadness over having to retire. I have been in the situation of that dream before. I started my teaching career in a poor South Texas school district. The junior high supply budget was basically the money from the Coke machine and whatever the principal had in his pocket (which was usually lint). I have taught classes with more students in them than there were desks to sit in. I have taught classes with no textbooks. I routinely bought things to use for lessons with my own money and made things with my goofy-cartoony art skills. I have taught a number of times directly out of my memory and imagination with no books or notes to turn to. An experienced teacher has got skills. So I woke up from my dream feeling good and satisfied. It was the feeling you get from a job well done. The kind of satisfaction you get from thinking on your feet and still managing to come up with the right answer.
I wish I was still teaching. I could not move my achy old body through rows of desks now if my life depended on it, so I can’t go back in a classroom, but I still wish I could. Maybe I can clone myself and convince a younger me that teaching is not really the totally terrible idea it seems as a career, especially in Texas. But maybe now it is only the stuff of dreams… and goopy wish-fulfillment posts by a slightly insane former teacher.
There comes a time when a mind turns inward and begins to learn that self is as complicated and in need of exploration as any African jungle or surface of a distant planet.
The Paffoonies today all come from my sixth grade school notebook. When that school year ended I owned one book of my own, Rudyard Kipling’s First Jungle Book, the paperback version. I kept my colored pencil drawings in my school notebook, and I kept the notebook in my bedroom to continue to fill it with drawings on notebook paper.
As you can see, the notebook is age-worn and falling apart, but I still have it. It still contains my twelve-year-old artistic visions, the beginnings of who I am as a thinking, drawing, story-telling human being.
At one point I even had a package of pink notebook paper.
So I admit it. I was a dorky, weird child. And I drew a lot of weird pictures at twelve. Now you have some of the evidence.
The hardest dream-to-reality connection to make is my duck nightmare. I know I bummed the world out yesterday with unfunny dream deliberations. But in this post I explore the lighter side of nightmares. It all began when I was about four years old and we went to the Deer Park Zoo in Mason City, Iowa.
Truthfully, when you look at it from the proper point of view, at four you are small and all animals look like monsters. The three ostriches they had in a chicken-wire pen were at least several hundred feet tall. The deer were huge with giant Bambi-eyes. I was little and still very much in a touchy-feely stage of life. And the goose-pen had a large hole in the front, just large enough for a goose head and neck to fit through at high speed. That is exactly what happened when one wide-eyed nerd-child wandered close enough to give a gander a premium chance at a beak-first goosing. Whether my pants had to be changed immediately afterwards is something I have yet to work up the courage to ask my parents about. No rush. They are only in their eighties now.
Anyway, I was left with a recurring nightmare, always involving a duck or very similar waterfowl with big, massive, white dentures. Yes, you heard right, a duck with teeth. It’s all right for you to laugh now, but I woke up in cold sweat every single time I had that nightmare. Right from the moment when I realize that the evil little duck-mind has fixed its wishes on taking a nice, big bite, to the split second where the toothy duck-head zips towards me, I am gripped with total existential terror. And it wakes me up.
So what does this doozy of a dream mean? Do dreams have to have a meaning? All two-hundred-plus times? (I lost count, so sue me.) I do believe, however that it must be some kind of anxiety dream. And the last occurrence was now four years ago, so the possibility of duck-dream remission is very real to me.
If my last post chilled your innards, then hopefully this one lit them up with laughing gas.
This closing Paffooney from yesterday is entitled “The Leap of Faith”. I’m not sure why that is important to know, but it is.