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.