The Nightmare before Labor Day

It finally happened. I started dreaming about school. Vicki Davis, “Cool Cat Teacher,”  wrote about this, stating when teachers dream about school, they’re almost always nightmares.

Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 5.31.10 PMI’ve had two nightmares this summer about school. Both involved changing institutions, not finding rooms, and getting schedules I’m not qualified to teach. In one dream, former colleagues stopped by to tell me how glad they were I left, because they had always hated me anyway. A PE teacher followed me around with a copy of my grades from last year pestering me because someone didn’t get into college because of me, I couldn’t find any supplies, and kept getting notes that I needed to collect “the data.” It compounded from there.

I’m not Freud or Jung, but I can peg this one without help. I left my room a mess–a victim of the end-of-the-year exhaustion from last year, I didn’t mess up anyone’s grades but a substitute absconded my book list from my emergency folder, requiring some summer emailing, no one ever gets enough supplies, and I’m waiting to see what I’m teaching this coming year.  Pretty straightforward.

The truth of the matter is this: good teaching is chaos. The best way to describe it is by comparing teaching to a game of dodgeball where someone swapped out the stinging red balls for baseballs, and twenty people chuck fast balls simultaneously at your head. I have but one glove to catch them.

As a martial artist, I compare this to a real street altercation where people attack together pummeling the victim, as opposed to a movie altercation where the protagonist is accosted by twenty people, but one at a time–everyone waits politely or lines up so the hero can dispatch them in turn. “After you,” they seem to say, “No, after you.” Chuck Norris always wins.

That’s not what teaching is like. In teaching, it hits all at once. And it’s all urgent.

Teaching is chaos. If it’s not, sign me up for that position, and tell me what you put in your morning coffee, because I want some.

If you’re a new teacher, you’re stressing about the beginning of the school year. If you’re a seasoned teacher, you’re stressing about the start of the school year.  You’re wondering, “Will I do well enough this year? Can I accomplish everything? Can I fight all the battles at once, and live to see the end of the year? How about the test? My evaluation? The curriculum… how about…”

Everyone wants to have fun.

Everyone wants to have fun.

Every year I have a theme to try to improve myself in the classroom–to help me achieve inner peace in a world that gets crazy. Last year–the theme was “windmills.” Don’t fight them. This year, efficiency and fun. Where can I best use my time?  How can I collaborate to make my life easier and have time to enjoy my students and colleagues more? I’m finishing off a reread of Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Workweek in honor of this year’s goal, and I’ve joined up with Dave Burgess’ Teach Like a Pirate crew to steal the best of the best ideas in the nation, because, like the hoaky motivational poster says, TEAM=Together Everyone Achieves More. I fully expect to be smacked for the cliché.

I want to do more fun things with my teaching team as part of the Year of Efficiency and Fun. Trouble is, we don’t get to see each other when the school year starts. “Should I go to the bathroom today, or stop in to say hi to my colleague?” Bathroom always wins for me. It’s not a healthy question, because by the end of second quarter, many of us start to forget each other’s names.

So, yes, the nightmares have officially begun, but so’s the planning of strategy for the Year of Efficiency and Fun.  If you work more than two doors down from me–outside of the geographic “Good morning” zone, I’ll try especially hard to say hello, and I’ll bring you a cup of coffee this year. Then maybe you can join the Year of Fun too.

[images: http://i-sparks.net  and chabad.org]

 

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