I wrote this last year when I was just starting my practicum: it seems somehow oddly applicable here.
September 21, 2007
I have these dreams. I wake up (last time it was 3:17 am) in a literal cold sweat, thinking about teaching. I dream that I’m in front of a class and I can’t get their attention. I dream that the big kid in the back is threatening me and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. I dream that my students fail, miserably, because I told them the wrong thing. I remember that someone very important to me said they wouldn’t be surprised if I’m one of those teachers who burn out in the first five years. I think of the thousands of dollars I have to repay in student loans, I think that my training as a writer and editor means I’m essentially unemployable, I think that I’ve spent the best earning years of my life, the time I should have spent solidifying my career, farting around in art school and then learning how to teach when I have no business being in a school.
I think of the horror stories I’ve heard about how hard the first year is. I think of how hard I’ve been working this week, just coming up with one unit plan for one class. I remember that I snapped at my son the other day because he was chattering about something while I was trying to figure out how I would grade this short story critique. I remember the bottle of Pepto-Bismol, which I now keep in the kitchen for easy access, and how the level has gone down in the last few days, even though I’m still scalding with heartburn in the middle of the night.
Someone refered to the thoughts we have in the middle of the night as 3 AM psychosis. It doesn’t feel psychotic at three in the morning, it feels real. (I try to remember those nights when I nursed my baby, and the grand plans and crazy fears that assailed me then. It seems very far away.)
But eventually I get back to sleep, and soon it’s morning. I make sure everyone has what they need (breakfast eaten, teeth brushed, lunches packed according to preference and facilities available, dog has been out and come back in, dog’s water dish is full, beds are made, we are all appropriately attired and well-shod, the boy’s agenda has been checked, library books are tucked in the bag, I have the books and materials I need, wallet, sunglasses, keys) and off I go.
And here’s the funny part. I walk in the front door of the school and I smell that school smell (floor polish, dust, books, eau de Adolescence, feet, Essence of Large Public Building) and get into the classroom and a kid comes up to me as soon as I’ve put my bag down and asks me a question about how to write a thesis statement and I think:
Oh. It’s alright then, after all. It was just a dream.