Thursday, July 07, 2011

again and again

Last night I had a teaching dream. At first this might not be strange, but then you might remember that I haven't been a teacher in real life for an entire calendar year. It may or may not surprise you that despite the time away, teaching has never strayed very far.

In this dream, I had decided to start teaching again, and I was kind of happy about it. My students were the students I taught last year at Charter Elementary School, but they were two grades older. Later in the dream they morphed into my students at First Charter Middle School. And there was a specific cameo from a quiet girl whose name I couldn't remember. But she knew I was her former teacher and looked upset that I'd forgotten. I scoffed, well, sometimes I hardly remember my own name! She said her name was Sarah. [Later, after I'd woken up, I'd recognize her as one of my students at First Middle School, named Amanda.]

This was not the first teaching dream I've had in the past twelve months. A month or two ago, I dreamt that I was visiting a school (whose staff and students resembled First Charter Middle School, though the building didn't) and ended up interviewing with a male administrator. He seemed impressed with me, so did some female teachers I talked to, and I was happy as I walked out.

Over the months, I've had a number of other dreams where I was teaching, or pretending to teach, or supposed to be teaching.

On June 29 of last year, it was my first day of not ever being a teacher. I felt AMAZING. So happy, light, almost bodily relieved. I felt free.

On June 27 of this year, as I was trying to write a post like this, and looking through old photos of student field trips, I teared up for awhile. I'm not exactly sure why. I miss the kids? They were cute? We had some good times? It's so easy to forget the multitude of bad times. I've even forgotten most of the names of most of the kids.

I remember crying at the end of my second year, because I'd had such a better year than my nightmare first year, with some incredible kids that I was sad to leave. That was the only time I'd been that emotional about ending a student experience. (Oh, and those students graduated from high school this year.) The rest of the years I was exhausted and happy to have made it to summer.

There are so many amazing things about living a non-teacher life, but they're shallow things like sleeping in and not disciplining other people's children. Wait, I guess that's not so shallow? I don't know. Also the not grading papers or making lesson plans all the time. I still see things and have the "ooh, that would be a great classroom project!" thoughts.

There were two boys last year who continue to haunt me--one so much that I can't even say his name out loud. I can still hear his and his mother's voice in my head and occasionally relive the crazy conversations both awake and in dreams/nightmares. Partly because I wonder how I could have/should have dealt with things differently--what kind of difference would that have made? This was a child with serious issues, who made it the problem of everyone around him, and his family lied about the issues and other things, and enabled a lot of the situation. It ended up poisoning the experience of many of us in the class, especially the second student, who decided that he too could be rude, very disrespectful, and utterly, utterly defiant. Since the other one got away with it and everything. (Not because I didn't try every single thing I could, still with zero support.)

Remember that this doesn't include all the other behavior issues that I dealt with from many other students throughout the year. Jesus Christ, when I think about it, I can't believe I survived as well as I did.

It's pretty interesting that so many dreams involve First Charter School--an experience now almost three years in the past. Clearly I am not over it; I haven't forgiven myself for failing.

I took the photo above to symbolize taking a leap into the unknown, in respect to another aspect of my life. But I realized afterward that it fits perfectly into my teaching life. I jumped into that fairly blind; I never wanted to be a career teacher. Four years in, I took a huge, very blind leap into charter schools. And then, feeling like I was on a whole other kind of ledge, I gratefully stepped down. Without a plan, into the abyss of a completely new world.

Teaching is never far from my mind, especially because in this job I work with schools and teachers. Should I go back to teaching someday? Should I have never started teaching in the first place? I just don't know. Vague versions of this go through my mind all the time--and clearly it's weighing heavily on my subconscious.

I know this is all over the place, but so is my head.


Hedgetoad said...

I wonder what your teaching experience would be like at a non-urban school...?

J said...

i wonder the same thing! that's why last year i got a permanent teaching certificate (before i had an initial one that lasted five years). if/when we leave nyc, i figure it might be worth a try to teach or at least sub.

Karenina said...

Have you considered another kind of teaching, rather than public school? Maybe online, or teaching adults, or teaching at a community center, or private tutoring... there are lots of ways to be a teacher.

J said...

that's a good point. i'm not sure how it would feel to teach older people, or if i'm qualified to teach them anything! :)

but i'll file it away for future thought. :)

Anonymous said...

I was an inner city high school teacher for 21 years. I retired last year, and not only do I have no regrets, I don't miss teaching. I do miss my colleagues, though, and I miss the routine of school. It's hard to write "retired school teacher" on the line that asks for occupation.

J said...

21 years! and high school! wow!

i know what you mean--i still identify as a teacher in most of my life experience, and talk about it all the time. usually when i say what i do now, i always follow it with 'but i was a teacher for awhile before that'. i don't know, it's like i'm holding on to the past or something.

hope you're enjoying your well-deserved retirement! :)

Anonymous said...

i ran into my yearbook rep this morning and heard the horror story of last year's new yearbook teacher and all my rep had to put up with, both with a very poor teacher who should not be in the classroom and students who are out of control. He worked so hard to get the book completed and yet the school decided to go with a different company this year. And that's after 22 years of servicing the school. Made me do a little dance that I was not in that horrible mess any more. An inner city school is SO hard.