The Best Years?

This post concerns a dream I had the night after publishing my previous post. I’m sure there was a connection because the dream was about school life. Another possible trigger was that I had just visited a couple who live in a rough neighbourhood and they became annoyed at a group of teenagers hanging around outside – I suggested a calm, polite approach might work and it did.

I still have occasional dreams about teaching, despite not having been in a classroom for several years. Before I tell the dream (and lose a reader, Henry James warned) here is a potted scholastic history. I did well at school despite an anxiety block about arithmetic. I rarely got into trouble because I liked praise and didn’t want to upset my parents. Many people go into teaching because of teachers who inspired them; I went in because I felt I could do a better job than the rather lazy and dull pedagogues at my grammar school – they taught bright kids and were therefore able to coast without much effort, I always thought.

Anyway, the dream, exactly as I wrote it down on waking …

3 kids in my tutor set, who lived in a gloomy housing complex overshadowing the school, had been withdrawn from lessons for ‘counselling’ on the say-so of a shadowy religious order – nuns, somebody told me. Their classmates were upset, telling me they’d seen these kids in and out of school in hysterical states.

I tried to find out what was going on but things started to unravel, as often happens in dreams. I was also being chased by people. Somebody accused me of not setting enough homework or else failing to get children to distinguish between classwork and homework in their exercise books. I started to forget where I’d put things, couldn’t remember names, worried I was losing my grip. The paperwork from the religious order explaining why they’d withdrawn the kids went missing – easy to put stuff down in a staffroom and have it covered over and picked up by another teacher, of course, but I felt very uneasy.

In the end I sat down with the other kids in my tutor set to ask for their help. For some reason I asked whether they were being bullied or haunted. Several of them began to cry …

At this point I woke suddenly, in quite a sweat but somewhat relieved to be out of my increasingly Kafkaesque dream. I wrote the above and read it over, unable to decide whether it was amusing or just bemusing.

It would be interesting to hear what other people think …


15 thoughts on “The Best Years?

  1. I often found that things in the classroom were not always as they seemed. Teachers, stressed and fearful, often blamed kids for things they didn’t do. There was a lot of stereotyping. I always found kids honest and could deal with most things by talking to them. My hardest task was dealing with staff who were being unreasonable or plain wrong.
    I’m not surprised you have weird dreams like this. Classrooms are such unreal places. Nowhere in life will you encounter such a strange situation of age and power.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That rings a big bell with me, Opher! I can remember occasions when my judgment was affected by pressure in just the way you describe. When I was Head of Department and had established my status in the school, I had very few problems. Later, doing supply teaching, I found it much harder. It was a bit like being a kid again, making schoolboy errors in an unfamiliar environment. Maybe some of that leaked into my dream …


  2. I always find it fascinating how we relive our anxieties in dreams, Dave. Maybe it is how we cope. Back when I was leading long distance backpacking trips through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Alaskan wilderness, I was always dreaming about getting people lost. –Curt


    1. Great example, Curt! I reckon we need to imagine the worst sometimes – perhaps it’s a kind of rehearsal or a way of discharging fear. It’s like an intensified version of real life which somehow foregrounds issues of control. I like the ones like films where I’m the director …


  3. Dave, terribly sorry, but just to let you know- I had to remove a comment of yours? from my page. One you wrote about Brexit ? Or did you? Nothing personal, but it is being used by someone on ramana’s page to stalk me and change my page. she says it makes her “seasick” Attempted power game by a total looser who is capable of nothing better, apparently. Sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh dear, no problem about the removal, you have to do what you have to do. Must be a nuisance for you. Can’t actually remember what I said but it wouldn’t have been too outrageous.


  4. my wife and i are both retired teachers. we still both have school nightmares. for me the piece does not come across as amusing. it does show how much pressure you were under as a teacher — from students, parents, and administrators. it’s a very difficult profession, where too often the teacher is blamed for any problem yet rarely given credit for anything positive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your response. It’s reassuring to know others share one’s own experience. Ultimately the blame must lie with politicians who have imposed chaotic and incoherent change on the profession while exposing teachers – and other public servants – to unfair criticism. Once upon a time curriculum advisors worked closely with schools in local consortiums – now it’s all flying inspection visits from insensitive SWAT-type squads …


      1. Dave, that approach sounds all-too-familiar. I served as a department chair in high school and at a community college. My observation is that what works best is to put a highly trained instructor in the classroom and then provide support. It is interesting to read how your experience match those of my wife and me.

        Liked by 1 person

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