As I stumble into my octogenarian years, “Back to School,” is a recurring dream—and not a pleasant one. The nightmare often starts with me standing in front of my class, partially dressed. I’m usually wearing a shirt, tie, baseball hat, and flip-flops. The rest is missing. It goes downhill from there, with being late, forgetting my lesson plans, losing control of my class, and general chaos. My students ignore me, and I can’t find my school keys. The worst part is standing before the principal with her staring in disbelief and asking, “Where are your pants?” Waking from my dream to find I am still retired, is always a relief.
“Back to School” was one of my favorite phrases, second only to “Let’s Take a Vacation.” As a woodworking teacher, my job was much different than that of an “academic” teacher. Not only did I have to teach, but also had to master a set of skills that would send some educators into another occupation. As did other teachers, I taught a subject, evaluated student learning, managed a classroom, and administered discipline. That’s not all. I supervised the operation of a large shop full of tools and machines, established safety procedures, maintained the equipment, inventoried and restocked supplies, sold wood to students, and managed a budget. I ran a business. The good news? Unlike an English teacher, I didn’t have a bunch of papers to grade on the weekend.
Every day, as my students worked in the shop, I coached them through the process of turning raw materials into finished products. At the end of each period, led by a student foreman, busy as bees, the students stored projects, cleaned workbenches, dusted off machines, swept the facility, and inventoried the tools. It wasn’t unusual for me to stand there, arms folded, observing my students, and thinking, I love being a teacher.
So, what’s with the dream? Where does my nightmare with its exposure, classroom chaos, and hint of failure fit in? According to one source, it has to do with not living up to my moral standards and goals. Really? Should an octogenarian be struggling with those ethical issues? I think not. However, they do take me back in time
Each year, during my teaching career, when June and the end of the school year arrived, I was disappointed. I had not met my goal, to be the best I could be. It didn’t take long to get over it. After all, in three months, I would have another chance. That’s the beauty of teaching. The school year starts in September, a new beginning, a time for renewal. The thought of returning to school, the opportunity to improve, was exciting. “Back to School?” Nightmares aside, I loved those three words..