I’ve been having a recurring nightmare ever since I left teaching. It’s practically the same each time. I am back in my kindergarten classroom early in the morning, in a panic because the principal will be observing me for my yearly evaluation, and not only am I unprepared , but months have passed since I’ve entered one lesson plan in the plan book, the book which the principal will be inspecting as part of my review.
That’s Act I, Act II finds me without the pressure of the imminent observation, but similarly unprepared. As a result I’ve run out of off-the-cuff activities and the class slowly deteriorates, one child at a time, into raging chaos.
As a personal disclaimer let me point out that I never found myself in either situation but since I’ve had twenty years to analyze the dream, I’ve come to see how it correlates with my life. The dream only visits me when I find myself enmeshed in a situation over which I have no control. For example, it was a regular part of a night’s sleep in the years I was responsible for my father’s final declining years.Thank goodness, I haven’t had it in a while. So why do I bring it up?
Friday was the start of Chinese Year, The Year of the Horse.
That morning there had been an item in the news about some parents in Chinatown suggesting that the Chinese New Year be made a school holiday in New York City; their argument being that schools are shut down twice a year for the Jewish holidays. Without taking a side, let me point out that the Jewish holidays have always been days off from school ever since I can remember. However this wasn’t because of a majority of Jewish students. No, it was because the majority of NYC teachers were of the Jewish faith. Although I don’t have the figures in front of me, I doubt this is the case today.
But, oh yes, back to the dream….. That evening as I drove home from work, listening to NPR, there was a conversation about the proposed holiday. A caller suggested that perhaps the Board of Education could consider instituting floating holidays like some businesses do. That way children could stay home for whatever holidays are of importance to them. My contribution to the dialogue? “Floating holiday? Aagh. Choke, No No No! ”
It’s a wonder I didn’t have a nightmare that very night! One of the worst things, at least for a kindergarten teacher, and I suspect all levels, is to have a significant percentage of the class absent. Back before vaccinations, when the first child came down with chicken pox or measles a teacher could just kiss goodbye any expectations of having a full class for weeks. What this meant was whatever you taught had to be re-taught. And unless you wanted the children subject to boring repetition
you had to plan a lot of independent activities for the “well” so that when the “formerly unwell returned you could teach them. And measles being measles, this was a shifting population.
The major problem was that for a significant proportion of the first half of the school year, independent activities in Kindergarten are a “Ha! yeah!” proposition. Don’t believe me? Have you ever seen the movie Kindergarten Cop where Arnold Schwarzenegger plays an undercover cop posing as a kindergarten teacher? Of course it takes him all of three minutes to lose control of the class.
His love interest, a teacher down the hall, comes in and restores control, leaving him with these immortal words of advice (and my favorite movie quote in the whole wide world):
Pleasant dreams (I hope)