Teaching and Anxiety Dreams

I love teaching and I have missed teaching. It was very disappointing to find, when my partner got his tenure track job, that the music department thought they’d reached their geeky musician quota and didn’t want to toss any adjunct work to another. This spring it occurred to me to ask computer science. Although the paperwork hasn’t gone through yet, I have strong reasons to believe I’ll be teaching as an adjunct in the fall. I’m finding it very reassuring. I hadn’t planned on writing anything about it until the paperwork went through, but last night I had the best. anxiety. dream. ever.  So I must share.

Usually I don’t remember my dreams. In fact, this brings the grand total of remembered dreams in my life up to 5. Hopefully I don’t kill it trying to describe it.

At the beginning of the dream, I had a good several weeks before the term started and I was quite relaxed about teaching. That meshes with reality–I’ve never felt particularly uncomfortable about teaching. Then I thought I should look at my calendar and double check. It turned out that my class was starting the next afternoon.

Still, I was relaxed. My experience at a charter school in undergrad left me comfortable teaching everything with zero notice. One minute I’d be teaching algebra, the next hour I’d be teaching writing, then maybe some calculus after that, all with no notice. There was simply no way I couldn’t toss together 1 lecture in an entire day.

I decided to go into the office and check out the textbook for the class. It was just an amazing textbook. It was about an inch and a half thick, and in a crown quarto paperback format (7.5″x10″). It was printed on a sort of heavy weight artsy unbleached paper–very chic. I flipped through the textbook and it seemed really solid. It was the perfect intro computer science textbook. It was purely theoretical; it wasn’t tied to a particular language but provided the conceptual basis to apply to everything; it was unbelievably accessible. The textbook was an elegant thing of beauty. And I thumbed through and found the perfect first assignment.

View of a long corridor within one of the Ellis Island build...Suddenly, I realized that my class started in the morning and not in the afternoon. So I rushed across campus, which was mysteriously large, entirely indoors, and nothing like any university I’ve ever been to. It was really a lot more like the inside of a hospital. Only bigger.

Library, Goshen CollegeUpon arriving at class and starting to teach, I realized that my syllabus sucked. I had a half page paragraph of who-knows-what and not the list of topics and policies you’d usually expect. My colleague showed up, mysteriously, to tell me that I couldn’t have the class do that perfect first assignment because I’d forgotten to require that they buy the textbook.

NACA Langely Administrative OfficeUndaunted, I decided to just photocopy the essay that I’d thought would make such a delightful introductory reading. There were only 8 students in my class (?!) so copying the article for them all wouldn’t break the bank. I ran all the way back across campus to the mysteriously large shared office for adjuncts. This office was huge–I think every adjunct in the university had to have their own desk in this office. It took me a while to find my desk.

The perfect textbook was gone. I’d simply misremembered it. All I’d remembered accurately was the unbleached artsy paper and it’s thickness. Now it was a small square book, maybe 6×6. It had become an incredibly kitschy art book. The paper weight had increased to be nearly card-stock. Instead of standard book layout, there were layered double pages with the unbleached pages tied to colorful, slightly larger book pages with satin ribbons. There might have been some lace peaking out behind a few panels as well.

Every page just had one word or phrase on it in a calligraphic font, with a little line drawing underneath. This is the sort of book you’d imagine saying things like love, joy, and friendship, with flowers or hearts or something underneath each word. It would be marketed as “inspirational” and purchased solely by people who would find themselves in the position of having to get a thoughtful gift for someone they hardly knew. The arbitrary page I flipped to said “memory” with a little picture of memory underneath: [][][][][]. The next page said “pointers” above three asterisks: ***. (I find myself quite disturbed by the three pointers: that’s going to go horribly wrong.)



I felt a horrible sick feeling when I thought about what I was going to tell my students mixed with a slight relief that I hadn’t required them to buy the textbook.  But I woke up laughing hysterically and am having a very hard time not laughing out loud every time the memory and pointers pages of that book flash into my minds eye.

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