Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Still teaching

I am standing in an enormous classroom, a room that resembles a storefront or pizza parlor, with a plate-glass window looking out to the street. Two students are in the room, and I say to them that I always make a point of saying “Good morning” when I come to class. I say “Good morning” to them, and one replies. I am carrying butter and chocolate, which I take to a nearby room to place in the refrigerator. The refrigerator is a wooden cabinet that the music teacher is using as a lectern as she leads a chorus. The music teacher looks like Jean Stapleton. I can’t put the butter and chocolate away without interfering with her conducting.

I go back to my room, now filled with forty or fifty students. “To build on what we were doing before our lost weekend,” I say — and I go on to explain that we’re going to look at basic punctuation. I explain that words can be put together to form phrases or clauses, and that a clause is a group of words that can stand on its own as a complete sentence. I realize that I’ve already botched my explanation, so I backtrack to explain the difference between independent and dependent clauses.

And now that everyone is here, I say “Good morning” all over again. I look for a blackboard and see only a corkboard with an honors-class presentation and a cracked slate blackboard with a grid of names and grades in ancient handwriting. I realize that I should not erase those names and grades. I notice a table with four hunters. They’re sitting against the far right wall. They grin at me. I ask them, “Are you guys even paying attention? How do you expect to get a foot in the door after you leave here?” No answer, just grins.

And then I go back to thinking about what I can write on. “Does anyone have a whiteboard?” I ask. Someone has one, but it doesn’t erase well. As I’m trying to erase, Jess Mariano from Gilmore Girls brings up a spiral notebook. “I think you dropped your notebook,” he says. He’s trying to be helpful, but it’s not my notebook, and I tell him so. “I think you dropped your notebook,” he says. “Believe me,” I say, “I’d recognize my own notebook.” And then I woke up.

This is the tenth teaching-related dream I’ve had since retiring. None of them have gone well. The others: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.

[Possible sources: A Fresh Air interview about for-profit colleges (with a brief reference to Trump U.). The importance of chocolate in Hans Herbert Grimm’s war novel Schlump. A New York Times piece about eating radishes with salt and butter. Seeing Jean Stapleton in the film Something Wild. Seeing militia members in the documentary The Other Side. Gilmore Girls, obviously.]

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