Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Strange Dream

I've started teaching at an American ESL school. I'm new to the school - I have my binders of material from my "previous" job (in waking life, my current one, which I am now on a temporary leave from). I have, in some regards, the confidence of a seasoned teacher; but I also don't quite know what's expected of me, I haven't had a chance to personalize or adapt the curriculum, and am not so sure of myself in the new environment. I'm told only in the vaguest terms what to teach, and so I go in and improvise; sometimes it works okay - and sometimes it doesn't. In the dream, on this one particular morning, I arrive at work without having prepared anything at all, to discover that I'm going to be observed by a supervisor, and that I'm to teach about politics. I start out with a warm-up activity where individual students report about a topic they've been assigned previously, and since it's going along okay - and I have no idea what to do next - I stretch it out to ridiculous lengths, hoping to buy myself time to figure out what to do. It carries on so long, however - and is ultimately so not like an effective ESL exercise, since most students sit silent while individuals report, in sequence - the supervisor steps in and says - her word - that it's becoming "fornicatery." She takes over deftly and stirs things up, provoking the students with some new material (I forget what, but I think, in the dream, sitting back and watching her, that she's good). It inspires me - I decide that, if the topic is politics, I'll get the students to discuss a few different political systems. Democracy and fascism and communism and so forth. How many different kinds of political systems are there that they need to be able to talk about? Maybe I could get them started, then assign them homework, to bring in the names of different systems and explain how they work? At break, I rush to my locker and flip through my binder, looking for material I can use to round out the class. There's nothing. I end up improvising again. As the break ends, I tell my supervisor that I'll take over and I point to the word "democracy" by a painting that includes a faded image of Ronald Reagan and ask the students what "democracy" is.

Of course, the students just sit there. They're not comfortable with the situation and don't want to volunteer answers in front of a stranger, especially when it's not clear what I expect of them. Or maybe they just have no idea about this word - such a cliched, empty word - or in discussing it. I try to get them to give me something but most of them just look at me blankly, apologetically. I start to sweat, to panic. I try a couple of different angles, hoping to reach them. I can't.

Finally I just say "fuck it, I quit" and walk out. I hear the supervisor behind me say my name - only she's got my name wrong, and calls me (sorry, man) Will. Bitch can't even get my name right. I stalk off down the hallway, simultaneously feeling relieved and wondering how soon it will be before I start really regretting my decision, which was more about rescuing me from the immediate situation than a reflection of my feelings about the job.

As I walk, the hall becomes a trail through a field, and I see a strange lizard - almost cartoonlike in its dimensions - sitting in something on the trail; perhaps an overturned hat, perhaps a curved rock, I really don't know. I do a double-take and move closer to observe this odd animal. The lizard, sensing my interest, leaps up, runs briefly around in a panic - moving at amazing speed - and dives into a hole in the path. I am standing looking down the hole when my alarm clock goes off and I wake up.

No comments: