For many years, in spite of the fact that I enjoyed my teaching career, I had what I called my “school dreams” in the days leading up to each new school year. These were dreams in which everything went wrong. All a teacher’s worst nightmares would visit me as the end of August approached! One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed about retirement has been the absence of these dreams; until recently that is.
Why in the world would I be having school dreams again more than seven years after retiring from the classroom? It happened again last night. This time, I was trying to teach a high school English lesson to a large class of students in a crowded area at the back of a busy hairdressing salon! Yes, my school dreams are like that; a curious mixture of realistic and just plain weird. Midway through the lesson, all but two of the students got up and went upstairs to some sort of student lounge. In spite of my pleading and threatening (definitely not effective teaching strategies), they refused to come down again. Over the years students leaving class and refusing to come back has been a fairly common theme in these dreams.
Teaching is a stressful occupation and during my career, though I anticipated the beginning of each new school year with excitement, I recognized that my strange dreams were a symptom of that stress.
Over the past 14 months, my life has been a series of one stressful event after another. I thought I was coping well but little by little, with each ensuing event, the stress built up until now it’s beginning to bubble over. According to the Holmes and Rahe Life Events Stress Test, which is supposed to give a rough estimate of how stress affects health, events including death of a close family member (Mom), major personal illness (cancer) and major change in health of a family member (Dad) have given me a 50-50 chance of succumbing to stress-related illness. I’m doing my best to combat that by continuing to eat well, exercise regularly and by ensuring that I get enough sleep but it’s absolutely amazing what’s stored away in the deep recesses of our brains. Apparently, mine still connects stress to teaching and is reacting to my current stress level with school dreams! How weird is that!
Now the challenge is to find ways to reduce the build up of stress and manage it better in the future.