When Emma Grace was born, I waited for the night when I would dream about her.
It takes a while, you know, for the new people in your life to show up in your dreams. And when they do, I always feel that they have finally Arrived. They have Presence enough in my everyday to show up in the odd discourse of the night; they have become Real and Alive to my subconscious.
My students this year actually appeared in my dreams very early on– I think it was back in September. It was an odd dream. We were holding class on an island somewhere; we had to get to it on a boat. And at some point in our sojourn on said island, they all boarded the boat and left me there, stranded. The dream closed with me looking after them while they, ever receding over the water, peered back at me from the crowded stern.
Of course, at the time, the students and the school and my job and Everything was very, very New. For all my prayers and hopes, I wasn’t entirely sure that I liked these students, was fairly certain that they didn’t like me, and was keenly aware that I had committed to something that was Quite An Undertaking– yea, Dreadfully Difficult. Add to this the fact that our future building was (and still is) under construction, so that we hold class in a teensy modular building that feels Quite A Hike from the main building, and I guess the “stranded” metaphor gains meaning.
The dream was Unpleasant, and I held it against them (the students) for awhile.
No, really, I didn’t. I told them about it, and they found it funny.
But in that dream, none of them was readily identifiable; none was himself or herself. There was just that subcontextual knowledge that you have in dreams– where you know that something is and you accept it.
And then, for months, my students weren’t in my dreams At All. Until Friday night.
On Friday night, many of my students were in my dream. We were on some foreign campus somewhere; I had the distinct sense that we were visiting, but we belonged there at the same time, and for part of the time I was lost and anxious about things and for part of the time I wasn’t. I don’t remember many of the details, but the students were with and around me and I was responsible for them. But at the same time, they were also taking care of me in some way– solicitous, you know. And I realize that this is all Very Bad Writing because I am talking in generalities here but this is due, you understand, to the fact that I don’t remember the specifics. I will say that at one point several of us were going somewhere in a car, and Ethan and Mark and Derek maybe (was it?) were helping me somehow and one of them (Ethan?) held the door for me.
It was Very Sweet.
I can’t say what it meant. The working metaphors in that dream (if there are any) aren’t readily obvious to me. But what is decidedly obvious is that they showed up in my dreams– my students did– and were their real, recognizable, beautiful selves.
And this is the pleasure of teaching, O Readers: to know and love your students. Yes, the curriculum is (can be) wonderful, the lesson plans can be scintillating. But it is the students: their dawning awareness as they connect Plato’s Allegory of the Cave with Christ’s healing of the paralytic; the essay that they (this time) spent hours writing so that it blindsides you with its intelligence while it is that student’s distinctive voice you hear in the prose and you’re just so delighted with their efforts that you go find them in the hallway between classes and say, “This paper Blows My Mind!” and they just smile shyly at you and look So Pleased; the passion with which they (suddenly) recite their lines from The Merchant of Venice and you can see in their eyes that they Really and Truly Get It. And when this kind of thing is happening (And It Is), then you don’t mind at all when they show up in your dreams, even on a Friday night.
Sometimes I look at these students of mine and I think about next year and the year after that. If all goes well, I will be watching them through to their senior year of high school. They will be so different then and I will be so much the same, and I’m just thrilled that I get to be along for the ride.
And maybe I’ll know some of them Years From Now. I would like that.
I’ve known Jennifer for going on thirteen years. She was a freshman when I became her English teacher here in Durham twelve years ago, and it was with her class that I made my math teaching friend Karen jealous, because Math Is Never As Funny As Shakespeare. Yes, with Jennifer and her class we studied two of the bard’s plays, and we were in stitches over his brilliant humor.
Jen was a brilliant literature student. And grammar, and vocabulary. She has the Most Incredible handwriting I’ve ever seen (it should be a font), and she fell in love with Rupert Brooke when we studied one of his poems in the spring of her freshman year (and anyone who loves good writing should have at least a short affair with Rupert Brooke– I mean, really).
I was privileged to be Jen’s teacher several times over the course of her high school career, and I am privileged to continue to know her and (can it be?) be considered among her friends. She is a momma now; her twin boys Jonathan and Elijah fill her days and, I’m sure, show up in her dreams all the time. And now Jen has a blog of her own, too, filled with her amazing sense of humor and her Absolute Devotion to her boys and a really great sense of what makes good writing. I hope you’ll take a peek at what Jen has to offer here, or click on her name in the list at the right.
I can’t honestly say whether or not Jen has appeared in one of my dreams. We don’t remember most of our dreams anyway, they say. But she has definitely been a part of my life for a Good Long Time, and I really, really like that.