Friday, January 28, 2011

Teeth Don't Fail Me Now

I can't tell you how happy I was to wake up the other morning to find all my teeth in their proper places. The night before I had had a dream so vivid and drawn out that I couldn't distinguish it from reality. In this dream my molars—both sides, top and bottom—cracked down the middle, and I had to pull them out. They were still lined in rows when I pulled them out. It simply looked like I had bridges that had split in half as a result of controlled gnashing.

At one point during the dream I thought I was aware of the dream state. Then I felt the bloody sockets where my teeth were supposed to be, felt the sting of a fresh wound, and became convinced I wasn't sleeping, that I'd have to go several years without any back teeth because I couldn't afford the dental work. The only thing that seemed out of place, that might have tipped me off to my state of mind: everyone I encountered in the dream—even people that have never been kind to me in real life, but for some reason made appearances—was surprisingly sympathetic to my dilemma.

So, yes, I was very pleased to wake up and run my tongue across a two full rows of filmy, morning-stanky teeth. Still, the vividness of the dream stuck with me all day. It got to the point where I looked up the meaning of my dream online. And being the fine educator and researcher that I am, I stopped searching for answers after the first website I cam across. Here are some of the things it told me:

  • Dreams involving the loss of teeth are extremely common and are most often regarded by psychologists as signs that the dreamer is worried (consciously or sub-consciously) about the loss or weakening of his or her strength or self-confidence.
  • Dreaming of losing some or all of one’s teeth can mean “losing it."
  • To be toothless in a dream can be interpreted as loss of effectiveness.

There were other interpretations, but I felt that they didn’t apply. These ones were relevant to the circumstances surrounding the previous day’s events. They made sense to me. The day before I had this dream, my boss at Rasmussen observed me while I taught. It didn’t go very well (it never really seems to). And not because I wasn’t prepared or didn’t have a specific lesson—it didn’t seem to go well because class didn’t run as smoothly as it usually does.

I happen to like teaching at Rasmussen, because (generally speaking) the students there have very specific goals, and they don’t want to waste their time and money. I respect that. My class at MSU seems like the exact opposite: (in general) they don’t care about the subject or the material, just the grade; they’re shocked by the penalties I’ve set for late work (this is college, for fuck’s sake—I had professor’s in undergrad who wouldn’t even accept late work!); and they absolutely refuse to talk during discussion, even after I remind them that class participation makes up a portion of their grades.

But this bitchfest isn’t about MSU. Even though it kinda is.

The day I was observed, it just felt off. We didn’t click like we usually do, and I thought it showed. That’s when the discouragement started pouring over me. I got down because I thought the off day represented my ineffectiveness as a teacher. Which led to a slippery slope of justification for all the reasons I should get out of the field.

Reason number one for wanting to get out: my writing has suffered. It’s not that I don’t have time to write; I’ve been making time. The problem is that when I do write it’s a whole lot of shit. I know, I know. You’ve got to work through the shit in order to find the gold, and whatnot. Easier said than done. When I sit down to write, I can’t get into the dream or find out what my characters are thinking. The only thing that cycles through my mind is why the hell it took me an entire two-hour class period to teach college students what’s a thesis statement.

Maybe it’s because for-profit colleges don’t have admission requirements, which means some of the students they “accept” might not be college material?

Maybe that’s an unfair assumption. Maybe the ridiculously low wage I earn for the amount of work I’m doing is creating a level of bitterness that serious educators shouldn’t possess.

See. Right there. That’s what I’m talking about. A real teacher wouldn’t think that. A real teacher would want to help students, regardless of superficialities like pay. Right?

I still help my students. But I also think my bitterness is somewhat justified. My work comes home with me.

I’ve begun conducting new job searches, hoping to find some full time work. A few of the positions I’ll be applying to are teaching jobs, and I think the full time status will help ease some of my reluctance toward the profession. I’m tired of the commutes in opposite directions (77 miles to the south once a week, 21 miles to the north twice a week—those are one way figures, keep in mind). It’s literally and figuratively turning me around and making me dizzy. If I only have one work destination, with one set of policies and procedures, maybe I won’t be as down on myself as I have been. Maybe in my dreams my teeth will remain intact.


Jorge said...

I think it's ok to be worried about pay and to let that enter into the mental conversation about what you're doing with your life. You do, after all, have to support yourself.
You can do the martyr teacher thing when you've got a grant supporting you.
The other thing is that not every student, not even a majority or large minority, is going to be an ace. Many of them just want the grades or degrees. And you can't blame them sometimes, they're 18 and still in high school mindset where their day is planned by the governing bodies. So much of teaching comp. is just teaching them to listen and take instruction. If I can get a student to also write a decent sentence or form a coherent thought, I've done the best I can do. We're teaching at the 100 level. There'll be duds.
That all sounds so horrible, and I feel bad for saying it, but it's true. When I taught 242, then I felt like I was making a difference. That class I would sacrifice for. 101? Not so much.

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