You know you’re a teacher when it’s summer vacation and you still wake up in the morning thinking about a fabulous lesson you’ve just created in your dreams. A lecture that could change the lives of the students in your classroom.
BUT, you realize that you were BORN to teach, when you are retired and this phenomenon still happens. When you suddenly wake up with a smile on your face after having had an epiphany of an outstanding lesson that clarifies a concept so perfectly, that the mind of a small child suddenly understands an abstract notion that he or she previously had difficulty grasping.
This fall it will be three years that I’ve been retired and I still dream that I am up in front of a classroom of children interacting with them in some form or another. They ask me questions and in my slumber I have to think out of the box, and off the cuff, and come up with answers that explain their wonderful queries better than any textbook ever could. And as I am posed with these questions, I try to figure out a way to make my replies fascinating enough to motivate the students to do the very best at whatever subject we are learning in my dream. And they MUST acquire this knowledge with enthusiasm and gusto or I haven’t done my job adequately. And so while sleeping, I gather my thoughts and reach for guidance from the countless souls of all the past educators and mentors to help bring me the quintessential answers that might satisfy the insatiable curiosity of a child.
I think I started having these dreams in the early 70’s when I first became a teacher. When I realized that I needed to have a pad of paper and a pencil at my bedside to make sure I didn’t forget any detail of the visionary lessons that came to me during the night. (Before I could just type it on my smartphone.) Then I would awaken and run to my trusty typewriter (Because computers weren’t around back then) and jot down my ideas. I am sure hundreds of those lessons are still around in folders or in cabinets since they were shared at gifted meetings all over Broward County since the mid 1970’s!! Many have been retyped onto a computer and made to look graphically beautiful, but some still have typewriter ink that has faded like my contemporaries who are now all retiring from the field of education. All these lessons were created from my imagination and my dreams because my aspirations were to continuously make learning a thing of beauty for my students.
I used these ideas for all the grants that I received, for the lessons I wrote, and now for the curriculum I create for educators to use and implement with their students.
** I often wonder that if in a teacher’s dreams, the great writers, poets, scientists, and performers, all unite to become our muses. If they form a partnership of sorts and in unison secretly chuckle as they share their wisdom to the universe and wait for a teacher to listen. To hear their brilliance in a rainstorm, or in the whistle of the wind, or perhaps in the flight of a bird, the shadow of the sunlight as the waves crash upon the shore. All inspirational, all miraculously innovative, and all leading to creativity. Somehow, good teachers never fail to hear the thoughts and ideas of the masters who came before them and continue to learn from their greatness.
When I was younger I used to wonder what happened to brilliance when the geniuses of the world died. I couldn’t believe that minds so profoundly remarkable could just stop. I came to the conclusion and to believe, that they must continue to exist in some form. And that out there somewhere in the universe is Einstein and Newton, Shakespeare and Tolstoy, Austen and Conan Doyle, and now our precious Maya Angelou. And that all their wisdom is floating around the Heavens just waiting for us to pluck it out the sky. So that each of us can absorb a small portion of their brilliance and bring it to our students.
We teachers always use our brains to come up with an idea to fill the void when needed. Be it a storm day when students can’t leave the building due to dangerous weather conditions and their fearless leader has to keep order in a creative way. Or when a badly written lesson from the provided textbook goes totally wrong and needs instantaneous teacher improvising and improvement. Yes, a teacher has to constantly come up with an alternative version that works to meet the needs of her particular students each and every day. There’s creating lessons for those children who are behind because they learn differently and cannot grasp concepts that others might find simple. Or the gifted students who already know and understand more than the basic textbooks and need to explore topics far beyond the curriculum. A teacher draws upon her muses to find all the lessons in her head and feeds those hungry minds with her wisdom to help them learn.
Isn’t it ironic that State officials haven’t figured out that all children think differently, learn differently, and are composed of uniquely different gray matter to varying degrees of intellectual ability? They just don’t get it. But classroom teachers do. They understand.
So, this morning I awoke and had one of my wonderful, vivid teacher dreams. My students and I were sitting on the floor in a circle and we were coming up with the most amazing vocabulary words imaginable. The faces of my students from all 36 years of teaching were gathered around me. All smiling, all raising their hands and asking me countless questions. So folks, I have another lesson to write…Because I need to answer those questions. I guess I better get busy and start creating…