April 2018

Monday, August 27, 2012

School-Anxiety Dreams

Because I've worked in education for 25 years, I notice that in the fall parents seem happy and relieved and teachers are tense.


Though many teachers love their students and their work, teachers mourn the passing of summer's ease.


This fall, I'm not returning to school as an educator. In May, I left my job as a Literacy Specialist because my disabilities made the work impossible to do effectively. I'll go to the UW's Graduate School of Social Work to start my masters in social work, but for me being a student is not nearly as anxiety-provoking as being a teacher, so I feel calm.


My psyche, however, has not heard about the change, and it knows that in the fall I am to have school anxiety dreams, so I am dreaming my back-to-school dreams.


Every teacher I know has them. Some teachers dream that their teeth are falling out. I've never had that dream.


I dream that I can't find my classroom, or I'm teaching a subject that I know nothing about, or I forgot to put on my clothes for teaching this day. Sometimes I dream that I am trying to go to the bathroom and people keep walking in to ask me a question.


Perhaps I am having these anxiety dreams because I am mourning my loss.

I loved teaching. I loved the teenagers with whom I worked and their parents who were trying to survive the teenage years. I don't fool myself, though. It was stressful work--with the teenagers and with their parents.


This morning in my yoga class, my teacher Dawn talked about Svadhyaya, the practice of self- study, and she talked about her own self-study as the mother of budding teenagers.


"Sometimes, they just think I'm old and stupid, and I start to wonder if I am old and stupid. When they were young and thought I was wonderful, I thought I was, too. I miss that."


In the class of seven women, every woman nodded. An older woman said, "They'll grow out of their teens and think you're wonderful again."


Dawn didn't seem so sure. "Yeah," she said, "if I live that long."


Though I loved teaching teenagers, I was generally glad that we went our separate ways in the evenings and on week-ends.


The mothers of teenagers usually seemed to struggle more than the fathers, so I felt a special sympathy for the mothers.


I felt most for the illegal immigrant mothers of teenage boys when their boys got in trouble with gangs.


In my first fall working with students living in poverty, just after learning that a student of mine was found dead from a knife wound in the back seat of a car, another student's mother came, panicked, into the room.


She and her son were immigrants from Mexico. I don't know if they were legal or not. Her son, who was in my class, had not come home in three days. She knew that he was involved with gangs and drugs, and she was so terrified that she was visibly shaking.


"What do I do?" she asked me. I didn't know, so I asked an administrator who had come to the room to tell me about my murdered student.


The administrator advised this mom who couldn't speak much English to call the police and to turn in a missing persons report on her son. I could see this mother's fear. She would not be calling the police.


I felt especially sympathetic, too, towards the American-born mothers of American-born girls, as that relationship always seemed so tough on the mothers.


They didn't usually come with life and death struggles, but these mothers looked worn and worried. "What am I doing wrong?" some asked me.


Nothing. This tension seems to be nature's way of preparing mother and child for the child's independence.


"Just know that this is normal," I would tell them. "You're okay, and they're okay. All I know to say is to breathe deeply."


That's really all I know about dealing with great anxiety and great love, whether we're teachers or parents.


Breathe deeply. Observe your child and yourself. Love your child and yourself.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Mary,

    I felt like you were writing to me :) Though Nora is a tween, I feel like I am entering those teenage years.

    I had a school anxiety dream the other night where I was accompanying Nora on her first day of school. I forgot something and went back to get it from the car. When I came back there was a huge crowd of people blocking my way so that I couldn't see where she was.

    Letting go, trusting the process of growing up, and being present when needed. Oh it is not easy being a mom. Glad to have friends along the way.

    Much love and gratitude.


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