Last night I dreamed that I was in my classroom trying to teach a math lesson. There was a mix of children and adults, but mostly adults. I had them standing in a circle to act out a problem. They were holding some big strands of string in a big tangled ring. I realized I was explaining the problem incorrectly and we really needed a Venn Diagram, so I started giving individual orders to people. I yelled and pointed at them, "You over! You under!" I couldn't remember anyone's name and I was going too fast. Of course, confusion built and the questions began. Me? What do you mean under? Under where?* Soon they were a tangled mess and I was yelling at everyone. WHY DON"T YOU LISTEN! WHAT PART OF OVER IS DIFFICULT FOR YOU! I even yelled for my assistant, asking why no one was helping me. Naturally, I got no help because no one had any idea what I was trying to do.
Eventually, I scrapped that part of the lesson. As I was wont to do in my days of teaching, I quickly conceived of an alternate approach to the problem.** I cut them out of the string, broke them into 4 groups and took out some giant chart paper. One group at a time, I explained the directions. When I got to the third group, I was lost. I forgot what I was doing, what I had told the first groups, and even how it was related to the problem. I told the class I needed a minute and I went to the bathroom and cried.
This scenario is not so different from some of my attempts to teach in the same way I did before my injury. I did not usually yell at my students.*** The dream did evoke the helplessness I felt in those last months. While I was crying in my dream, I told my daughter that when I wrote my play, this would be the opening scene. It would show my struggle as a teacher with a brain injury.
My play? Am I writing a play? A dream. It was just a dream.
I have decided to separate my tangential thoughts as foot notes.
*Ha! You said underwear. I love this joke!
**When I was good at my job, this skill came in handy when some students understood one way and others needed a different approach. I was a nimble teacher, always thinking on my feet. I had an endless supply of ideas and metaphors that sprang to mind and I reached many different kinds of learners. I tried to teach "by the book" keeping lessons simple and straightforward. I would have given anything to be able to stick to a lesson plan where I stood in front of the class and lectured, sampled problems, answered questions, and then gave the same problems for homework. I just could not do it.
***With age and experience, I had grown very patient. I also maintained a steady practice of acquiring new skills outside the classroom, drawing, language, computers, sports. My philosophy being if I want to stay in touch with the process of learning, I had to be a learner.
3 hours ago