How long must I dream?
Have you ever wondered what our teachers talk about late at night, cuddled up under the comforter with their beloved, snug and comfy in the darkened hush of their conjugal beds? Do you ever wonder what they think about after they kiss goodnight and try to wriggle into that restorative state that allows them to survive yet another challenging day in an Ontario classroom? Do you have any idea what they dream about when they yield to the sandman and slip into reveries about the world of education, their first and last choice for a noble career, and their selfless service of children as a learned but simple teacher?
Shackled to silence like most professionals and workers, they speak in low, laconic muted tones to their beloved about the problems at work. They speak about those problems. They think about those problems. They dream sweet dreams and have horrific head trips and ghastly nightmares about those problems.
They do it because they must get it out, like a gusher from an uncapped oil well. They must do it in a safe, confidential and secure setting where it will be heard, kept secret and have no possible negative consequences to their career. They need to release their pent up frustrations and share their repressed and squelched opinions about stressful problems they face as educators of Ontario children. They do it in the seclusion of their connubial beds because they often feel there is no other place to dump it! And they often feel no one else beyond the outer limits of a universe imagined only by the likes of Stephen Hawkings, would listen, care or fix it anyway!
In their matrimonial beds teachers talk about the looming negative impact of increasing class sizes and the complexity of the groups they must teach. They talk about the increasing numbers of disparate and recalcitrant students who challenge the rules and ignore instructions and school policies. They ponder how to deal with rude,impolite or demanding students and those who expect an ‘A’ but truly deserve a ‘C’ or less for their lackadaisical efforts.
In their shared beds they think about snowplow parents who do their children’s assignments for them, write notes that lie for them and who call the teacher complaining about their child’s poor grades. They think about biased parents who are one hundred percent certain their child is totally gifted while his experienced teachers see a very average youngster performing less well than he could if he just did a bit more schoolwork at home, under his parents tutelage, in the evenings. They think about the parents who demand their child get an ‘A’ and their beleaguered colleague who caves under pressure, writes ‘A’ on a project worth ‘B-‘ because he just cannot take on one more fight!
In their nuptial beds they might comment on their stellar colleague with over 20 years experience as a professional teacher, an advanced post graduate degree in Education and a full complement of Ministry courses, conferences and association involvement who iis deservingly selected out of hundreds of rising stars in the field, and promoted to Principal. They think about how staff will probably rarely see him anymore because his superiors will take him out of the school for meetings, committee work and consultations, on whatever it is that these superiors think is more important than guiding, helping and being available to his staff as the Principal teacher. They think about how he might change from understanding the reality of the problems of the classroom in 2019, and from unconditionally supporting his dedicated, hard working teaching staff when a complaint is made. They think about how he will be pressured to make decisions because he may be told by his own superiors how he must handle the political hot potato and depart from his values that he and his teachers know is right. They think about how this principal must feel when he makes a considered reasonable judgement call about a teenager’s revealing attire, which he knows would not pass muster in one single mainstream job at a local hospital, government office or family,suburban mall, retail store. They feel sick when he decides the student should be sent home to change, and then his decision gets reversed by a superior for a political reason and the principal is required to make a disingenuous,embarrassing public apology. They wonder why anyone even wants to aspire to that job anymore, when one’s knowledge, experience, and complete competence as a Principal seems challenged, undermined or even disregarded so often, in these times.
In their king sized beds they whisper about boring, irrelevant, board meetings, vacillating trustees and the Ministry of Education bureaucrats, most of whom may have the best of intentions but sometimes little practical in depth knowledge about the current real needs and issues in the schools, and yet make all the pertinent decisions about what goes down in them. They talk about consultants and coordinators and curriculum developers whom they rarely see, who do things that teachers do not know about and that many teachers never benefit from, even once in a whole career. They wonder if the budget cuts in the province of Ontario could be made to most of the non teaching positions in system, instead of the staff on the front line who actually directly impact, teach and deal with the kids!
Then, as their eyelids droop and close really tight, and their troubled minds fall into the abyss of sleepy stillness, they dream of small classes with skilled highly trained teachers, for their sweet little ones with special needs. They dream of regular classes with no more than 25 eager kids who are ready and able to learn what they are expected to teach. They dream of their Principals as buttresses supporting their growth to the acme of their professional performance, and their presence in the school each and every day recognized as mandatory to attaining that goal. They dream of the people above them, consistently enabling teachers in their mission to educate children, no matter undue pressure of any parent, any group or any voting entity. They dream of inspiring Ontario children madly embrace learning, to find fields that ignite their passions and propel them to achieve at the pinnacle of their potential so they can successfully serve well, as adults.
That’s what teachers do in their beds at night after a taxing, full day in an Ontario classroom. They talk about problems and dream about solutions. And just before the break of dawn, when they wipe the crusty yellow sleep from their eyes, and rise from their rejuvenating beds to prepare for another onerous day as a teacher, they individually cogitate once more, the problems at work.
You might want to know however that concurrently, they muse on the lyrics of a familiar Roy Orbison song entitled ‘ Sweet Dreams’.
How long must I dream?