Babson Globe in winter

This week is the first week of the semester at Babson College, and last night I dreamt I had to teach my classes from a hotel room.

In the alternate universe that is dreamtime, there was no pandemic, no masks, and no need for social distancing, but for some reason the college announced I couldn’t teach on-campus or from home. Instead, my “remote” classes were booked in a hotel room where J and I stayed overnight. Because the room had been booked at the last minute, neither one of us had any luggage, and I didn’t have a laptop, so I had to keep checking my phone for emails from students asking where we were supposed to meet.

Although the class was billed as “remote,” it was actually a face-to-face session, so at the scheduled time my students and a guest speaker (writer Walter Mosley, who wrote an essay I assigned last semester) somehow piled into my hotel room, which by then had morphed into a suite containing an odd assortment of furniture, none of which was conducive to an actual class session. Fortunately, Mosley had a laptop and was able to show slides during his talk, and I was reduced to “teaching” from bed, first in a babydoll nightgown, and later in a pair of flannel pajamas.

Self portrait

My subconscious apparently is well aware that back-to-school time is rapidly approaching, as I’ve started to have teaching nightmares (again). Every summer as the new academic year approaches, I start getting nervous (again) about teaching: will I be prepared, and will I be able to handle the rigors of an always-daunting course-load?

Window peeping

With a week and a half between now and my first day of face-to-face classes, it’s still too early for daytime thoughts of crashing and burning, and I won’t get that butterfly feeling until the morning of my first class. But in the meantime, my subconscious mind has been stewing, providing two consecutive nights of teaching dreams.

In one dream, I was responsible for teaching meditation to three connecting classrooms of boisterous students, a task that literally ran me ragged as I raced from room to room shouting instructions at the top of my lungs to my talkative, distracted students. In last night’s dream, a shortage of classroom space meant I’d been assigned to teach at Fenway Park, where my delighted students had excellent seats but where I had to keep my back to the game as I tried to keep the attention of my (again) distracted students.

Appreciators

I’ve been teaching online classes all summer, so these dreams haven’t arisen because I’m out of practice. Instead, these dreams point to the difference between teaching online and teaching face-to-face. In my online classes, I don’t need to shout, and I don’t have to compete with other distractions: my students either do their work, or they don’t. In a face-to-face class, though, there are all those eyes staring at you: all those blank faces reflecting back your own insecurities. In the face of all those faces, you have to get your students’ attention, and you have to keep it. You have to wrestle with short attention spans, you have to keep students awake, and you have to keep students engaged in material they aren’t necessarily interested in.

It’s enough to give anyone nightmares just thinking about it.

Click here for a photo-set of images from Ugo Rondinone’s Clockwork for Oracles at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. If you want to see this same work tripped-out under the dreamlike influence of a kaleidoscopic lens, click here. Enjoy!