Anxiety dreams, I gather, are fairly common. I got them sometimes when I was younger, but always about relatively little things (usually I was playing soccer and either my legs grew too heavy to lift or I’d lose all sense of balance). I never had a dream about anything student-related, not even in the weeks leading up to my thesis defense, or during the long process of applying to graduate schools. But since becoming a professor, these have become a regular occurrence.
First, there’s the dream where I get to class on the first day and I’ve forgotten to make a syllabus. In these dreams, this usually starts a chain of events that end up with me losing every last tiny bit of control over the class, which, by itself, is another type of dream I get regularly. Then, around this time of the year, I get dreams in which I’ve forgotten to bring the SIRS forms (our instructor evaluation forms) to class and have to go on a wild adventure to acquire them before the deadline. The only reason I haven’t gotten one of those dreams lately is, I think, because we finally went to online forms this year, and now there’s nothing for me to forget.
What is perhaps most annoying about these dreams is that, instead of doing something cool or relaxing while I sleep, I’m working. There’s nothing quite like working through the night (in your head) then getting up and doing the exact same thing (though with better results) awake.
I share an office with three other women at work, and we had a long discussion about this the other day—because we all experience the same type of stress dreams (even though we work at an institution that treats its adjuncts fairly well). To my collection, they added dreams of being told, weeks into the semester, that they have an additional class they didn’t know about and that the students have been waiting for them; and dreams of having a voice so quiet that no one can hear them lecture. (There were also dreams about teeth falling out, but I can’t imagine that’s related to teaching.)
I don’t get dreams, and I don’t subscribe to the school of thought that says they have deep meanings. Because if they do, I’d really like to know why was I playing basketball at our local grocery store last night and why, to score points, I just had to throw the ball at a display of hanging plants (which, incidentally, was something I was incapable of doing). Seriously, it’s finals week; if there was ever a time for anxiety dreams about work, it’s now.