Stage Fright

School is about to start, which means I am fiddling with my syllabi. One class is brand new, and I believe that I could mess with a new syllabus for all of eternity, tweaking phrases, adding and erasing assignments, rearranging scheduled activities. This perpetual revising tick will continue until the class begins, which is probably why I have the following anxiety dream:

 It is the first day of the class and once I walk into the classroom, I realize that I have forgotten to bring the name cards that I make for my students each semester. Not only do I not have their name cards, but I don’t have the class list. Also, danggit, I have forgotten to bring copies of the syllabus. I think that I can bring it up on the projector, but of course, the computer is not working. I struggle to remember anything from the syllabus and cannot. I determine that I can assign a get-to-know-you freewrite while I run to print out copies, which is when I realize that actually, I never made a syllabus. It is the first day and I am unprepared.

My first days of classes have mostly been smooth. The typical hiccup is the AV equipment either malfunctioning or not working at all. Other people are not so lucky. Last year, a worried freshman approached my office, saying, “My professor has not shown up. We don’t know what to do.” The professor in question was not the kind of person to miss the first day unless barred by a major accident. I tried to call the professor, but her phone was off. I met with the students, collected their information, explained that this kind of thing was very rare, and the professor would contact them as soon as possible. It soon came to light that the class had been cancelled, and while the professor had been notified of the change, the students had not.

Another colleague, long since retired, once walked into a class, introduced himself, passed out the syllabus, and discussed at length the course’s objectives and philosophical context before realizing that he was in the wrong classroom.

Due to flooding, this semester, I have lost one, maybe two, of the classrooms I was scheduled to use. Classes do not begin for another week, so I remain hopeful that a new classroom or a tent will be located and reserved, that everyone will be notified, and, if I dare to dream, there will be AV equipment.

None of these examples of first day “oops” compare, of course, to the recent headline on Gawker, “Oklahoma Teacher Shows Up Drunk and Pantsless to Her First Day of Work.” At least it was not the first day of class and no students were subjected to her disorientation, frailty, and alcoholism. It could not have been worse for this woman if it were a dream.

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 7.21.40 PM


What about your bad first days? Does your department have a legendary worst first class? Do you still get nervous and do your dreams reflect it?



  • Kathryn says:

    I get those dreams every semester (the syllabus dream especially), but the only stumble I’ve ever actually had on a first day was when, twenty minutes into my first ever class, a student interrupted to ask if I was old enough to be a professor.

    • Amaris Amaris says:

      Ha! Did you wear black for a month to look more authoritative? Run out to Talbots to buy middle-aged women’s wear?

    • Wow! You should have countered that with “I’m old enough to not make rude and stupid comments like that!”

      I still get students hovering outside my office waiting for the “real physics professor” to show up. I guess they think I’m the assistant borrowing *his* desk.

  • Yep, still have the syllabus dream, even after almost 10 years of teaching. Around finals time, I sometimes have a dream where I’ve somehow lost everyone’s test–before I graded it–and managed to erase my entire online grade book. And while trying to recreate everyone’s grade from memory, I can’t recall any of my students’ names.

  • JaimeRWood says:

    My real-life nightmare happened last term when my school bag was stolen from my car with a set of graded (but not yet recorded) assignments inside it. I had to email my class a sheepish, apologetic letter asking them to please resubmit their assignments. Luckily, they were good sports and all did it without a problem. That’s the first time in 14 years of teaching that I’ve ever lost an assignment. Ugh!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *