Monday, August 21, 2006

Nightmare on University Street

It is now 14.5 hours and counting until my first Tuesday class of the semester. I still have to finish the syllabus, put some handouts online, and decide on exactly what the % breakdown on the assignments will be. I'm sure I'll end up with a massive headache before the night is over.

This wouldn't be so bad except that I am close to living in reality my recurring pre-school year nightmare. At least once or twice before each semester begins, I have a dream where it is the first day of the semester and I suddenly remember that I have a class starting in just minutes that I haven't written a syllabus for. I end up running around in the dream all stressed out trying to hurry and finish the syllabus while trying to keep the students in the classroom without me in it. Usually I try to accomplish this by making some random student who comes to my office asking where the heck I am to go into the classroom and tell the rest of the students that I'm on my way. I really hate that dream, because the anxiety it produces makes me feel almost as bad as if I REALLY forgot about a class.

I have some colleagues who have recurring nightmares about it being finals week when they suddenly discover they had a class all semester that they never attended. I've heard of other professors who dream about showing up for class and having forgotten to put on their clothes.

Best I can tell, all these dreams seem to indicate most academics have a deep fear that they are going to forget something important about their discipline and that someone will discover that they are frauds. They worry that somehow they unfairly convinced a university to give them a Ph.D. in history even though they don't really understand post-structuralism and never learned what William A. Williams and the Wisconsin School were saying about American foreign policy. I don't know who to blame for this fear - probably graduate school seminars - but I wonder if computer programers or lawyers face this same type of worry?

I plan on taking a couple of Excederin PM before bed tonight. Hopefully that will block out the nightmares. I wish everyone else sweet dreams.


Caleb said...

You're certainly not alone. I've had the exact same recurring dream (about walking to class without having finished the syllabus). When I was a student, the nightmare was only slightly different: at the end of the semester, I suddenly remembered a class on my schedule that I had never attended. Usually, it was a math class, which was an especially nightmarish twist for a historian-to-be.

Anonymous said...

I had friends in undergrad who had the same dream of finding out at the end of the semester that they've missed an entire class. Luckily that dream never haunted me... I usually did all my freaking out about classes while awake.