Academic Nightmare


I sit here now typing at my computer after a particularly plausible and terrifying nightmare. I thought rather than lie sleepless in bed I’d try to describe it before the details fled my brain in the morning light.

We fade in, I’m at the front of a lab section, say 10-20 people. The lights are dim, I’m showing a video about polarized light (a topic of my research). The video is really Micky Mouse stuff (I think it may have even been Sesame Street characters involved) and I turn it off after about ten minutes. I turn the lights up and take a quick poll of the class.

“Who’s enjoying the video?”

No one raises their hand (completely unrealistic, this should have been my first clue I was dreaming).

“Is this just review for everyone?”

Everyone’s hand in the room goes up. I hum and haw for a minute thinking how to fill the remaining class time.

“Why don’t I get you break into your groups to give you some time to work on your presentations, which are coming up in two weeks.”

I pause in a flash of pedagogical incite.

“On second thought why don’t we head outside into the sunshine” (another red flag for a dream at SFU) “and give you guys a chance to dry run your presentations in front of the class so you can get some feedback.”

In the dream, this seemed to make sense and didn’t seem like the meanest thing ever to pop a surprise presentation on perpetually procrastinating undergrad students. I let the class break up to groups as they head outside and give them five minutes to meet with their groups before we begin the practice presentations.

During that 5 minutes I make a quick stop at the washroom on my way outside, allowing my students to get ahead of me. As I try catch up, I walk out a the door into the sunshine and suddenly I’m outside on a patio in front of a good fraction of my department, with several professors including my supervisor and another committee member from the department. Some are sitting while several mill around chatting and enjoying refreshments (there may even have been beer). As I enter conversations conclude and people take to their seats.

I look around the front of the room I see only a large easel pad off to my left with a single magic marker. No laptop, no projector (not that one would work in the full sunlight), and no screen behind me.

My students are gone completely from my mind and my dream, and I know in the pit of my stomach that it is now me giving the surprise presentation.

“How much time do I have?”, I ask.

My supervisor responds, “an hour with questions”.

My other committee member then joking announces, “since we don’t have to dim the lights, why don’t you just begin?”

My mind raced for few minutes trying to bring my last presentation to mind before waking in a cold sweat. Did I mention I have a committee meeting coming up?

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