worst moments in teachingPosted: January 31, 2011
Sometimes I think about what I say. Most of the time I don’t. Below are several of my favorite terrible moments as an educator. Names have been changed to protect the innocent (and not-so-innocent).
1. BET. I am thankful to have the most curious students in the world. While on the subject of Federal Regulatory Agencies (everyone’s favorite topic), one student raised his hand and asked, “Why is there a lot of stuff that you can’t say on ‘regular’ television, but you hear all kinds of words on BET?” I was so pleased that he made this connection that I didn’t even think before I responded. “Because it’s BET”, I heard myself say. First the room grew quiet. Then the riot broke out. When I finally calmed them down, I explained that I did not mean to imply that BET is the only network that uses vulgar language. I was merely trying to explain the intricacies of cable network television.
2. McDonalds. I get some pretty rough students in my classes. My first year, I taught a class that I thought could only exist in “Imaginationland”. One student in this class, “Kendra”, showed up to class high every single day. I began to wonder why she bothered coming at all. When she wasn’t high, she had quite the temper. One day, we got into it in the middle of class. She began yelling about what a waste of time it was for her to be here, etc., etc. On her way out the door, I was so frustrated that I yelled, “Have fun working at McDonald’s for the rest of your life!” I later told the rest of the class that my comment was not meant to be demeaning to those who put in hard work at McDonalds. Several weeks later I ran into Kendra in the hallway. She told me that she was transferring to a GED program and that she wanted her son to be proud of her. To this day, I have not seen Kendra working at McDonalds.
3. The Powder. This is not what you think. There are so many reasons why I chose to teach high school rather than elementary or middle. One big reason is the likelihood that a student will throw up while under my watch. After three years in secondary education with no upchuck incidents, all of my fears came to life one day. I was having the best exam review when all of the sudden one of my male students threw up. He just threw up on the floor. And the strange part was that no one seemed to notice. I calmly said, “That’s ok, it’ll be ok”, to which he responded by throwing up again. This time people noticed. So I walked over to the phone, dialed the main office, and explained what happened. The secretary had clearly done this many times before, because she quickly and calmly said, “I’ll send someone with the powder.” (I would later learn that this was magic, vomit-sucking powder). In the meantime, I escorted the class outside, everyone except the invalid. I suddenly realized that I had no clue where he was or what he was doing. Fortunately a female student with stronger maternal instincts than mine had helped him into the bathroom, where he was “finishing up”.