There are few moments as a teacher that really take me off guard. As an 11 year veteran teacher, I pride myself with thinking on the fly when it comes to any number of absurd situations. Let it be known that when I am truly taken aback, and haven’t the foggiest clue to do, I delay, I stall, and I make them all think it’s a silent storm about to hit. What they don’t realize is, I am frantically and mentally scrambling for a plan of action to prove that I am still in control.
One of these situations happened in the spring of my first year teaching 4th grade - back in the spring of 2018. We were in the middle of our novel read aloud. Now, I should pause and give some background.
I use a classroom management technique known as “pace reading.” It’s a technique that’s helpful for kids who find it hard to sit still and focus while reading literature or novels. Basically how it works is you have a handful of kids at a time pick a spot in the classroom to pace back and forth as they read. And since this isn’t my first rodeo, and as any good teacher knows, you preface it with all the caveats: “alright kiddos, make sure you’re not going to inadvertently run into anyone or anything; and if I see any of you not take it seriously (insert the classic teacher look), or ‘fake’ reading, then you best believe I will tell you to sit down.” As every other page was completed I’d invite a new group of kids to “pace read” while I asked the previous group to take a seat. They loved this technique; and to be honest I do to.
Well...one day, a kid took it to a level I never thought a kid would ever take it to.
All is well in my 4th grade classroom. I’m leaning up against my table in the front of the classroom, as I’m reading aloud to the class, and all is calm on the western front as I hear the soft shuffle of feet from those kids pace reading. This sacred peace is ravaged when all of a sudden GUSHHHHH, SWISHHHH, PLOP! My head immediately turns right to the sound, and I find one of my boys...butt first...in the trash can...with his limbs dangling up and outwards, and the biggest grin on his face.
Cue the unanimous giggles and chuckles from the rest of the class.
This is where I went to silent stoic mode, and I simply closed my book, set it on the table behind me, crossed my arms and gave this kid the most subtle, silent and stoic glare. This changed the kid’s tune on a dime, as he felt the heat from my dagger eyes. He stumbled and stammered out of the trash can, and back to his desk, and the giggles and chuckles from the peanut gallery went silent for fear of what was about to go down - we’re talking hands over mouths and wide eyed. With his hands folded perfectly at his desk, and red in the face from my glare, this culprit of a boy proceeded with a shaky voice: “I’m very sorry Ms. Quigley.”
I opened my mouth while maintaining my stance, glare and demeanor.
“Arron, I’m just going to point out the obvious, you fell in the trash can. Let me reiterate this to you. You...a 10 year old...fell in the trash can. Now you can naturally understand my curiosity for how in the world this happened. Why Aaron, how Aaron could you have landed yourself:...butt...first...in…the...garbage? But you know what buddy? I‘ve come up with three possible reasons as to how this could have happened. Now Arron, in true school form, as I list off these possible reasons, please by all means think of this as a multiple choice question, to which I expect an answer from you, given the options I give you. Alright?
Option A: You wanted to be funny and impress your classmates with what a jokester you can be, so you thought what a better laugh than this? You know, get a little pat on the back after school with “good one Aaron.” And a high five to boot.
Option B: You just plain don’t know why you could have done such a thing; you literally have no conceivable reason why you would do such a thing. You’re thinking, Ms. Quigley, I truly and honestly don’t know how or why…”
Option C: It was an accident, just whoops! But, hey, you know something, before you answer, I’ll do you one better Arron. I’ll help you out on this multiple choice question by eliminating one of the options: It wasn’t an accident. You know why Arron? Because, the trash can is against the wall and pinned in between the bookshelf and the cabinet. And using that logic, even if you happened tripped on the side of the trash can, there’s no physics that could turn your body a full 90 degrees that you’d land butt first in the garbage can. So, no, Aaron, it wasn’t an accident. So what’s your answer buddy?”
I’m still daggers for eyes, the peanut gallery of the rest of the class is holding their breath in anticipation and silent amusement, and the kid on trial is about to die a death of public humiliation that’s written all over his face.
“I don’t know why Ms. Quigley.”
“Well, honey, I hope it was worth it, because the cost is going to hurt, it’s gonna hurt real bad.”
The rest of the class is holding their breath at a stand still waiting for the mic to drop.
As I turn back to the defendant, I say, “Aaron, mom or dad?”
His eyes widen with fear, and the rest of the class does a resounding gasp.
As he delays, and ponders for a moment before answering: “Dad.”
“Okay, great, so we’re calling mom.”
Arron drops his head in his arms on his desk.
I take my gaze to the two girls in the back of the classroom and ask them to grab my iPad and cell phone. As I look through the school's online system under student contact information, I find his mothers contact number and dial it on the spot.
It rings to voicemail. “Oh, Arron, you lucked out, I got her voicemail (he inhales hope) but don’t worry, I’ll leave a message.” (He exhales dispare).
“Yes, hi Miss. ___________ this is Ms. Quigley calling from OLPH school. I wanted to call and touch base with you about Arron’s behavior in class today. We were in the middle of our ELA lesson, and we were reading our novel, when he decided to find himself buttock first in the trash can. He claims he just doesn’t know why he’d do such a thing. And you can image how disruptive and distracting this incident was to todays class. So if you could have a sit down chat with him about body spacial awareness and appropriate behavior in class that’d be much appreciated. And of course if you have any questions feel free to give me a call back at the school. Thank you.”
As I end the call the class unanimously are jaws dropped and eyes wide, as Arron is sitting in shame likely wanting to crawl under a rock.
I will reiterate, I haven’t the foggiest clue to do, I delayed, I stalled, and I make them all think a silent storm was about to hit. They were none the wiser. Moral of the story? Fake it till you make it. And don’t EVER cross me in the classroom kids; I will have no hesitation in putting you on trial for all to see.