Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sucker Punched with Elisa Pollard

The first real post of Well THAT Didn't Work comes to us from Elisa Pollard. I'd like to thank her for being brave and taking this first jump with us. Remember, if you have a story to share, named or anonymous, email me/share it with me at theweirdteacher@gmail.com.

Well, THAT didn’t work feels like such a great idea, and I really want to support the blog, but of course, as a “veteran” teacher I NEVER have those days (cough cough) and way back when I did, I have buried those memories deep in my subconscious. Trying to pry them out to share them with you has my confidence huddled in the corner, shivering, snotting, and weeping. (Yes, I absolutely do believe that the best teachers are a wee bit dramatic!)

Some of the earliest mistakes I made were outside the classroom. I was the first teacher to reach a fight in the hallway. Two boys were on the ground, wailing away. I fought my way to them and grabbed the one on top. I had him by both arms (my arms through his elbows). So the other boy popped right off the ground and sucker punched the kid I had hold of. OUCH. So. Yeah, THAT didn’t work.  

Same year, I bopped a kid on the head with the papers I had in my hand from the copier. He was slapping other children in the back of the skull with his hand, hard. I tapped him with folded up papers from behind and said, “Cut it out.”  End of story.  Except it wasn’t. I came into work the next morning. The Assistant Principal met me in the office and told me he would be sitting in on the parent conference at 8am. This child had gone home and told his mama I hit him in the head…. Which, yes, I did. (wince) Cold sweat broke out all over my body as I told my AP exactly what had happened. I had visions of my teaching career ending before it ever really began. He told me to remain calm, and that if this “angry mama” got aggressive or verbally abusive, I was to leave the conference (oh, boy). I didn’t see how I could reasonably argue that I didn’t hit this child in the head, and that just sounded AWFUL.  
Mom showed up with the teen in tow. He was a smug looking little booger. I introduced myself, apologized that we were meeting like this. And then I told her what had happened. She interrupted a few times to ask for confirmation from her son (who looked less smug now). At the end of my telling, she apologized for wasting my time, asked for permission to take her son outside before he went to first block. From the windows, we saw her pop her son on the head while asking him if he thought it was funny to lie on people and to embarrass her like that in front of good people. She didn’t have an umbrella or a large bag, but it would have been stereotypically perfect if she had. Not sure who that didn’t work out for, me or the child?  

Fast forward to the 21st century. (I’ve taught in two different centuries!) Technology does me in on a regular basis. The servers will go down. Links won’t work. Power outages. The endless spinning circle of loading doom. The day the computer started the “updates” and uploaded  at 38% for over an hour while docked to the active board where I anticipated running a lesson. Oh, and the uploading was only the first half. Then the updates had to INSTALL. Yeah, THAT didn’t work.

And then there was the time I tried out the new cute sticky notes on the corkboard link that you share with students as an exit ticket activity. And students used it to post where the party was that weekend and called each other names and edited each other’s posts. I couldn’t refresh quickly enough to see what the snickering was about. It felt like a bad version of whack-a-mole.  

Wait, WHY do we do this anyway? Why do we set ourselves up for public failure and humiliation in front of an audience of adolescents who are some of the snarkiest and unforgiving creatures to walk the planet? (That is the definition of teaching, right?) WHY having lived through that in real time, WHY would I drag it out of the lock box and share it with all of you? No one fails quite so wonderfully as a teacher. Or a writer. Or a writer who is also a teacher. Right?) [ed. note *sobbing*]

So why share? Why? Because those snarky insecure teens feel like failures all the time. They need to see us fail and handle it with grace… or even with less than grace. I might have pulled a hair or two or spun in place like Rumplestiltskin, or rolled my eyes until my scalp hurt. So throw your hands up. Admit defeat. Tomorrow you can try again. No one ever died from a day of down time in the classroom. And the next time you ask students to get out of their comfort zone, they might be a tiny bit more willing to try.

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