Welcome back to school. Some of you are teaching for the first time. It’s overwhelming to be a new teacher and being held responsible. There is soooooo much you have to be accountable for these days. What’s the saying? “Being a teacher is like having 1,234 tabs open on your computer.” Ain’t it the truth? You are all things to everybody.
I remember I was anxious those first few days of the new school year. I adorned my room with all kinds of posters pertaining to the authors that I was about to teach. There were grammar rules on signs on the walls as reminders, too. It looked like I knew what I was doing my first year teaching high school English. Well, I really did know my curriculum, but the students knew I was raw. This was 1979 and they planned an attack on their unfamiliar teacher who was only about 6 years older than they were. Let’s call it “The Incident.”
I had been teaching a little over a month and all seemed fine. The students and I got along well. They were well behaved. I was happy. But, the day before “The Incident,” I left school without deleting my notes from the chalk board. I wrote a lot of information from my lesson but had to leave fast to catch my carpool ride home with another single female teacher. In 1979 our rooms consisted of a grey or green slate board, with white chalk, and dusty grey chalk erasers made of felt. Today there are dry erase boards, with dry erase markers (in wonderful colors, too), and dry erasers. No chalk dust anywhere.
Since I left in a hurry the day before, I arrived in homeroom to find my notes still visible. And since I was presenting new information to the students for first period the board had to be erased, so as I wiped the eraser across the board, there was a WHISH! A streak of fire lit up in front of my face. It was just as quick and bright as lightening! These absolutely clever, funny, creative, but would-they-get-in-big-trouble-10th-grade-pupils pulled this prank by placing long matches in the creases of the eraser. When I brushed it across the board, the slate and matches connected and it lit up for a few seconds like sparklers in front of my face.
Then there was silence.
I turned around. Eyeball to eyeball I looked at every student who was in my homeroom that morning. Some were sitting in their desks. Others were standing up watching and waiting for my reaction. I was in disbelief. They were quietly anticipating some kind of penalty to be handed out at any moment. And after this pause and with them looking like deer in headlights, I said, “That was great!”
That was NOT the response they were expecting from me. And I didn’t send one student to be reprimanded.
Lee (We All Got Away With It in 1979) St. John