On Display

Nothing a teacher does goes unnoticed.

Walking across the band room in front of the class the other day, I caught the toe of my shoe on the perfectly flat carpet and stumbled a little.  Not graceful, I know, but certainly I am not the only person who has ever done this.   My students’ reactions, though, were predictably merciless.  There wasn’t one single expression of sympathy, only laughter.

“I can’t believe it,” I said, pretending to be embarrassed, “you’re all so heartless. What  if I were sprawled out on the floor right now reaching for my Life Alert button, would anyone care enough to help?  Or would you be laughing so hard you couldn’t breath?!”

Even students who wouldn’t think to laugh at a classmate’s misfortune won’t hesitate to bust a gut at their teacher’s expense.

But don’t be too hard on them.  I really think they are just surprised to see that their teachers are human beings, which can be a good thing for them to learn.

And some of the best lessons they learn come from seeing how their teachers handle the mistakes they make.

For instance, I have always been bad with names.  It’s not that I don’t like or care for my students.  I can tell you all kinds of things about each of them.  I simply have trouble with names.  But knowing how important it is to a student to believe that their teacher knows them, I work really hard at learning names.

Nevertheless, I frequently call a student by the wrong name.  So, to take the sting out of it, I have had a long standing policy of paying a penny to a student when I mess up their name.  It takes the sting out of the offense and turns it into a game.  It has almost become a joke.  For example, just the other day I called Travis by his older brother Trevor’s name, and not for the first time.  Immediately, several students caught me and said, “You owe him a penny!”

I apologized to Travis and told him to see me after class.  Travis smiled, then we got right back to work.

If only all my mistakes were so harmless.  Unfortunately, there have been times when I have mistakenly and innocently embarrassed a student with what I thought would be a harmless or funny comment, only to see by the look on the student’s face that I had totally missed the mark.  So, what then?

Well, as I have tried to teach my own kids at home, we have to take responsibility for the things we say.  Rather than try to explain it all away, I simply offer an apology.  And if the offense was made in front of the class, I apologize in front of the class (unless doing so will only embarrass the student further).  After all, being on display means I am teaching all the time, whether for good or bad.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jason on May 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    I do think that tripping on flat smooth carpet is age related (hint, hint). That being said, it amazes me that any time I hurt myself at home, my wife laughs to the point of tears, She claims (I say with more than just a little sarcasm) that she is not laughing at my pain but rather at how I react to it. I have my doubts.

    Reply

  2. It’s hard to imagine someone so cool being laughed at about anything…

    Reply

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