55: Full of Surprises

55: Full of Surprises

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales

Full of Surprises

Every survival kit should include a sense of humor.

~Author Unknown

After receiving a staff e-mail containing pictures of outlandish things that kids do, I felt compelled to share with my fellow second grade teachers my own story of a student who could have easily been in many of those pictures. My first year teaching I thought my school administration was out to get me. As an inexperienced teacher, every child of a staff member who was in second grade was placed in my class. No pressure there, right? To add to that, I also taught five Spanish speaking students and I had not yet received my bilingual certification. At this point, my confidence level as a new teacher had declined tremendously. As unnerved as I was throughout my initial teaching experience, the year went by with minimal complications. Little did I know my second year of teaching would be filled with prolific challenges.

Let’s call her Meredith…. Meredith was a beautiful child who could light up a room with her laughter and smile. She had a fantastic sense of humor and brought a great deal of joy to our classroom. However, Meredith had a tendency to find herself in unusual situations. Take the head stuck in the chair incident. How this happened, I have no idea. As I was at the chalkboard displaying new vocabulary words, Meredith somehow managed to wedge her head in an opening in the back of the chair. Lesson number one—do not turn your back on them for one second.

We abruptly discontinued our vocabulary lesson so that I could attempt to remove Meredith’s head from its unexpected position. Meredith twisted and turned, stretched and pulled to no avail. As she began to cry, I thought her tears might provide some lubrication to help slide her head back through the opening. When that theory proved to be ineffective, I proceeded to call our head custodian. He came over right away armed with his tools and his sense of humor. He then attempted to have Meredith twist and turn, and stretch and pull. Once again… nothing. As a last resort, the custodian removed the back of the chair from its supporting pieces and Meredith was freed from her confinement. It did not take long for Meredith’s tears to turn to impish laughter and we were able to continue with our day. Please note I did not schedule for a removal of head from chair in my lesson plans.

This was the incident that first came to mind after receiving the entertaining images of curious child behavior. But this is not my only story involving Meredith and her mischievous manner. Another vivid memory I have of that year involved measuring tape, students jumping and me flat on the floor. As part of a measurement activity, students jumped as far as they could and we measured the distance. We did this activity one student at a time with me on one end of the tape measure and one student on the other end. I asked students who were waiting for their turn or who had already finished to sit in a separate area and observe. As I moved forward and backward, and up and down, I trusted that I could do so safely. Lesson number two—do not have false confidence in your own physical wellbeing in the classroom.

As I blindly backed away from a student to measure a jump, I encountered an obstacle and fell to the floor. Through my legs in the air, there sat Meredith, scrunched in a ball on the floor in front of me. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to laugh or shout. After briefly sharing a laugh with my students, I instructed them one more time regarding what should occur during this activity and stressed the importance of listening and following directions in order to maintain a safe classroom environment.

As I shared these stories with my colleagues who had just received the exuberant e-mail that triggered my memory, an innocent, inexperienced student teacher gasped in horror and said, “That’s the kind of thing I’m afraid of!” I smiled at her and said, “Don’t be afraid of these types of things. They’re the kind of things that keep it interesting.” As I thought about my response to her, I realized that my biggest disasters are some of my best memories. I learned that even the best plans can and will be interrupted by heads stuck in chairs and teachers crashing to the floor. And my memories of Meredith… she will forever brighten my day and bring me back to reality.

~Blythe Turner
2009 New Mexico State Teacher of the Year
Bilingual teacher, grade 2

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