Thursday, July 25, 2013

Theory 10: Teachers are the most entertaining people on the planet.


Reader, think back through all your years in school. From kindergarten to high school to college, which teachers stand out in your memory? Which were your “favorites”? Picturing someone? Now, was that teacher an expert in Bloom’s Taxonomy, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, or cross-curricular planning with informational text? My guess is those teachers stand out for one primary reason: entertainment value!  Many folks are led to teaching careers because they want to entertain.  We need a stage. For all us amateur comedians, the classroom is the perfect theater. The audience is required by law to attend performances. The cast of characters (faculty and staff) are fodder for tragedy, romance, and comedic relief. There’s not a whole lot of money at stake, so we can take risks with our humor. If a joke bombs, hey, just turn to Page 44 and answer questions 1-15. Plus, students love stories!  And, I think—at least I hope—at least they tell me they love to hear my stories again and again.  Hmmm.

The future of America
There are many sources of entertainment via school faculty.
Teachers know how to work together.
Some teachers get loud and stay loud all day. Not a teaching strategy folks – just a quirk. Let’s call them Yellers. Many Yellers are also Bellers (ring bells, value noise). Let’s take it back to the tour-on infested hollers of East Tennessee for a bit. There, my dear family friend "Tush" worked with a Yeller/Beller. She told me, “[That teacher] would not stop ringing that dang bell. So, one day as I left school, I stole the bell. The next morning, I heard her let out a yell like no other, ‘Wheeeeerrreeeee’s MY BELL?!?’ She blamed every [child] in her room for stealing the bell. On the last day of school, I snuck the bell behind a stack of books. When [Yeller/Beller] was cleaning up [to go home for summer] she laughed and said, “I didn’t know I put the bell there!”
 Teachers are pranksters. We have to be. We say the same things over and over and must inject humor. My cousin Mooch is one of the funniest people I know. Mooch started the “Fake Rat Project” with a Halloween toy rat who bore flashing red eyes. Mooch hid the rat and declared a rule that whoever found the rat had to relocate it. Mooch and the Rat caused horror and hysterics, not to mention a few mid-day teacher costume changes.
Teachers are daring volunteers.
A goat trespassed the playground. Tush came to the rescue with a jump rope. She haltered the goat and led it through the adjacent neighborhood yelling, “I’ve got a goat! Whose goat is this?” to the delight of students and faculty. Let’s all sing in rounds, “Mary had a little goat. In Pigeon Forge. In Pigeon Forge.”
Why do students always want to make us dance? Especially those of us who are Size 12 and up. I had to jiggle through a flash mob just last year. Maybe when we embarrass ourselves on their behalf, we earn students’ trust. Still, it seems like we have to dance an awful lot.
Teachers make their own fun.
My old biology teacher, Bufe (pronounced Beeyouf, one syllable) tortured ambitious honors students by offering an A+ on the entire fetal pig dissection project if we pulled the pig’s brain and spinal cord out, completely intact. You should have seen my neurotic, genius, now chemical engineer friend TRO in a cold sweat, mini-hacking that baby pig with tweezers and tiny scalpel.
Bufe also held weekly raffles to raise money for the soccer team. Since gambling was illegal in Tennessee then, he “sold” us Solo cups with numbers on the bottom. $1 per cup. He shuffled the cups like a magician. Winners won t-shirts and game tickets.
Teachers love romance!
Delicious worked with a purvey principal who literally locked her in his office and chased her around a desk, begging for “just one little kiss.” He did stop to squirt breath spray in his mouth. It was the early 80’s. I think the amorous administrator was inspired by Dabney Coleman’s chase after Dolly Parton in “9 to 5.”
The King of Kodak (introduced in Theory?) was also the King of romance! Every Friday, he held a dating game.  He cut a small heart out of a piece of notebook paper. He laid the paper on the overhead projector and shut off the lights. He chose a female student to come up front and stand in the overhead-projected heart spotlight. The girl chose a number that correlated to another student in the King’s roll book. The boy met the girl in the light. Then, the King spun his globe to determine where they would go on their fictional date. Once, Mare got set up with my cousin Roscoe. They were destined for love in Nicaragua! I think she was excited but she never admitted it.
Teachers make the best public mistakes!
We are tired. We are punchy. We are over-stimulated throughout the day. So, we mess up. Sometimes by accident. Sometimes on purpose. Delicious is not a housekeeper. Laundry piled up at our house and every morning was harried. Well, one good old day at GP, Delicious was strolling the rows, speaking in iambic pentameter, forcing Hamlet on teenagers, while a gaggle of girls giggled. For half an hour. Finally, she confronted them and asked, “Okay, ya’ll are being rude while I teach. What is the deal?” One said, “We’re sorry Mrs. Delicious, but you’ve got panty hose coming out of your pants.” I’m not sure how she did this, but Delicious put on her polyester Kmart (I’m sure) black pants and a pair of nude hose were stuck inside, leg for leg. Basically, she looked like the house in the “Wizard of Oz” with the Wicked Witch of the East’s socks uncurled and exposed. She’d dragged those empty tan feet around all morning.
To the delight of night school students, Delicious, worn out from a long day in the garden, drug her tired self to class late and slung her tote bag hard on top of her work table in front of the room. When that cotton bag struck the Formica, Delicious’s Preparation H shot across the room, “like a torpedo.”
My old principal, Mr. Z, who was tough and tall, bragged to students that he could do a mid-air karate kick. Well, he did. But, at the height of his exhibition, he split his pants.
I taught at a really “rough” and rowdy school my first year. My classroom daily motto (which I muttered all day long to myself was “don’t cuss, don’t cry, don’t quit.” I made it all the way to May! Yay! But, I still showed my tail. Worn slap out by ruuuuuuuude 8th graders, many of whom I still love and stay in contact with, I lost my cool. I was holding a stack of math workbooks and thought, “I am so freakin’ mad I’m going to throw these across the room!” Knowing this was a bad idea, I had the presence of mind to get a teacher passing the hall to stop and witness my tantrum. She agreed. I hurled 30 books across the room and watched them smack then slide down the wall, stunning students. I put on a You-Tube worthy twenty-minute tirade. It was quite a show. The students loved it! I learned a lesson.
Teachers are creative problem solvers.
My sweet and typically soft-spoken algebra teacher, frustrated with our lack of understanding, shocked us one day. He jumped from his chair and leapt across his desk and out the door. He re-entered and sat down. Then, he dove under his desk and crawled out the door. He re-entered and sat down. Finally, he stood and sauntered out the door. When he returned, a student asked, “Mr. R, are you alright?” He said with his pointer finger in the air and his voice in a lilt, “I’m just demonstrating that there’s more than one way to solve a problem!” It was quite a show and he did not throw out his back. Teachers do that a lot, too. Whew.

Teachers are resourceful.
Yes, we have summers off, but our time is limited. Delicious was notorious for sending students on off-campus errands (this was way before teacher evaluations and Common Core Standards). Think of the movie “Dazed and Confused.” Delicious gave senior boys her car keys and had them take Greenie (teacher cars are a whole other story) to the car wash on Highway 321. She also sent them to Proffitt’s Deli to bring back her lunch. Of course, they were compensated with freedom and hot dogs. She continued the tradition until a boy brought back a bunch of Budweiser cans and announced to the room, “Look what we found in your car!”
If you are a student, teachers are wonderful listeners. If you are an in-service trainer, teachers are terrible listeners.
Teachers love to talk. Duh. And, since their days are dynamic and harried, they don’t sit still very well. We all end up with ADHD, that is, if we stay awake.  Who wants to explain stuff all day and then listen to someone else explain stuff? It’s tough! It’s like listening to yourself explain stuff. Geez. I get so tired of my own voice!
Speaking of changing times and bad listeners, Delicious has not adjusted to the age of technology. In the late 90’s her school got a set of teacher computers and Delicious got her first email account. The trainer explained, “Decide on a password and do not tell anyone what it is.” Well, Delicious sat through the long meeting, straining to guard her new key to warp-speed, limitless communication. But, she finally broke, telling her best friend, “I can’t take this anymore! I don’t like keeping secrets. I am telling you my password.”
The much younger, tech savvy Mrs. W sighed, “Okay, what is it?”
Delicious whispered seriously through her clenched jaw, “Computer.”
A buddy said today in training that teachers are notorious for modeling the behaviors they hate in students. For example, teachers who want their classrooms super quiet are the chattiest in meetings. The ones who value punctuality are late to training. In other words, he quipped about behavior problems, “If you spot it, you’ve got it!”
Usually, in-service trainers (who are typically master teachers) schmooze the audience with prizes, school supplies, breaks, and food. Teachers love food. Just like students. What is that all about? We’ll eat anything. Any time. Any day. I’ve had pizza and cake before 9 a.m. on several occasions. I had three desserts today at an in-service. School started Tuesday for me and starts at the end of July for my students. A teacher friend said to me today, as she also gobbled down quite a sweet spread, “I just can’t start my diet ‘til I have students.”
In-service snacks
Readers, I write about these teachers for one simple reason: I laughed with them. I learned from them. I love them! And, turns out, now I’m one of them!

So, it’s time to go back to school, which means I need some new teacher duds—a subject that honestly merits its own post, Theory 11: The only thing worse than teacher fashion is substitute teacher fashion.

See you next post! Until then, think outside the barn!

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Just thinking outside the barn...

Just thinking outside the barn...