When I began teaching full time, I was 51 years old. I previously stayed at home with my two children and as they began high school started as a substitute teacher. I was excited to get the fourth grade job. But, what kind of teacher was I going to be? Well, I just had to be myself. And so my new kids had to get used to my rules. I only had several.
1. “Do not rock on your chair. You don’t want to end up like Mark Harper. (made up name.) He fell and hit his head and to this day has no idea what is name is. So, if you want to end up like Markie, rock on your chair.”
2. “Don’t even think about making fun of anyone. I got made fun of for being skinny. Sure, I would welcome it now, but getting called chicken legs is not funny.”
3. “This is the most important rule. You guys need to learn to laugh at yourself. If you fall, people will laugh, so you might as well laugh rght along with them. Don’t get mad. Don’t get embarrassed. Laugh.”
So, then I tell them the story of my embarrassment in college….
I was a freshman in college and had a crush on a guy I will call Robert P. It was winter and the goofy campus employees hadn’t shoveled the sidewalks yet. It was snowing pretty hard and I was wanting to walk down the sidewalk to the student center, The Nickel, but the sidewalks were all covered with snow. It was pretty icy.
Ahhh, I spotted Robert P. coming out of the student center with some other football players. If I hurried I could run right into him. So, I decided to walk on the road that ran down beside the student center since the sidewalk was a mess. I thought I looked pretty. Well, until I wiped out. But, I didn’t just wipe out. No, that would be too easy. I tried to baby-step it down the hill. I was wearing the wrong kind of shoes for snow tromping. I don’t think I ever had a pair of boots while attending college. Well, do earth shoes count? Plus, there was the fact that we all wore wide legged jeans that dragged on the ground. It was the seventies, and we were into our bell bottoms.
I fell on my knees. Nothing bad about that, except for the pain, but it didn’t end like that. Not only did I fall, but I kept going…on my kneees. The roads were pretty icy, so I slid by the football players, on my knees, still holding my books in my left arm, and my purse on my right shoulders. So, I said, “Hi” to them as I slid right by them. While I was looking at him, wishing I would just die, I slid right into the back of a stupid truck that was unloading something at the book store that was in the same building as the student center.
Oh, no, I’m not done. After my books I was carrying hit the bumper, I bounced backwards and somehow stopped, but my books kept going under the truck and right into the path of a car coming up the hill. The car was able to straddle the books and pass by them.
All I could hear was laughing. It was deafening. There were only about 5 guys outside, but it might as well been 100. I wanted to cry, but somehow managed to stand up on my poor deformed knees, turn around to them, and said, “I meant to do that.” And smiled. A couple of them clapped. I then curtsied. And damn if I didn’t slip and fall when I took my right foot back, curtsy-style. Then they really laughed. And I just had too also.
So, I tell my class that story every year. But, the whole point is to let the kids know that if you fall, people will laugh. And that the teacher will most likely laugh the hardest.
And then she will trip and fall on her way back to the desk.
We didn’t get anything done that day.