Wednesday, January 13, 2010


As a teacher, I'm faced daily with the full spectrum of humanity. It's a weird feeling to, within a two hour span, see students whose futures vary from the sky being the limit to being fitted out with prison jumpers. I'm still uncomfortable thinking about the latter, but I guess I'll get used to it. One thing I have grown surprisingly used to is how stupid dumb clueless my students can be. I used to get upset when a student would give a startlingly incompetent answer to a question, but after a week of heartburn, I decided to laugh instead. After discovering some of them thought I was laughing at them (Well, I was, but it was more toward their answers.), I started facepalming myself, or, if it was staggeringly incompetent, just beat my head against the whiteboard. It allowed me to make fun of the student in a non-invasive way and make some people laugh at the same time. Everyone wins that way.

Today gave me a hat trick of facepalms and heads-against-the-whiteboards.

I was teaching on connotations and denotations of words, and the activity involved sorting words and phrases into columns for denotations, positive, and negative connotations. During first period I asked for a volunteer and one of my students, who, sadly, is playing without an entire suit in his deck (But tries oh so hard!), volunteered. He got stuck on what to put where, so I fake-whispered a hint that the denotation was the one with more than one word. He looked at me, the light bulb in his head flicked on, and he excitedly shouted... a one-word answer.


The whole class was stunned until my paraprofessional started laughing and we all had a great laugh. I had to explain to him between chuckles what I was hinting at him. When he realized the error of his ways, he laughed to himself and said that was pretty dumb of him.

During fifth period I was writing office referrals for a trio in my fourth period class that is in the midst of waging an insurgency against my authority and my desire to teach them. I laugh at their puny efforts and keep on writing referrals with hopes they can hit the magic number of 12 referrals so they can be shipped off to Alternative School so I can teach my class instead of having to deal with students with zero self control. Anyway, I was listening to Fighting Talk (Essentially what Around the Horn on ESPN hopes to become one day) when there was a knock at the door. My math teacher was there with a giggling student. They asked me how to spell the student's last name, and I automatically spelled it out N-E-L-S-O-N. They both started laughing and told me how a student in his group spelled it N-L-E-S-O-N. My facepalm reflex kicked in and I joined in the laughter.

During my last class of the day I had a replay of the first incident, except my little genius this time guessed incorrectly twice this time. The first instance got a facepalm, but the second time had me beating my head against the whiteboard. How you could miss it twice was beyond me, but what can you do other than laugh? Get angry? Cry? To me there's no other option but to laugh. If I didn't I'd probably go mad otherwise.

I sometimes wonder if God looks down on us and facepalms when we screw up. I'd like to think so, because God knows I've done enough to make him facepalm more than a couple of times. Yet when I screw up, He's always there to pick me up, dust me off, and send me on my way. Maybe one day I can be like that for my students. Until then, I'll just beat my head against the whiteboard.

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