Friday, July 27, 2012

Lobsters Keep Me Teaching

This time of year brings such mixed emotions.  Part of me is ready to embrace the new school year, the new students, the new adventures waiting on the other side of the classroom door.  The other part of me, well that part loves these lazy mornings, sipping my second cup of coffee with three rambunctious dogs romping at my feet.  Sure, thoughts of an endless summer are enticing, but there's something that draws me back to the classroom year after year . . . lobsters, or at least the potential of lobsters.  Okay, that probably needs some explaining, so here's a post I wrote a few years back:


There’s a Lobster on the Ceiling

Some days are just a little off and you wonder what it might be like to have a do-over. Other days are just better torn off the calendar a few hours early so we can put them behind us.  This was one of THOSE days.   By 9:00 this morning, I was ready to move on to Friday.
My day started, shrouded in a thick fog soup.  The high-def doppler radar showed a blob of dark green stretched across the length of my commute.  The rainy commute didn’t worry me near as much as the thought of a second day of ‘rainy day’ recess.  Stuck indoors all day, no break, no coming up for air, no brief moment of sanity standing in your empty classroom while the kids are at recess.  When it comes to 10 year olds, there’s no such thing as potential energy.  They emit pure kinetic energy between the hours of 8:00 A.M. and 2:20 P.M.  Twenty-six fifth graders on a rainy day have enough energy to power half the city if only we can find a way to harness it.
Sometime between 9 and 10:  I realize that reading groups, resource groups, and the pull-out ELD groups are canceled.  Time to whip out plan B, until I realize that I already used up Plan B when these same groups were canceled earlier in the week.  Plan C?  No, even having a Plan C would mean acknowledging that Plan B might not work and you’d need a back-up.  Who ever thinks THAT far ahead?
9:50 Clean up at table 3.  Cosmic slime spill.  On the desk, on the math homework, on the carpet, on his uniform.  Everywhere but in the child’s backpack where it is supposed to be.  An ectoplasmic disaster. Not my mess, not my goo.  Logical consequences, I stay out of it.
10:40:  The texting child from the other day, Foxy1, comes up to me with phone in hand.  She’s trying an honest and direct approach this time since the ‘hide the phone in my sweatshirt in my lap’ approach failed miserably the other day.  ”Mrs. Tanner, can I reply to this text I just got?” “You JUST got a text?  In class?”  ”Yep, it’s my mom.”  I shake my head, take the phone, place it on my desk, and go back to teaching.   Foxy1 throws a fit.  A loud fit. She wants to go home…NOW!  Which apparently was the truth, because I find three text messages to her mother asking her to come pick her up NOW!  And there’s a text to Uncle Mikey as well, wanting to know if Mom is with him.  Unlike Mom, Uncle Mikey never replied.  He might have been busy, but one can hope he realized that an adult probably shouldn’t be texting a 10 year old in the middle of the school day.
12:50  I’ve enjoyed a brief reprieve.  Lunch with adults. But it’s over, both the lunch and the reprieve. Walking into the cafeteria to pick up the kids, the sense that ‘something bad has happened here’ washes over me.  There’s an uncomfortable, unnatural hush and my students are sitting with hands folded on the table. It is definitely a crime scene. The noon duty supervisor (we called them cafeteria ladies in my day), looks haggard and worn.  Not a good sign as she’s one of the most unflappable women I know.  She’s got the white slip in her hand which signals that tomorrow holds some sort of pay back.  Line walking practice it turns out.  All she can utter is “Raisin fight, whole class involved, but that wasn’t the worst of it.”  She gives me no more information.  I’m pretty sure I don’t want anymore anyway.  I’m good.  Whatever it was that happened wasn’t pretty.  All of our reward stars have been ripped off their little velcro squares.  We’re starless for the first time ever.  Words aren’t needed.
1:40 My lesson plan book can be used as evidence that I didn’t plan the stunt show that occurs in my room at 1:40.  I have no idea that Child A. will fly across the room with his individual white board grasped tightly in both hands.  Nor that this child will defy gravity with a panther-like leap in the air and bring said board crashing down on Child B’s back. I check my plan book to make sure I hadn’t accidently scheduled that between math and social studies.  Nope, I planned a seamless transition from the floor to their desks. Yet that’s not what happens.  Child A is sent to the office with a referral, Child B has suffered no obvious signs of trauma.  Child B is eventually summoned to the office to sort out the stunt man details.  Both are led back to my room by the principal who offers to watch my class while I go outside to speak with the ‘perps’ (turns out Child B was the instigator).  Both boys are bearing hand written apologies for interrupting the learning of others.  Child B immediately apologizes, hands me his note, and returns to class.  Child A.  Not so fast.  Child A informs me that he has nothing to apologize for because I mistakenly wrote on his office referral that he hit Child B on the head when, in fact, he hit him on the back.  Apparently in his mind, this tiny error renders the entire referral null and void.  It is no longer a legally binding record of misbehavior.  Thus, he has no reason to apologize because he did not commit the crime for which he has been accused.  Did I mention that Child A, at age 10, has already chosen which law school he plans on attending?  I return him to the custody of the principal and he is whisked away.  The principal’s ruling on the matter:  no apology, no entrance to the classroom.  Case closed for me.
2:15  With only 5 minutes left in the day, I’m ready to let my guard down.  But I’ve spent the last four months with these kids, so I know better.  I remain vigilant.  Still, even with my eyes peeled, I somehow miss the last big event of the day.  I’m aware that it has happened within a matter of seconds.  The eyes in the back of my head may have failed me, but I’m on to them immediately. Hushed whispers, eyes focused toward the ceiling, 10 year olds pretending that everything is normal when I look their way.  But it’s not.  They are desperately trying to figure out how to undo what’s been done before I’ve had a chance to notice.  But it’s too late.  I’ve followed their casual upward glances and I am well aware that there’s a lobster stuck to the ceiling.  I’m just not sure how it got there.  Not yet anyway.
2:20  The bell rings.  The boys, who I’m sure are somehow involved in the incident, rush out the door.  C.C. follows them but, being the compassionate one in the group, pauses just long enough to warn me.  ”Mrs. T., there’s a lobster on the ceiling above table group 5.  Be careful okay?”

Endless summer?  Not for me.  Not yet anyway. I thnk I'd miss the lobster on the ceiling far too much.  

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