Yes, that’s what I said. Staple . . . himself.
This may not be odd or exciting news for those of you who have been teaching a while, but this wasn’t your typical “barely break the surface” kind of a stapling incident. This one went beyond the bend on the staple.
It went something like this.
“I stapled myself.”
Now added to the list of things only a teacher hears. “I stapled myself.”
This made me start thinking about all the other things I’ve heard…which almost caused this entry to go in a completely different direction…which could have been titled, “Your eyebrows look much better today, Mrs. Ezell” or “Did you mean for your hair to look like that?” But, that could have led to a bout with depression and a box of Girl Scout Tagalong cookies. I shook it off and regrouped.
It occurred to me, that while I certainly hated that a student injured himself in my class, it did have somewhat of a positive effect on my classroom. Sad that I would think that, isn’t it? Yes, but true.
You see, it broke up the monotony. It changed the energy. Because the staple was so deep in his finger, he couldn’t pull it out. 2 words. Field Trip. Off we went to the nurse’s office. After we disinfected it, she brought out these really cool tweezers. Totally legit medical supplies. Not your mama’s Tweezerman tweezers. These could have been in an emergency room in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. We gathered around as she tried to pull it out. She couldn’t do it. It wouldn’t budge.
Of course, you know what happens next.
Local Algebra Teacher saves the day, film at 11:00
I grabbed those tweezers and said, “OK, Riley…on the count of 3. Ready?”
He looked at me with this look on his face like, “How did my day turn into this crazy lady getting ready to perform surgery on my finger?”
“OK, here we go. 1 . . .” YANK. Came out clean as a whistle.
“YOU DIDN’T SAY 3! YOU DIDN’T EVEN SAY 2! WHAT KIND OF PERSON DOESN’T EVEN SAY 2????”
Well, of course not. Then he would’ve panicked.
It occurs to me that’s often how I teach. I try to catch them when they least expect it. Catch them off-guard. Surprise them. Deny them the opportunity to panic. Sure, I know what the hard concepts are, the difficult lessons, the tricky math stuff. But, if I lead with anxiety and apprehension, they are going to freak-out.
Freak-outedness is not a good thing in the math classroom. It is to be avoided at all costs.
So, I lie. So, I reframe. I turn it around.
I say things like,
“We are learning the coolest thing today.” or
“I am crazy excited about what I get to show you how to do today.” or
“I love teaching about multiplying binomials.” or
“You aren’t going to believe how easy it is to graph systems of equations.” or
“I was telling my family at dinner last night about today’s lesson.”
Now, these are not second graders. They know I’m full of it. They tell me so every day. But, being super cool is not my goal. Although… I am totally and completely super cool.
My goal is to take away their anxiety…not 100% of the time because sometimes a little anxiety is a good and necessary thing.
But, when learning something NEW, having a relaxed and positive attitude is invaluable. Don’t you think?
In order to do that, I often act like a goofball. Seriously.
I do things in front of my students that I would NEVER do in the real world. My goal is to make them laugh until their cheeks hurt and they want to vomit. To make them look at their table group at roll their eyes, silently saying, “She’s really lost it today.” I sing. I dance. I stand in chairs. I create horrible role-playing experiences. I do impressions. I throw things. I throw candy (always a big hit). I create class competitions based on random math facts and music from the 80’s. I tie together their prior experiences and knowledge and math concepts with big gaudy bows of goofiness and immaturity (my own).
They try to act above it all, but really, when it comes down to it, they would much rather me be goofy and nerdy than constantly tell them how hard and serious and important math is.
I mean, really. Nobody wants to hear that. People want to hear that it’s OK. That it’s fun. That it’s cool. That it’s DO-ABLE.
I know I do. Isn’t that what we all want?
So, yeah. I didn’t count to 3. I didn’t even count to 2. I grabbed that staple with those fancy tweezers and yanked it right out before Riley even knew what hit him . . . and I did it while making him laugh (or at least attempting to, anyway).
If I can do the same thing as a teacher, if I can teach them something complex before they realize it’s complex and make them believe that it’s a completely normal extension of what they already know and do it with a smile on their faces, then I have had a good day. Then I am a good teacher.
And, more importantly, my students have LEARNED and felt good about it at the same time. Can there be anything better than that?
I’m just saying.