I want to share a story from my teaching archives:
About 8 years ago I was teaching in a very old, very over-crowded school which was being remodeled one building at a time. When it came time for my classroom to be remodeled we were shuffled to a portable — 1 teacher, 1 aid, 45 students, 3 hamsters, 1 trantula, 1 iguana and assorted other clutter — including a gallon jar containing a goat brain in formaldehyde.
One day a mother joined the mix. She knocked on my door as I was teaching math and asked to speak with me. I directed her to my desk and explained that I needed to finish the lesson first. She ignored my desk — the towering paperstack was intimidating — and perched on the edge of the pet table.
I was attempting to explain the substitution of letters for numbers in an intro to algebra lesson and the kids were making the concept harder than it needed to be. They were looking for a distraction and they got one big time ….
At the back of the room mom, perched on the table edge, had attracted the attention of Silk, the softest, sweetest most loveable hamster in the whole world. Silk was doing her hind leg “pick me up” song and dance routine in her cage and drew mom’s attention.
Mom, apparently near-sighted, leaned closer to the cage. At this Silk started clapping her little paws and really stepped up the wiggling. The mom let out an eeep! and propelled herself on down the table — to Hairy’s cage.
Hairy was our trantula. He waved his tentacles at mom. She let out a shriek and made another hop backward. Iggy the iguana went into defense mode and hissed at mom because she frightened him. Mom screamed and backed rapidly away from the table. She tripped over a child and a chair in our over-crowded room and landed heavily on the bookcase. A glass jar toppled from the shelf; lightening fast mom caught it.
Everyone inhaled at once. No one exhaled. The whole room was silent. The mother, staring at the glass container in her hands, realized it contained a brain and into this vast, unnatural stillness shouted a truly inappropriate word. She threw the jar into the air and bolted for the door, plowing children over in her haste to exit.
One of my boys executed a spectacular dive and saved the jar. As he rested on the floor with the jug upon his chest, we all fell out laughing. When I finally caught my breath and we’d all calmed down, I redirected the children to their work, and sent the woman’s son out to see if she was okay. He returned to the classroom with a huge grin on his face and said, “Mrs. C., my mama still wants to talk to you, but she says she ain’t never comin’ in here again. You’ll have to go outside.”
You have to know we all fell out laughing again. I never could talk to that woman with a straight face. In fact, I just saw her in the grocery store. We came around the end of the isle from opposite directions, looked at each other and burst out laughing. She didn’t recall my name, but she hasn’t forgotten her trauma in my classroom. I am a teacher who truly knows how to make a lasting impression.