When I was twenty-four, I made a mistake in class.
And there may be a few students still traumatized by it.
The year before I joined the staff at my first teaching job, there was a massive addition put on the high school. Most departments requested to move their classrooms to the new building; the history department chose decided to occupy the third floor in the old building, but the reasoning was sound:
- Troublesome students wouldn’t want to hang in the backwater of the school, but rather be where the “action” was, and:
- Administrators wouldn’t want to hike up all those steps to “drop in” on classes.
A great plan, but there were some drawbacks.
My seventh period that year had a few students who liked to consider themselves “tough.”
But they really weren’t, especially when our unexpected guest showed up to class.
Maybe cool students and supervisors didn’t want to make the long journey to my classroom, but a field mouse did, and in the middle of class came from behind one of the filing cabinets and wandered between the desks.
Three of the toughest kids in class screamed, and jumped on top of their desks. Their shrieks chased the mouse back where it came, but class did not return to normal. As the bell rang, I asked the students not to tell my incoming class what had happened, but kids will be kids. One girl in particular came to class excited.
“C, where is the mouse? I live on a farm, I’ll get it!”
I pointed to the filing cabinet, and she and a few others went to help the little rodent, and within a minute or so had the tiny mouse hidden in her hands.
“C, can I take the mouse downstairs and let it go?”
I didn’t want my students wandering the halls, no matter their good intentions, so I came up with a better plan.
I told her to throw it out the window.
She didn’t believe me at first, but I was very self-assured, and told her the ground was soft enough to land with little issue and scamper off into the woods. The class, now twenty strong, gathered around the third-story window, and waited for Farm Girl to launch the unsuspecting mammal.
I’d like to blame Farm Girl on her throw, or maybe the fact that the windows didn’t open entirely (they were the type that were attached at the bottom and angled inward when opened, so very difficult to get any leverage behind a throw), but really the guilt was with me. Frankly, I should’ve let her go downstairs.
Farm Girl “threw” the mouse…and the entire class watched as it fell towards the ground…and clipped the edge of the first-floor greenhouse aluminum siding, then spun rapidly until it hit the sidewalk.
The mouse did not run off into the woods.
A few sobs broke out in the class, a few whimpers, and definitely a shriek from Farm Girl, just a little less loud than the tough kids in my previous class.
I did the only thing I could.
“Kids… and now we’ve learned…ALL things are affected by gravity, great or small!”
One of the male students came up to me and asked quietly to go downstairs and clean up the sidewalk.
It was the best idea in class that day.
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