“Great” Moments in Teaching, Part 7

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At the end of the school year, my students will complete their final project.

In it, each of them has to give a speech –

with no notes

while maintaining eye contact with the entire class.

We’ve done speeches in class before, and they’ve used notes, PowerPoint, and various other aids.


My goal has been to get them comfortable with speaking in front of people. This is the final step.

When I explain the proper way of giving speeches at the beginning of the year, I explain some common errors students make. There is a grade for eye contact: some students turn that into a staring contest with me, to make sure I see them making contact, thereby giving them a good grade.

The only thing it does is make me extremely uncomfortable.

I tell my students they will get a zero on that part of the grade if they do that – and then explain why it is pet peeve #1 with me.

In my second year of teaching, I had a first period U.S. History II class – Juniors.

For the most part, it was a great class. Every Friday a female student would greet me as she entered class, put her books down, and check the back of my hand for a stamp. Usually, she would find a faded stamp print from a club I visited the night before. She would reenter the class and triumphantly announce,

“Guess what?!

“READING DAY!”

Generic Triumphant and apparently Clairvoyant Junior

She was usually right.

In that class, there was another student on the far side of the room, and as I taught class, she would stare at me.

For forty minutes.

It was extremely uncomfortable. I would try to make light of the situation, but nothing seemed to work.

About halfway through the year, I received a love letter from her.

I graded it.

She got a C-.

She was not amused.

Those stares which had made me uncomfortable before were turned up a notch, now full of rage.

For the last few months in class, I refused to face that side of the classroom. I always felt bad for the students whose last names began with the end of the alphabet, because I’m sure they had questions, and I never answered them.

In case you didn’t notice, I survived that year, and without harm, fortunately. The Raging student made it to her senior year.

The following year I taught down the hall, in a different classroom. The history department was on the third floor, and seniors didn’t take history classes. I was safe.

Or so I thought.

Throughout the year, on occasion I would look out my classroom, and she would be standing there…staring.

No words were ever said, but it sent chills down my spine.

In late May, about three weeks before the end of the year, I was grading assignments at the drafting table which sat in the front of class. There was a knock on the door – it was her.

I jumped up, said, “Hi”, and moved away from the door to the other side of the drafting table. It was large enough; I presumed I would be fine.

She walked over to the table and said, “I thought you might want to read this.”, and dropped a three page paper on the table. I gingerly accepted. There was a grade on the front page from her Creative Writing teacher:

A- (Great imagination!)

It was a story about a female student who had a crush on her teacher, a history teacher who taught in room 218 (I had taught in room 318). She made advances, and was rejected. In the story, she approached him after school one day…

And stabbed him.

My heart was thumping. Sweat poured off my brow onto the paper (as I remember!), and I looked at her smirking face.

I faked one way to the door, she cut that path off, and then I bolted the other way. The floor was deserted; it was late enough where most of the history teachers had left for the day.

At the other end of the floor, an older history teacher was still there. I rushed in, and asked if he knew this student. His response?

“Yeah…what’s going on with you two? Have you done something sexual with her?”

“NO!!!”

SHE’S TRYING TO KILL ME!!!”

I showed him the paper. He suggested that I turn this over to the proper people. I ran downstairs, made copies, and gave one to her guidance counselor.

The next day, she was called into a meeting in guidance with a school psychiatrist, assistant principal, and guidance counselor. From what I understand, she was confronted about her actions, and she flipped out.

The last I ever saw of her was when the ambulance came to pick her up.

This happened in 1994, and about four years later I read that she was married and living in Tennessee. I think I’m safe.

But don’t ever, EVER stare at me…


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Phylum of Alexandria
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November 17, 2022 8:36 am

Whoah, first I had images of Dr. Jones’ students from Raiders of the Lost Ark, but we soon jumped into Single White Female territory. That’s some scary shit!

It’s a numbers game. See enough students, and it’s almost inevitable that one or two will be a bit disturbed, and will happen to fixate on you. As a TA, I never saw anything as dramatic as what you went through, but something in the same vein. Not at all romantically colored, but just as obsessive and rather unnerving.

On the other hand, “Reading Day” girl gets points for cleverness!

Aaron3000
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Aaron3000
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November 17, 2022 1:51 pm

I had visions of Alicia Silverstone in The Crush. Thank God she never found out where you lived, thegue!

dutchg8r
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dutchg8r
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November 18, 2022 5:42 pm

Same here! I immediately thought of the girl that managed to write her love of Dr Jones across her eyelids in Raiders.

Then thegue goes off into scary shittake territory and it’s like – I don’t think I’m in Raiders anymore. 😱

Virgindog
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Virgindog
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November 17, 2022 10:06 am

Wait. I live in Tennessee and most of my co-workers are women. Is it bad that I immediately narrowed it down to three who could be your former student?

LinkCrawford
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LinkCrawford
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November 17, 2022 12:11 pm
LinkCrawford
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LinkCrawford
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November 17, 2022 12:11 pm
Reply to  LinkCrawford

My wife is a teacher. We don’t listen to this song in our house.

Aaron3000
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Aaron3000
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November 17, 2022 1:53 pm
Reply to  LinkCrawford

Hey, role-play can be fun sometimes. Just sayin’.

dutchg8r
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dutchg8r
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November 18, 2022 5:43 pm
Reply to  LinkCrawford

‘Siddownnnn, Waldo. “

cappiethedog
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November 17, 2022 12:27 pm

Arguably, “She’s trying to kill me!!!” should get the larger font. In this context, premeditated murder would be the more egregious transgression.

Before the short story, the student had you trapped. If you turned her in, it would into a he said/she said situation.

That sounds scary.

mt58
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mt58
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November 17, 2022 1:28 pm
Reply to  cappiethedog

Layout editor’s note:

cappie’s layout instincts are correct.

But in consideration of the serious question pose by the older history teacher in the story, I made the call to have “No!” in the largest font possible.

Seemed like the thing to do.

cappiethedog
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November 17, 2022 6:36 pm
Reply to  mt58

Agree. A colleague shouldn’t be making such a baseless accusation.

JJ Live At Leeds
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November 17, 2022 2:13 pm

Further confirmation that a life in teaching wasn’t for me. You definitely had a big impact on her, just not in the way you envisaged. Or wanted.

cstolliver
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November 17, 2022 3:41 pm

Glad the school counselor and company could help out there. That sounds extremely frightening!

mt58
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mt58
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November 17, 2022 4:06 pm
Reply to  cstolliver

Chuck, you and Lovethisconcept came to mind when I was prepping the layout for this. I can imagine that you have known and counseled young people like the one in thegue’s story.

I’ve found myself thinking about the young woman a few times today. I hope that she was able to work through her difficulties.

Adolescence is hard enough. To additionally have such a incorrect and skewed interpretation of a proper student-teacher relationship must be a very difficult thing for young people to navigate.

lovethisconcept
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November 18, 2022 1:08 pm
Reply to  mt58

I have worked with many troubled students. I worked primarily with students who were at least two years below grade level on math, and, you guessed it, troubled teens are more likely to be below grade level. I also did before-school tutoring. Those classes were split about evenly between those who wanted to improve, those whose parents wanted them to improve, and those who were court ordered to attend tutoring as part of their probation.

Fortunately, no situations like this ever occurred, although I had a couple of different students threaten to slash my tires because I would not falsify their attendance records. I also have a thank you note from a student who was later convicted of murder. He was still in school when the crime was committed, and it was surreal to think that we had been trying to work on mental math skills (he thanked me for decreasing his dependence on his calculator) when obviously there were so many other issues that we should have been dealing with. That being said, all that you can do is teach what you know, stay alert for signs of trouble, and give each student the best that you’ve got.

Last edited 16 days ago by lovethisconcept
Pauly Steyreen
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November 17, 2022 5:57 pm

Somehow a stabbing incident would be better than you reciprocating her interest. (Not suggesting that would ever be on the table, just that that would be an even scarier scenario, and you’d be writing to us from prison.)

cappiethedog
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November 17, 2022 6:42 pm
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

Seconded.

Quoting Barry Andrews of Shriekback, I’d rather be “moving on to the body of a beetle,” than be accused of inappropriate contact with a student.

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