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,
“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?”
“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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