Posts Tagged ‘Teaching’

paddleNote: The names  in the following story have been changed to protect the parties involved. Except mine of course. I’m pretty sure the statute of limitations has passed by now.

If the story I’m about to recount had taken place in 2006 or even 1996 everyone involved would have probably been fired. But this was a different time, a different place. This was 1985, and the place was Greenfield, Ohio. Read on …

It was mid-morning and I was teaching Reading at the time. Teaching Reading was great because they basically let me write my own curriculum, which is either downright horrifying or spectacularly exciting, depending on your viewpoint and opinion of me as a professional educator. Let’s just say I created some unorthodox lessons plans, such as deciphering the lyrics to Don McLean’s “American Pie”, or “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “I Am the Walrus” by my beloved Beatles. Hey, there’s nothing more fun than explaining what John Lennon meant when he wrote “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together” or “Yellow mother custard, dripping from a dead dog’s eye” to a bunch of impressionable 13-year olds.

Good times.

Anyway, I was in the middle of class when I heard the principal’s voice over my intercom: “Mr. Shoemaker, you’re needed in the high school office immediately.” I responded, “Sure, let me get someone to cover my class and I’ll . . .”  At that point I was interrupted. “Never mind that, just get over here right away.”

Uh-oh.

I immediately walked/jogged to the office, mind racing as I went. What the hell had I done? Was it taking the kids to the roof for that lesson last week (don’t ask)? Was it discussing evolution? Was it letting  that kid walk over to the Kahlua Cream to grab me a milkshake the other afternoon? Since I usually did 2-3 things a week that could be considered controversial, the possibilities were endless. Alas, when I arrived at the office my fears were allayed.

I walked in the door, and in the corner stood Joe, a high school kid who had been in a lot of trouble, mostly involving physical altercations. Joe was sort of in a crouched position, looking around wildly, waiting to pounce on the first person brave enough to approach him. Watching him was my principal and the high school football coach, who had also apparently been called in as an enforcer along with yours truly. At this point my principal looks at me, grinning, and says,”Mr. Shoemaker, Joe here took a swing at Mrs. Blipnoid (not her real name) and he’s refusing to take his whoopin’.”

Keep in mind these were the days when paddling, or corporal punishment as it was called, was commonplace. Joe then demanded to speak to his father, but my principal had other ideas. He said, “Tell you what. I’ll call Charlie myself.”

My principal knew every single person in town, I kid you not. He then proceeded to call Joe’s dad, explains the situation, listens, and hangs up the phone. He then looks at Joe, grins maniacally and says, “Looks like the whoopin’s a go, Joe.”

At that point Joe knows the deal and decides to go for broke. He leaps over the desk and makes a break for the door, except I was in front of the door. Before he runs me over the football coach steps over and sort of blindsides the kid (using perfect form tackle I might add) and takes him down in one fell swoop. As this is happening the principal clears everything off his desk with one sweep of his giant paddle. The football coach and I then body slam Joe facedown on the desk. The principal actually proceeds to paddle Joe by raising the board over his head, swinging straight down, while using both hands. If I recall it was 4-whacks give or take a whack.  We then let Joe up, he apologized, shook our hands, and went back to class. No suspension, in-school restriction, Saturday school, nothing.

Problem solved.

If it happened today we’d all be on 60-Minutes trying to explain ourselves. Back then? Just another day at Greenfield McClain.

Hey, I told you it was a different time.

Advertisements

The Bathroom Arsonist

Posted: November 8, 2015 in Adventure, Classroom, Education, Humor
Tags: ,

So I was minding my own business, just relaxing and watching a riveting episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County Criminal Minds this week when I remembered this nugget from my early days of teaching.  It involves arson, 13-year old girls and toilets, so it’s a can’t miss blog, amirite or amirite? Let us proceed . . .

It was my second year of teaching and I was full of vim, vigor and the blind belief that I was in it for the kids.

Note: By the way, what the hell is vim? Something akin to vigor I presume? Whatever, I’m using it this year when I coach. “Let’s see some vim out there today boys!” Yeah, maybe not.

Anyway, don’t get me wrong, I’m still in it for the kids but on the odd day I sometimes lack the vigor and, uh, vim.  Am I even close to the point of this blog yet? The answer is no. Focus, Shoe, focus.  OK, my point is I was young and very idealistic. Keep that in mind as I recount the following anecdote.

As I still do today, I told my students that they could come to me about anything if they needed help and I would help them anyway I could. I also told them I would do it confidentially. I figured hey, what’s the worst they could tell me? My problem was, at that time I wasn’t really prepared or experienced enough to back up that promise.

With this in mind, one day an 8th grade girl came into my class during my lunchbreak. I’ve always eaten lunch in my room because #1, I don’t want to hear a bunch of teachers bitching about kids, #2, I’m anti-social and #3, I’m lacking that gene that allows one to engage in smalltalk. But back to the girl. Let’s call her Annie. Annie was red-eyed and had obviously been crying. I put down my bag of Pop Rocks (hey, it was 1985) and asked what was wrong. Here’s the conversation that transpired:

Annie: “Remember when you said we could come and talk to you about anything?”

Me: “That’s right Annie. Anything. What’s the problem?”

Annie: “And you said you wouldn’t tell anyone what we said?”

Me, sensing trouble: “Y-e-a-h, I said that.”

Annie: “Well, there’s something I need to tell you but I don’t want anyone else to know.”

Me: “O . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . K.” (This was followed by an audible gulp from me. You had to know Annie).

Annie: “Well, I was the one who set the girl’s bathroom on fire last week. I was mad at my boyfriend and threw a match into the trash can. I had no idea it would cause such a big fire with so much smoke. I also didn’t realize all those fire trucks would come to school, everyone would be evacuated, we’d get to go home early and there’d be a big article in the paper about how the cops were searching for the arsonist. Thanks Mr. Shoe!”

With a wave and a smile she was gone, seemingly footloose and fancy free, all the guilt off her chest.

And onto mine.

After sitting in shock for a few seconds I ran after her and somehow talked her into doing the right thing. I went with her to see the principal, and the three of us ended up taking a trip to the police station to plead for mercy. Because she turned herself in, Annie got off light and never spent time in the Juvi Slammer.

Whew. Crisis averted.

Lesson learned? Never make promises to students that you’re not prepared to keep.

In my first year of teaching I had a principal that, although I’m sure he doesn’t know this, changed me forever as a teacher. I’ll call him Mr. M, and I’m sure a lot of my former Greenfield students know exactly who I’m talking about. Anywho, I’d been doing something weird with my Reading class (I think it involved taking my kids to the roof and throwing stuff off, though I can’t be sure) and a parent had called me, just livid about it. She didn’t understand my teaching methods, which would prove to be a common theme throughout my career. It was toward the end of the year and this was the first complaint I’d ever received personally so I was a little freaked out. Hey, today I would have shrugged it off but back then I, you know, cared about what people thought about me and whatnot. Since I cared, I went to my principal to tell him about the phone call. After listening to me for a few minutes, he told me not to worry about it.

What? This woman had threatened to write a letter to the school board! I could get into trouble here! Could I have a little support over here?

At that point he reached into a drawer and pulled out a file with 7-8 papers in it. He handed it to me and I took a look. To my horror the papers were records of calls or complaints that had been lodged against me over the year. I was dumbstruck. I then asked the obvious question. Why had I not been told? He then told me this:

“Dave, I know what you’re doing in there. I didn’t want to cramp your style. Your methods are unorthodox to put it mildly. Hell, it seems like you’re having a party in there half the time. But the fact is the kids are learning. Trust me, you’re going to have questions about the way you teach for years, but I’m telling you now you have to block out the criticism and just keep doing what you’re doing. Let me worry about these complaints. You’re fine. If I ever have a question or issue with your classroom you’ll be the first to know. Now get back in there and never lose that enthusiasm you have for teaching.

Well, after fighting off the urge to kiss the man I felt as if a weight had been lifted from my back. As any teacher will tell you, the freedom to teach the way you want to teach is priceless. In life you can’t pretend to be somebody you’re not, and if you do it as a teacher the kids are going to see right through you from the get-go. Anyway, from that point on I went back to class and never looked back. Yeah, sometimes we sort of take a strange route to illustrate a point, but trust me when I say there’s a method to my madness 99% of the time.

OK, maybe 90%.

I was very lucky to have that principal my first few years of teaching. Come to think of it, every principal I’ve had since has been supportive, although at times I know it couldn’t have been easy. I think in any job, though, a leader or boss should provide guidance but ultimately let those under him or her be themselves and not micromanage their way into the equation.

In teaching, as in a lot of professions, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. In the end though, if you’re getting results who cares how you got there?

So, if you walk by my classroom and see me hitting a kid over the head with a nerf sword or maybe having an in-depth discussion of last night’s Walking Dead episode, don’t be alarmed. Like I said, there’s usually a point I’m trying to get around to.

Sometimes I just take the long way to get there.

Hopefully it works, and if it does I owe that to one man.

Thanks Mr. M.

Note: Unfortunately a lot of creativity has been taken out of the classroom. Now teachers have to “teach to the test” and stay on that course of study, come hell or high water. Those “teaching moments” that were many times off the grid but that teachers used to run with have all but disappeared. Sad really.

The following article was written by Lauren Romano for Shine from Yahoo! While it’s flattering to ddffdsmale teachers it’s not entirely correct in all cases, and by “not entirely” I mean “hardly ever.” I thought I’d let you read it, followed by my thoughts . . .

Every year around back-to-school time, I’m reminded of a teacher I used to date a couple of years ago. We just didn’t have that spark so we only went on a handful of dates, but he was a great guy and will someday make a woman very happy (if he hasn’t already). There are a lot of benefits to dating a teacher, so if there’s one you’re interested in, it’s time to step up your game and go for it!

Yeah, sometimes that “spark” is hard to find, Lauren, I get it. And sometimes when you do find it, you get your ass singed, blistered or sometimes incinerated. Otherwise I couldn’t agree more. Step up your game and go for it ladies! Listen to Lauren! Good Lord, I’m pathetic.

But on to the so-called benefits:

They get along with (almost) everyone!

When you’re a teacher, you have to get along with young kids, their parents, co-workers, board members and a variety of others. It’s a requirement that you’re a people person. When you date a teacher, he’ll likely get along with almost anyone in your life from your parents to your best friends.

Let’s see . . . kids, their parents, co-workers, board members and a variety of others. Well, one out of five ain’t bad, I guess. Let’s see, what group have I gotten along with consistently over my teaching career? Kids. End of list.

They like kids!

Considering they work with kids on a daily basis, most teachers you meet are going to get along well with kids. This means if you have children or want some one day, there’s a good chance your guy is going to be able to connect well with them.

Score! I do love kids of all ages, always have. They make me laugh. I can relate to them, quite possibly because I have the maturity level of an 11-year old.*

*One of my exes put that number at 6, but she had a skewed perspective. In fact, she was skewed period, so skew her. On a related note, I’m an awful person.

They have set hours and set vacation time!

One of the biggest benefits of being a teacher is that you know what your hours are and when your vacation days are going to be. Your guy will be off weekends, holidays and the entire summer which means you can make plans without worry. Although he’ll have to attend some school functions, grade papers and do lesson plans after work, he won’t be working on most nights.

Wait. Lesson plans and grading papers after work? Nah, I had 5th graders for that sort of menial labor. Relax, I’m kidding. Partly.

They believe in positive reinforcement!

It’ll be hard to find a teacher who will say to a student “You’re an idiot. Do it again.” Teachers believe in positive reinforcement so rather than your guy throwing insults at you, he’ll likely be your biggest cheerleader. It’s an incredible feeling when you know your guy supports you.

False. I think you can call kids anything you want as long as you do it the right way. Yes, I’ve called kids idiots, doofuses, morons, weirdos, dummies, and a million other names. They know I don’t mean it. Well, usually. And positive reinforcement, while a great thing, doesn’t always work. Sometimes you have to use negative reinforcement. Maybe even a physical threat now and then. Sometimes I even go the ridicule route. Belittling can also be effective. It really depends on the kid. You gotta be creative! Bottom line? If they know you love them you can say almost anything to them. They’re way tougher and more thick-skinned than you think.

They’re prepared for anything!

I’ve yet to meet a teacher who wasn’t prepared for anything. Tissues, pens, paper, bandages, the exact amount of change, safety pins – they always seem to have everything you need on them at all times. It may be a superficial reason to date a teacher, but it’s still a huge benefit to know that whatever you need, your guy will likely have it on him.

Nope. I am rarely prepared for any of these things. My female counterparts in the rooms surrounding me, however, are very prepared. I’m exceptionally good at saying, “Hey Leah, run over to Mrs. Dailey’s room and see if she has any (insert anything here).”  Somebody close by invariably has what we need.

They’re not selfish!

Teachers are some of the most unselfish people on the planet. Many will go out of their way for anyone, especially those they care about. If you date a teacher, there’s a good chance he’ll go out of his way to be there for you for whatever you need.

Yes, I am one of the most unselfish people on the planet. Couldn’t agree more. 100% accurate. You’re not going to ask any of the women I’ve had relationships with though, right? Right? Please don’t ask.

You can always learn something new!

It’s amazing how much teachers know about a variety of topics. As someone who loves constantly learning, I need to be with a guy from whom I can learn. Rarely have I had a conversation with a teacher where I didn’t learn something new. If you have a thirst for knowledge, a teacher may just be your ideal mate.

Hey, you read my blog. I’m a multi-dimensional, well-rounded, cultured man of the world. I have many friends in Belgium, The Philippines and the Caribbean. Plus, LeBron James hates me. Yes, I’ve been around. So could I probably teach you something new? Oh yes I could. Let’s leave it at that.

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule and some teachers aren’t so wonderful. However, should you decide to go for a teacher, he’ll likely come with many of the aforementioned benefits that can help make your relationship a success.

Whatever you say, Lauren. Whatever you say.

Author’s Note: LAUREN ROMANO IS OUT OF HER MIND.

Originally published on August 10th, 2012.

Listen, I promise I’m not going to keep writing sappy stories about my retirement from teaching. Ishoeskids know some people are rolling their eyes and wishing they were in my position. I understand that. And nobody died, people retire every day, blah-blah-blah.

But they say to write what you know, what’s in your heart. Well, right now, this is what’s in my heart . . .

I can honestly tell you at no time in my life have I ever regretted becoming a teacher. I can’t remember a day when I didn’t want to come to school. The people who know me best will back me up on that.

Teaching just never seemed like “work” to me. Yes, it got tougher with all the crap the state has brought down on teachers over the years, but to me, actually being in the classroom never changed. From the day I walked into Greenfield McClain back in the fall 0f 1984 up until the minute I left Paint Valley today, I loved it.

I really, really loved it.

Sure, there were times I wanted to kill kids, there were problems with administrators and Boards of Education, and there was the occasional problem with a parent who wondered what the hell I was doing in my classroom. Still, there was never a day when I didn’t want to go to school.

School was always the place I wanted to be during the difficult and painful times of my life. Close friends have passed away, but when I went back into the classroom things got better. During my teaching career I’ve been through two divorces and hurt two people who didn’t deserve it. I’ve been a bad husband and haven’t always been a good man.

Bur I’ve always been pretty good with kids.

When those friends died or I was going through those tough personal times, everything got better when I walked into my classroom.

The pain went away.

My students made me forget.

You see, my kids never saw the jerk some adults were seeing. They saw something better, and I think it was because I was better with them.

For some reason I’ve always been better with kids.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe I’m more like the kids than I am the adults. Maybe that’s why I’m so afraid to leave them.

And maybe I’m afraid, for the first time in my life, that I’ll have to grow up.