We’ve all had those moments — times where the best-laid plans turned into complete debacles. But then you readjust, dust yourself off, and either scrap that plan or learn how to do it better the next time.
So, in the spirit of keeping the holidays merry and bright, some of our Teacher-Authors offered up their blush-worthy moments. We hope you enjoy a good belly laugh or two!
Classroom Catastrophes: A Close Shave
Jessica Scott: “My second year of teaching, I taught 2nd grade. We were using shaving cream to practice our spelling words; students used a finger to write their words in the shaving cream on top of their desk. My kids were having so much fun and were getting louder and louder. My principal walked in and used our school-wide quiet signal… a hand clap signal. I tried to stop her, but my students responded with their hand clap signal and as they did, shaving cream went flying… all over my room. I never used shaving cream again.”
Green Apple Lessons: “One year, for our kindergarten field day, we made cream pies for a pie-throwing event for our students. Unfortunately, we used shaving cream in metal pie tins, instead of whipping cream. About five minutes into the event, we had kids crying and yelling because they’d gotten the shaving cream in their eyes. Needless to say, the event was a big mess… in more ways than one! The takeaway from that experience is to expect the unexpected and keep fun events simple and safe. I also learned that kindergarteners and shaving cream really don’t go well together.”
Classroom Catastrophes: Smells Like Rotten Eggs
Utah Roots: “One year, early in my career, I saw an experiment done with eggs. Raw eggs. You dissolve an egg shell by submerging an egg in vinegar. I taught secondary science, so at the time I had about 100 students in teams of three — roughly 33 raw eggs in vinegar in my classroom.
The idea was to (over a period of days) transfer the now shell-less eggs to various liquids and measure the change in their diameter, after soaking them overnight; thereby demonstrating that they would get larger or smaller through the process of osmosis. Each day, the students would take the raw shell-less egg out of one liquid, measure its diameter with string, and transfer it to a new liquid.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. Until about the third day of 33 raw shell-less eggs being handled by 100 13-year-olds. My dismal planning included a weekend, during which of course, students weren’t able to proceed with the experiment, and the 33 eggs were sitting in my classroom at room temperature… without shells.
Day 5 — more than a few of the raw eggs had been sitting outside of liquid for two days (because students thought they weren’t supposed to move on to the last experiment until Monday). There are no words to describe the stench of raw rotten eggs exploding in a closed classroom.”
Classroom Catastrophes: Disappearing Acts
Leah Cleary: “My students were working on argumentative essays. These were the essays to end all essays, and only I could guide them through this daunting feat. And guide them I did. They had to have a thesis. Bodies would contain points and explanations. There would be acknowledgments of the other side of the issue. No logical fallacies! Varied sentence structure!
Brilliant teacher that I was, I guided them through first draft, second draft, peer editing, works cited, and that ever-glorious MLA formatting. These were going to be amazing — the argumentative essays to end all argumentative essays.
I sat upright at my desk on a Friday afternoon, red pen in hand, all ready to provide my students with relevant feedback for their long-sought-after final drafts. These babies were going in my portfolio. But they weren’t on my desk. So I checked my drawers. No. The bottom shelf of the overhead cart? Uh-uh.
Panic set in. To make a long story short, they were nowhere. The whole school was on the lookout. Even — gulp and swallow pride — the principal. They never turned up. All that work for naught. Perhaps I misplaced them… perhaps a student absconded with them…
Lesson learned? I’m not an organized teacher, but if I’m going to be an effective one, I’d better make an honest effort at organization. It’s still a struggle these many years later, but completely worth my effort.”
Ellen Weber – Brain based tasks for upper grades: “I’d been teaching four or five years — It was Friday afternoon, and I was running late after getting tangled in traffic during a snow storm. I entered my noisy, party-like secondary room late and tried to create calm in the class before I found it within myself. When nobody responded, I clapped my hands (hard) and shouted, “PLEEEASSE CALM DOWN RIGHT NOW!”
Surprised, the class came to an instant silence. At that same moment, as humor would have it, I slipped on the puddle my boots had created around me and slid under my desk so I could no longer be seen by my suddenly silenced, and obviously shocked students.
Only when they saw I was OK — except for my pride, did we all have a good laugh! Since that day, I’ve found much gentler and more effective ways to coax students out of their own fun, and into what I hope will be a classroom adventure that’s worth their shift!”
Common Core Connection: “Our class was going on a field trip. My class was scheduled for art class, but it didn’t occur to me to tell the art teacher. The art teacher had an amazing lesson planned for my class, which the principal was planning to observe. The principal showed up to observe the lesson, but my class was nowhere to be found. Oops! Since then, I try really hard to let everyone know of schedule changes ahead of time.”
Blog Posts with Pizzaz
Growing Firsties Lisa Mattes shares an epic blog post of embarrassment. Read about her trip to the water park and the events caught on video. Thanks for sharing, Lisa!
Education to the Core offers some hard-earned advice to new teachers — things she wishes she had known when just getting her start. Take a look at 10 Things I Would Tell Myself as a First Year Teacher.
Blair Turner wrote a blog post called 10 Rhetorical Questions to Stop Using in the Classroom and says, “Here are 10 rhetorical questions I’m guilty of having used — and 10 more effective alternatives I’ve come up with. Doesn’t that sound like something you want to read? (Sorry….couldn’t help myself.)”
Thanks for sharing, everyone. I’m sure we can all relate to at least one of these little gaffes. We hope you have a safe and lovely holiday season, filled with lots of laughter. Cheers from all of us at TeachersPayTeachers!