Embarrassing Moments

Posted: November 2, 2014 in Education

I was in grade 12 and my philosophy class was just before English lit. My philosophy teacher was telling us about the meaning of dreams and had felt comfortable enough telling us that if you have flying dreams then it could mean that you’re sexually frustrated. Well, the planets aligned and my grade 12 English lit teacher in the very next class had randomly mentioned that she’d been having dreams lately. When we inquired as to what they were about she mentioned that they were flying dreams. I took it upon myself to raise my hand and tell her and my classmates that “we just learned that flying dreams means that you’re sexually frustrated.” The class laughed and my English lit teacher went red. I’ll be honest…I didn’t do that to embarrass her – I just thought it was so cool that we had JUST learned it the class before and was simply stating what I thought could be factual. My filter was missing. Years later I was able to do my practice teaching at my old high school and happened to now share a workroom with that very same English lit teacher (one of the best I had). I reminded her of that little story. She claimed she didn’t remember, but I sure did. I apologized, as I never meant to embarrass her.

Over the years, I have embarrassed myself in so many ways that I think I’m now immune to embarrassment – just ask my wife. I have no shame. My sister once asked me (in front of the family) what colour Michael Jordan’s hair was…when I responded with an emphatic “BROWN!” her and my family laughed so hard that I cried and left the room.

In fourth grade we had to complete this math exercise called “Mad Minute” and you had to see how many quick multiplication questions you could answer in one minute. My teacher (who I disliked immensely) held up mine [I had completed 4 questions] to Kaylyn Belcourt’s [she completed the whole sheet] and asked why I was so slow…Long story short, my parents enrolled me in Kumon and by grade 8 I was better in math than her. I was still embarrassed.

I have many other stories (most cannot be shared on here), but the point is this: I promised myself that I wouldn’t embarrass my students when I became a teacher. I told myself that I would never have them read aloud if they didn’t feel like it nor would I put them on the spot for an answer. I just wasn’t going to put my students through that. HOWEVER, that is much easier said than done. Now, I am not out to embarrass anyone, but I often use humour to build a rapport with my students. I know which students I can pick on a little and which ones I need to be more sensitive with.

Just last year I was teaching my grade 11’s when I stopped my lesson, as I hovered over the garbage and recycling bins with my Tim Horton’s coffee cup. The conversation went like this:

Me: I never know if the cup is to be recycled. I know the lid does because it has the symbol on it but the cup part doesn’t.
Student: It does. They probably assume it’s common sense because it’s made out of paper…
*Class laughs…and I can’t help but to laugh too* He totally got me.

I think teachers constantly walk a fine line when using humour. At any moment with the wrong student and a joke intended to be light-hearted can equate to a disaster pretty quick.

What made me think about this was lately I have been bugging a student about his flirtatious ways with a female student in the same class. They are obviously great friends. Every-so-often I bug them about how they are in love with each other, which garners laughs from them and their classmates. Just to be sure, however, I took the young student aside and asked him privately if I were taking things too far and if he wished me to stop. I was happy to hear that everything was fine and that it was okay. I needed to hear that – I’m not out to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but often I worry that a line is crossed.

What is an embarrassing classroom story of yours? We all have one.

  1. Sean says:

    I think you should tell more embarrassing stories.

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