We’re All Human

Sometimes as teachers we’re looked upon as an all seeing all knowing oracle, especially in the primary grades, that simply is above any type of mundane mistake. It’s easy to get caught up in this hype when we are referred to as ‘Mr.’ ‘Ms.’ ‘Professor’ or ‘Doctor’ but the reality is we are human and like all mammals we make mistakes.

I hearken back to my first year of teaching in the ancient 1980s. I was fortunate enough to land a K-12 special education position in a small Montana town of less than 500 souls. The school was one building for all twelve grades housing approximately 100 students.

Now being a first year teacher far from home (Montana not being my native land) I was a bit apprehensive, or in other terms scared to death, about my abilities as an educator. My self-contained classroom consisted of eight exceptional students, most learning disabled with one intellectually challenged William’s Syndrome 2nd grader. There were two 2nd graders, four middle school students and two high school students.

Now as any good educator will do I wrote (back in the middle-age use of chalkboards) any important information I wanted my students to remember on the board so it could be referred to as needed.

As a brief side note English was never my strong suit. Math came easy to me and I could pass exams without even opening the book. I was intrigued by science and history. P.E. always seemed like structured recess and art, well art was just soothing, but English, well my spelling and grammar never won any special awards for superiority.

So, it’s early September and I’ve written some classroom expectations on the board for my students to review and ponder. These were more than just classroom rules; they were profound life statements on how to treat your fellow man. I was sure they would end up as a poster or on a scholarly scroll of knowledge. I was quite proud of these few basic words of social and emotional guidance.

One afternoon the superintendent strolled into my classroom, after school had let out, to see how I was fairing. He placed himself in a front row student desk and struck up a casual conversation about my first few weeks in the classroom, the school as a whole, the staff, the town and chances of the eight-man football team having a winning season. Right in the middle of our rather pleasant conversation he stopped, staring at the chalkboard rules and queried, “Who wrote those room rules on the board?” I proudly replied, “I did!” to which he responded, “You spelled ‘attitude’ wrong.” Looking at the board I saw a-d-d-i-t-u-d-e and thought, “I don’t see the problem” but figured he must be correct, so turning back to the superintendent I calmly said, “I purposely misspell random words on the board during certain lessons throughout the day. If a student recognizes any misspelled word and can spell it correctly they are given extra credit points on that day’s lesson.” This was, of course, total garbage I had made up rather quickly off the top of my head to save face. It was a lie, but an effective lie. The superintendent commended me on my teaching style. Crisis averted and my abysmal English skills remained hidden from the education world.

We’re all human. We all make mistakes, but hopefully we can learn from them and occasionally look back and laff!