“In The Teenage Thesaurus The First Word Listed under Embarrassment is Parent”


The second word listed is teacher.   There is a woman that I used to see occasionally many years after she was in my classroom. She was a good looking kid and an excellent student in my 5th grade class and she and I got along quite well that year. But the last time I saw her when she was probably about 30 years old she turned away and refused to acknowledge that I existed just as she had since she was in 8th grade.

The story stretches back to the late 70’s. The reading series we were using in the  seventies (Ginn 360 as I remember) featured a fanciful story about a giant octopus that attacked a whaling vessel. It was certainly not “Moby Dick” or “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” either in quality or quantity but it was a “whale” of a story. During a particularly sleepy after lunch class period like those that occur in schools  after recess on the first warm day of spring. The warm day  sleepiness  enhanced by a lunch that featured one of the better forms of mystery meat where the lines were actually burned into the meat, not painted on I was trying to hold a reading class.  After reading the story,  I asked the question , “How large was the octopus?”  This young lady, being one of the few who were not stupefied by lunch or a warm recess answered, “Over twelve feet from testicle to testicle.” The class belying their open eyes slept on, I choked momentarily and then couldn’t resist, “How large did you say it was?” and the answer was repeated in front of the still totally oblivious class.

It was too good of a story to sit on so I told my fellow teachers and somehow when she was in 8th grade she learned of what she had said.  She never acknowledged my presence again and I would guess that if I saw her even today 40 years later she would still remember her embarrassment and not look at me.  Painful embarrassment of students or anyone else can seem to have immediate rewards but long-term I have learned I have learned as a teacher  it is almost always counter-productive.

©2011  Richard Safris

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About safrisri

I have been a teacher since 1971 and have taught at all educational levels from pre-school to college. My college degree is general science which I arrived at after 5 years and 5 different majors. A degree as it turns out, almost as valuable and in demand as one in Neo-Bulgarian Mythology. I have been around education for around 40 years and can remember when teaching was a pleasant, happy and creative job and our schools were the same. My writings will reflect on my past mistakes and successes and what my students have taught me about education.
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