Something I Learned

June 5, 2012

As the school year winds down, I would like to share a little experience and lesson I learned yesterday. It’s what I’m going to call a “teaching constant.” It is as follows:

In every single situation, despite your best efforts to make sure otherwise, at least one person will not follow instructions.

Oh, you better believe I wouldn’t make a statement like this without some sort of back up.

You are now entering TRUE STORY LAND.

For the last lab I did with my kids this term, me and another teacher had set up an empty classroom as a “crime scene”. We put a dummy in the room and dropped some fake blood around and generally made a mess. It was pretty nifty. We even managed to get fingerprints on the windowsill and make it look like a struggle occurred.

Our two classes had been going through a forensics section in order to have a little fun before the school year was over. So we thought we would teach them a bunch of crime scene analysis methods and, for a final test, make them use those newly developed skills in a “real world” environment.

Pretty sweet deal, huh? I’m that cool teacher that let their kids leave the classroom and pretend they were cops.

In order to sell the whole idea to my kids I decided I would make up a ridiculous back story so they would feel a little more involved with everything. Just in case I offended or scarred a few kids, I decided to tell them that everything was made up. This is exactly how that moment happened:

The tardy bell rings and I begin my normal routine. I walk into the classroom and make sure my door is locked. As the door closes I check my lab door and office door to make sure the noise from my class will not spill into the neighboring classroom. I then take perch behind my demonstration table and begin my blabbering.

“Good morning!” I announce to the class. “If you have anything to turn in to me, make sure it’s put in the green bin. Today marks the beginning of the last week of school, so I have decided to give you guys a chance to change things up.”

This is the point where I usually have to field silly questions about something stupid that occurred over the weekend. But not today. Today I have an energy about me that is making the kids know that today is a special day.

“Before we begin today’s lab I want to be clear about one thing. Everything I’m about to tell you is false. It is fictitious. It’s fake. I made it up. It did not occur. It’s a lie. We’re just having fun, so I’m making this a little more interesting. Does everybody understand?

The peanut gallery only mumbles their acknowledgments.

“Okay then…” I know the mumbles meant nothing. I know that the kids had turned off their brains as soon as I asked a question. I knew somebody was going to end up embarrassing themselves in front of everybody, I just didn’t know who it would be. So I decided to change my tone of voice and expression. I took a solemn form and spoke with authority.

“I hate to be the one to tell you all this…but there was a murder here on campus over the weekend…”

And do you know what I heard from no less than 5 different kids .03 seconds later?

REALLY?!?!?!

A little bit of my brain leaked out of my ears that day. (Summer’s almost here…)

Want another example?

Do you know how many times I told my kids we won’t be having a final exam because they already took the End Of Course Exam earlier in the year? I”ll tell you. Over 20,000 times. Do you know how many kids asked me last week for a review pack so they could study for the final? Almost every single kid.

For a blood typing lab I told all my kids to only use three drops of blood in each of their tests. Do you know how many times I told them to only use that much blood? That’s right, 18 billion times. Do you know how many kids had to have me reiterate those instructions to them during the lab? Every. Single. One.

So there you go…no matter how many times you tell people to stir and not shake…they will shake. No matter how many times you request that people use centimeters instead of inches. No matter how many different ways you can write down and explain instructions. Despite your best efforts… Despite your harshest tones…

Despite your genuine care and concern for their safety you will always have at least one person not follow instructions.

If it sounds like I’m getting mad about this, I’m really not. I’m simply stating the truth. Kids (and people in general) don’t do a good job at following instructions. We mess up. That’s something I’ve come to learn this school year.

So the best thing we can do is be ready for it. Just do a facepalm and move on.

D.A.

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