College classes endeavor to give aspiring teachers guides to help them prepare for the classroom. Such instructions are helpful, but they do not address the unusual behavior of people. Age does not necessarily matter, unless you consider teenagers and adults have more experience.
A commotion caused me to move toward the door. It was not the usual noise of class changing. Students came down the stairs, all laughing. One of my students was doubled in laughter. I said, “___, what is going on.” He replied, “Let me catch my breath.” Then he told me that students freed a snake in a certain teacher’s room. She, about 6 feet tall, had occasioned the first loud noise when she came down a whole flight of steps in one leap. The pupil delightedly told me of the incident and, with his eyes sparkling with glee, quizzed, “What would you do if someone freed a snake in your classroom.” I did not miss a beat, but answered, “I’d pick it up, beat the stuffings out of you, and call your father.” Now, I would have been just as frightened as the earlier teacher, but showing fear or daring him ever to do such a thing would have assured a repeat.
Teaching a simple short story does not seem to be dangerous; however, it may be. After discussing one story in which a man struck a woman, I gave a lesson in morals: “Of course, none of you young men would do such a thing.” This tall, muscular black boy who had chosen a back seat and wore “shades” constantly said, “I would.” I remarked, “Of course, you wouldn’t.” This young man stood, walked toward me, and asked, “What would you do if someone hit you.” Surprised and a little angry, my first thought was to reply, “You wouldn’t dare,” but somewhere the right answer came, “I would wish he had a long and healthy life.” Totally puzzled, this young man paused and said, “You would?” I gave a one word answer -- “Yes.” Confused but intrigued, the young man, probably thinking he was dealing with a mental patient, continued, “Why?” My reply of “because he is going to support me as long as he lives” made sense to him from his upbringing. He sat down and became one of my better students.
A foolish person never learns. When one teen, according to gossip, had three girls pregnant at the same time, I asked the students why they continued to have babies when they did not want nor intend to care for them. This same boy remarked, “Let them have as many as they want. The government pays for them.” I was horrified and continued with my questioning. “Do you work?” The question was certainly none of my business. Surprised, he said he did. Then, I stated, “You pay for them.” He retorted, “They’re none of mine.” “None of mine either, but I have to pay. Next time you get a paycheck, I’ll show you -- no, you can read. Look where it says ‘fica.’ This is what you pay.” Really shocked, he said, “I’m going to get dem jokers off my back.” I don’t think he was able to considering the “baby daddy” craze now going on.
One afternoon, as sixth period began, one of my “tattletales” rushed to tell me ___ was wearing his underwear over his clothing. Of course, I asked myself why he would do such a thing and realized that sending him to rearrange himself would mean he did not have time to take his test. Therefore, when he stopped by me in the hall, I ignored the disarray and told him to sit down, just as I told the others. He, of course, could not stand this behavior and insisted that I look and see he had his underwear over his clothes. I said, “_____, I know. As hot as it is (no air conditioning), I was wondering why you did such a thing. It must be much warmer that way.” Of course, such logic is illogical, but he sweated profusely while he finished his test.
Not too many years before I retired, one of my colleagues asked to see my student assignment sheet. She said, “Oh, no, he fights.” I retorted, “___, I have never had a fight in my class, and I don’t intend to start now.” She said, “This year you will.” Forewarned, I watched this individual carefully, and sure enough, the first day he and another student began what easily would have turned into a melee. I simply held up both my hands, one toward each boy, and firmly gave the order, “Sit down.” Both did so, but the boy about whom I had been warned began to restart the fight. I locked eyes and, when he sat back down, bent, touched his desk, kept eye contact, and stated, “I have heard of you. Have you heard of me?” He got the message.
None of these examples would an individual find in a textbook. In fact, professors in their ivory towers would believe them to be fiction. They are not, as any veteran teacher would agree.