It was the month of May and I had a classroom full of seniors. I was still trying to push forward with a lesson plan, but most of my students were dreaming about the big moment when they would toss their hats into the air. In the midst of an assignment Kyle asked to be excused to use the restroom. Without giving it much thought I gave him my standard response, “Be back in three minutes.”
Just for the record I have to admit that in our large high school building it is impossible to reach the location of the restroom, complete your task there and return to the classroom in three minutes. But I always warned students to be back in three minutes to try to keep the trip from expanding into 8 or even 10 minutes away from class time.
But on this particular day Kyle returned within the three-minute time limit. He entered the classroom door behind me while I was still teaching away. By reading the amazed looks on my students faces, I rather quickly became aware that something unusual was happening behind my back. I turned to see what was going on. There was Kyle walking into my classroom eating a hamburger still in a wrapper from a local restaurant. For a few seconds I was speechless. Kyle broke the silence as he munched on his burger. He reached his hand out to me with a package of fries in it.
Here Mrs. E. I brought you some fries. They’re hot. You better eat them now while they’re still hot.
He put them down on my desk in front of me as my students laughed tentatively and watched warily for my reaction. I was stunned and wondering how he had accomplished this stunt in less than three minutes.
Really, Ms. E. I made it back in three minutes. See? Look at the clock. (He pointed). I promise they’re hot. Go ahead and take a bite; the fries are for you.
I made a quick internal decision. I paused several seconds…for comic effect actually…and then picked up a fry and put it in my mouth.
“Ummm, they are hot.”
The class totally collapsed in laughter. After a few minutes of mirth I continued my teaching, pausing every couple of minutes to eat another fry. Each time I did this the giggles started again.
I never asked Kyle how he had accomplished this stunt. It was a point of honor with me. I like my students to think that I know what they are doing every moment, even when I’m not around. Teacher telepathy. It’s a part of my teacher arsenal. I did quite a bit of internal conjecturing though.
A couple of weeks later I was invited to Kyle’s graduation party. I had a chance to talk to Kyle’s mother while he was greeting other guests. His mom was active in our school’s PTA. I asked her if she had brought the hamburger and fries to school while she was in the building for a volunteer task. She said,
He did WHAT?
It was clear from the look on her face that she was hearing this story for the first time.
Another student clued me in. Kyle’s friend with an early dismissal pass from school had texted Kyle from the drive through line. Kyle put in his order and then synchronized his friend’s delivery time at the back door of the school building with his own request to use the restroom. Mission accomplished.
Given another teacher Kyle would probably have gobbled his goody in the hallway. But this young man always enjoyed sharing a good joke with an audience. He took a chance on my reaction.
The test data purists would probably criticize my reaction by arguing that classroom learning time was wasted. But in May with a room full of seniors I believe I chose the appropriate response. True, my students will never remember what I was teaching that day. But would they have remembered that particular lesson anyway? But this I guarantee. If they live to be 100, they will always remember the day Kyle came walking into my classroom in the middle of the class eating a hamburger and had the audacity to give the teacher some hot fries. They will also remember me eating those fries.
That day we made a lifetime memory. You’ve gotta’ enjoy the fun… spontaneously. Humor always comes from an unexpected twist.
My advice? Enjoy the fun when it comes. Those are the moments that will stay with you AND your students forever. For the test data collectors? I also believe students learn best from a teacher with a sense of humor. When we are relaxed we are receptive to new concepts. Tension closes the brain down.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
TEACH…To Change Lives
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