There are many embarrassing things that happened to me during my 22 years of classroom teaching, but there is no question about the very worst. Yes, that is a similar image above: two small pieces of toilet paper that – for just a moment today – got stuck to my jeans. And which I caught before exiting the bathroom. (FYI: These are not the EXACT two pieces. I wouldn’t do that to you.) But in the nightmare scenario, clearly, I didn’t catch it.
Full disclosure: This nightmare scenario happened not once, not twice, but at least THREE DIFFERENT TIMES in my career. That I know of.
#1: Caught by a colleague. Whew. (I’m sure these saves actually happened more than once.)
#2: Seen in my classroom and photographed via cell phone a few years back (a cell phone that students, of course, are not supposed to carry – but this one surely did!). I believe it did get posted somewhere – but I didn’t, and still don’t, want to know.
#3: Seen in my classroom by several students last year. I don’t believe this one was photographed – but once again, if you know differently, please do not tell me.
Even now, looking back at these situations, I am, quite simply, mortified. Such an event would be embarrassing anywhere, but in front of middle school students? It’s hard to live it down. No, I take that back – it’s impossible to live down. Yes, I seriously considered leaving school for a different career – any career – when it happened the first time. Yes, I considered calling in sick until the event faded into the distance – but who are we kidding? It would never fade into the distance. Once again, these are middle school students!
To be fair, elementary school students would be no different. In fact, the story of one of my children’s teachers loudly passing gas as she walked between the rows of desks more than 20 years ago is still remembered and fondly shared amongst my daughter’s peers. (My daughter herself was home sick that day, a situation she sorely regretted, though she got the particulars) And, no, there was no passing this on to someone else – it was clearly, and definitely, and loudly, done by this teacher. Who also didn’t quit. (Though I’m sure she thought about it.)
Yes, I went back to school the next day. And yes, the same thing happened once again, a few years later. You might ask, how could this happen again? Well, not to be indelicate, but I am a sitter (for reasons I will not explain in this post), and I thus must use a liner. And although I was constantly reminding myself to check for evidence, I also was always waiting endlessly for the bathroom at my breaks so by the time I was done, I was rushing to get back to class. In the situations where I just couldn’t wait, I was getting coverage by one of the special ed teachers or aides in my hallway so I could do what I needed to do to keep focused on the lesson.
No, my bladder was not made for three hours plus until a break, especially with my strong need for coffee. It was a constant juggling act as a coffee addict and bathroom frequenter: No matter how careful I was to limit my intake, there were some days where coffee was more important than my potential need for my bathroom. Not to be indelicate, again, but there were the rare days I was sitting and conferring rather than walking and talking, and those sitting days did help.
The long and short is, I got caught again last year, even though I swore it would never happen again. I thought I saw kids smirking during class, and I did try to figure it out, but for some reason, I never thought of myself. Unfortunately, it was a day when I was using the whiteboard – which I didn’t do all that often – so every time I turned around, they got a view. I found out, thankfully, at the end of class, as a kind student came over to give me the bad news, explaining that this is why the kids were sniggering. It was a good group of students, though, who were normally pretty quiet and focused, so I guess I got lucky. Oh, and that student who told me? – she got a Soar for Four (our reward ticket) and an A. Would you expect anything less?
If you are a teacher or an aide, I’m sure you have your own stories. Please feel free to share them!
Excuse me right now – nature is calling. After all, retirement means never having to turn down a cup of coffee.