Ready for more teaching stories? Here are a few of my now-infamous mistakes in the classroom.
I was teaching geometry, reviewing my students for an upcoming test about triangles. I reminded them once again of the parts of an isosceles triangle. A student raised his hand and asked again what the vertex angle was. Desperate to find a new way to phrase it, this is what slipped out of my mouth before I could stop it: “The vertex angle is the one between the legs.” I might have gotten away with it, but the second I said it, I hesitated. Nobody had noticed until I paused to think about what I’d said. Then hilarious laughter erupted. The good news is that almost everyone in that class got that question right on the test.
A few years later, I had an English class made up of almost all jocks–immature freshman boy jocks. They were rude to each other to the point that I had to threaten to send them to the principal for cutting down their classmates too often. I hoped and prayed I’d never be on the other end of the “friendly teasing,” because I wasn’t sure I could handle it. This class had several textbooks that shouldn’t have been difficult to tell apart. One day I asked them to bring their grammar books to class with them, emphasizing that I meant the book not the paperback workbook. We rarely used it, so I made a big deal out of the unusual request. The next day almost nobody had the book with them. They proceeded to argue with me that I hadn’t specified which book they needed. Frustrated, I asked them just how specific they needed me to be. “Do I need to tell you every time that the grammar book is the green, big, fat, hard one?” Dirty as their minds already were, they didn’t need that moment of hesitation to start laughing. My face turned bright red because I knew I would never live that one down. For the rest of the year, I dreaded asking them to bring their grammar books to class. I knew they would ask me if I meant the “big, fat, hard one.” And yes, just as I expected, the teasing was relentless.