The first day of school is like your first kiss. You always remember it. For me, I rode my bike to the elementary school to meet the cutest girl in my sixth grade class. We had been writing notes to each other for a month. I finally got the nerve to call her, which meant I had to let my parents know I liked a girl. After all, in those days we had one phone that hung on the kitchen wall and had a six foot cord. Mom and Dad would hear everything!
Somehow the girl and I managed to make a covert plan to meet at our elementary school. I can still remember hiding behind the bushes, counting to three, and letting our lips touch. That was it. I had no clue what else to do, and I wouldn’t for five or fifteen more years.
Well, the first day of teaching came in August of 1988. I was the new teacher at a very small school, 350 students. I was facing 15 juniors; 13 male and 2 females, and they had known each other since kindergarten. I could tell this was a class that wanted to challenge me. One student, who looked like he was my age and outweighed me with about 80 pounds of solid muscle, stood up and said, “What would you do if I hit you?”
Now, I immediately saw this as what we call in our profession, “a teachable moment.” In other words, it is not in the curriculum, but is still a valuable lesson for students. Students will never see the information on a state test; nevertheless, they need the lesson to do well in the world.
Thinking quickly, I responded, “Well, I have two options. The first one would be to defenestrate you.” Of course, I immediately grabbed the opportunity to teach my first vocabulary word. I gave them the definition for defenestrate (to throw something or someone out the window) and later had them write a sentence using the word and context clues.
Before they did the writing though, I informed the student and the class about my second option. If he hit me, I could fall down and choose to stay down. According to the policies of the school district, I could get 10 days paid vacation, the student would get 10 days of out-of-school suspension with a very good chance of being expelled, and I could sue his parents for damages. I told him I decided I would stay down if he hit me, and he decided that hitting me wasn’t a good idea.
Other classmates decided to continue to test me in a variety of innovative and creative ways; however, I also tested them in innovative and creative ways.
Needless to say, the first day is exciting because we never know what it may bring. May everyday be like your first kiss and your first day of school.