Friday, April 04, 2008

Tumbling down

It was in the middle of the quad, in front of probably 40 or so students, and about a quarter of them were students in my classes. I was tired and returning from the Admin building back to my temporary classroom with my head a little low and my pacing sort of drudging. It's the end of the week and I was tired, nothing was wrong. I noticed the usual group at a table in the quad that had quite the eclectic group that consisted of a couple of students and a few non-students. These were not students I had a special relationship with, just some students that are in my classes, if that makes sense. All were "Seniors", in that they are all ready to get the hell out of dodge and do something else. One has potential to do some very good things, but he's done with high school. Anyway, I pass by this group daily and we always say 'hi' to each other in a nice manner. Today, I was figuring on just nodding a hello since I was just ready to be done and go home.

When my left foot hit the uneven concrete, two things happened at once. First, the three consecutive pops that meant that the ligaments in my left ankle were being strained, and then the familiar split second feeling of my ankle rolling onto its side.

Then came the pain and I tumbled straight to the ground.

I heard the brief snicker from some of the students at the table and was less than bothered by it. If seven years of teaching have taught me anything, its that high school students laughing at you for making a mistake is not that big of a deal. I once dumped an entire cart over; utensils, papers, overhead and all, to which the class roared in laughter. I snapped a "Shut up" in anger and embarrassment, something that made the problem even more laughable and it aggravated a simple situation into a bad one. That was 5 years ago. Now those simple errors I calmly fix and laugh with the kids later on. In this case I wasn't laughing and I'm sure I let out some profane exclamation when I hit the ground. The snickering stopped pretty quickly when they saw that I wasn't getting up and I was holding my left ankle. A small group, including some from the table, came over and asked about getting ice or calling the nurse. I told them "thank you" but that I didn't need to make a big scene over it. I have rubber ankles from not taking care of them in college, and I just needed a minute to wish the pain away. Eventually the show was over and one of my students from the table, one that I have quite a challenging time with, picked up my dropped roll sheets and asked if I was sure I was ok. I thanked him and hobbled to the nurses office for some ice.

Embarrassed at all? Only for the moment that I realized that I was falling, and then the logic set in that embarrassment is nothing compared to the real pain in my ankle. I was very appreciative of the students offering of help, which is another example of why I think that just about every student wants to know right from wrong and understand the meaning of respect, but they just aren't taught how. So while I sat in the nurses office with ice on my ankle, I thought about nice show of respect from some of my students when I took my tumble. Will I hear about in on Monday? You can bet on it. And I'll laugh right along and then make it a reminder that they need to take care of their bodies, even at their young age because my ankles are the way they are because of decisions I made when I was 19.

Now I sit at my laptop with an ankle wrap in place and my pain level rather low, a slight throbbing really. But now my thoughts are on the fact that some of those challenging kids that helped me out today may not make it through my class. I understand that you don't simply give grades for good deeds, and that the year is long and kids that don't make it are making the choice (at least in my class) not to meet the minimum requirements, but that doesn't mean that you can't think that the kid is a good kid. I speak all the time of this professional and consistent attitude that I try to portray and that I think that it really helps kids. It's these times of moral challenges that teachers need to remain professional. Occasionally I get a twinge of "you know, he's just a good kid and he needs to get his diploma and he'll just do better at a later age, later on". I got that twinge with some of these kids as I walked to the nurse. I put it out of my mind quickly though. A person should be a good samaritan because it is the right thing to do (as these kids did), not because it may lead to a benefit down the road. That's something we should be teaching. Classroom grades are based on good deeds, their based on what goes on in the classroom. Kids earn the grades from my class from a semester's worth of evaluation, not a couple of nice gestures.

Still, while I was wishing away the pain from my ankle in the nurses office, my head in my hands, I think I remember muttering to myself, "Dammit, you guys better pass my class".
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