If At First You Don’t Succeed…Duck Into A Supply Closet to Cry
(That’s how that saying goes, right?)
Yesterday, while tooting my own horn (It’s true!), I asked you what you might like to read about in the coming days. Because Mrs. Mimi’s brain is tired. In the coming days, I will try my best to honor your requests for more advice, stories of Zen, stories of resounding failures and interesting debates (Which are really just me ripping up someone who had the balls to put something in the newspaper from the comfort of my own laptop). However, today, I thought I would start by balancing out yesterday’s I-am-amazing fest with a little tale of failures past.
Now I have blogged plenty about OTHER PEOPLE letting the ball drop (let’s see…here, here, here and here just to name a few), but rarely do I blog about Mrs. Mimi not being in total control. I guess I think about that like I think about leaving my house wearing head to toe denim. I just don’t do that. And while I still am unable to see the point or value in wearing head to toe denim, I do see the point and the value in sharing our little failures with one another. Because I am no Michelle Pfeiffer a la Dangerous Minds (I also have trouble with head to toe leather) and I am certainly not perfect. (Although I think I have Mr. Mimi pretty well fooled.)
This gem comes from my first year of teaching. I was at a charter school…a charter school that was going down in flames and from which I fled as fast as I could. (Cut to me in the office of my former school, slamming my resume down on the island in the office, asking to speak to the principal and perhaps, crying a little. It had been a rough day.)
I was thrust into my first classroom in January. I had been co-teaching/subbing in the building during the fall while I finished up my master’s degree. One of the second grade teachers had seen the writing on the wall, and quit before the school totally broke her spirit (and maybe her lip….her class had some tough kids). Fresh from my I-have-a-master’s high, I took over for her, thinking it would be hard, but knowing that I was ready to work harder, to take on the challenge, to master my craft, to TEACH.
I have so many tragic stories from that year. I’m sure they’ll call come out in due time. There are far too many to put together here (read: not enough cocktails….or mocktails…or therapists…in the world to get me to be able to pour it out all at once.) But…
Picture it. A basement classroom with NO WINDOWS TO THE OUTSIDE. NO. WINDOWS. The only source of ventilation is the giant hole in the ceiling from which I suspect there was a steady stream of asbestos raining down. A young teacher stands in front of her 28 students explaining her latest attempt to get them to like learning.
The art project.
For me, arts ‘n farts has always been a time of Zen. I LOVE coordinating projects for kids. I spent many, many, MANY summers running arts based day camps for small children and thought I had this one in the bag. SLAM DUNK!
Within seconds, my plan to create a whole class mural where we would just all get along and love one another in the spirit of team work, had been shot to shit. The floor was covered in heaps of scrap paper. I mean, how does it pile up like that so fast and seem to just…multiply? Children ran around their desks in circles – some clutching scissors, some wielding paint brushes, some just screaming. You know, just because. JUST BECAUSE THEY WANT TO MAKE ME CRAZY!
When I look back on the chaos (and shudder….or reach for a sedative, whatevs), I realize that I had failed to set up rules in regards to the proper use and clean up of art supplies. I had failed to model their use. I had failed to ration them out slowly over time. Or talk about how we move about the classroom. Or how to share. Or how not to run around screaming like someone with in-patient status. My bad.
As I watched the insanity unfold in front of me, I was suddenly no longer able to bark orders, try the Teacher Clappy Thing to Get Your Attention, or really speak at all. It was almost like I floated up above the classroom – very out of body, very get me the hell out of here. Has that ever happened to you? Where you know you have totally lost control and you have no idea how to get it back and so you just kind of watch it all unfold? If you haven’t, good for you. If you have, I’m sorry. Or maybe I’m not. I think we can learn a lot by those spectacular failures.
Honestly, I have blacked out the rest. Totally blacked it out. I have no idea how I managed to pull everyone back together – or really if I was even able to. Maybe they all donned war paint, selected a leader and ran out of the building clutching scissors and paint brushes. I’m not sure I want to know. What I DO remember, however, is crawling into my closet YES INTO MY CLOSET at the end of the day and sobbing. And then I cleaned up, set up and came back the next day because first year teachers are suckers for punishment.
So there it is, friends. Mrs. Mimi going down in flames.