Saturday, November 10, 2012

teaching faux pas... feel free to laugh at me.......

In what feels like another lifetime, I taught a severely handicapped class of 12 kids under the age of nine. I was required to teach the class as part of my credentialing program, so I applied to teach a summer session. I was not qualified, didn’t have the appropriate supervision and had no idea of what I was walking into or what to do, so they hired me. I was supposed to teach them, entertain them and give them a solid curriculum for six weeks, four and a half hours a day, 135 hours total. I was terrified.

Two days before the summer session was to begin I was sent a list of twelve names with a disability code next to each name. In special education there are thirteen categories in which a child can qualify for services. These categories do not explain the child’s full self, limitations, strengths or needs. Many of the kids in that class were labeled with Multiple Disabilities (MD), Orthopedic Impairments, Autism and what then was called Mental Retardation. This was all of the information that I was given other than the classroom number in which I would be working in for the next six weeks.

The first day sprung on me like a lightening hitting my soul. I was 22 and greener than the rolling hills in the Sound of Music. 12 children appeared one by one in the doorway with a parent in tow. One of the kids, who I will call Charlie, brought me one of my favorite teaching faux pas stories.

Charlie was an active kid with multiple disabilities and some cognitive delays. He loved the playground! As soon as we would leave the classroom he would bolt off down the hallway, turn right at full speed, bust through the front doors of the school, down the six steps, across the playground and jump head first into the play structure. He was fast. He was quick. He was the bane of my palpitating heart. Charlie terrified me. Most nights I went home thankful that he was not wounded or dead and that I didn’t have to call his parents with this news of his physical demise.

Those first few days of teaching this class were all but entertaining and Charlie was not helpful in this matter. I found that I was constantly saying that phrase, “Charlie, no!” I must have repeated this phrase 350.2 times in 4.5 hours a day in hopes to stop Charlie from doing something. Charlie would hear me say, “Charlie, No!”  and he would look at me, flash his dirty hands at me, smirk and run the opposite direction. He made my 22 year old self so frustrated and angry. He would not stop. I was being outwitted by a damn 5 year old. No matter how many times I told him ‘no,’ Charlie would not stop!

I finally relented and decided that I was going to have to admit defeat and call Charlie’s parents. I was going to have to ask them for help. I could no longer pretend to manage this little boy’s behavior. I was defeated.

That night I went home, grabbed the phone receiver, put it between my ear and shoulder, pulled out the list with all of the kid’s names and phone numbers on it that the principal gave me upon request, found Charlie’s name and dropped the phone, the list and my jaw into my lap. I sat in utter shock staring at the wall. I could not cry, I could not laugh, I could not speak and I could not move. That five year old boy that had tortured me for 7 work days, 31.5 hours, and mocked me when I exclaimed, “Charlie, No!” over and over each day actually had a reason. His name was Charlie Noh.

This was clearly not my finest moment as a teacher. For 7 work days, 7 days of summer session, 31.5 hours this five year old boy simply thought I was saying his name and greeting him. Not once did this child think that I was trying to get him to stop what he was doing. Simply, I was saying, “Charlie Noh!” Simply I was just saying his name. Charlie must have thought I really liked him. Charlie must have thought I was nuts. For 31.5 hours I called his name, over and over and over again … Charlie Noh.

The following morning I took the kids out of the classroom to head to the playground, and Charlie bolted off down the hallway, turned right at full speed, busted through the front doors of the school, down the six steps, across the playground and jumped head first into the play structure. When I finally caught up with him I said loudly, “Charlie, stop!”….. and he stopped.


  1. This is a great teaching incident, ...if you will

  2. What an intertaining story..., lol. That's great Heather. Totally made me smile. Tha ks for sharing! You are a gifted writer.