Yesterday, I cried during two different classes and each time made my students (falsely) believe that I was crying because of them.
Deceitful or resourceful? Your call.
Over the past week or so, various points of stress in my personal life have gotten together and procreated, creating 10-15 additional little stress-babies that have made my brain their home. Yesterday, as my conference period was ending, one final thought pushed me to the edge just as the bell rang. I felt the pressure building in the space under my eyeballs, the muscles in my throat suddenly aching. More than almost anything I hate crying in public, and I had the heavy, dreadful feeling that this would be a time I couldn’t choke down. I held it together as my students entered the room while I waited in the hallway for students to clear out.
When I came back inside and shut the door, my third period, as usual, was engaging in some sort of defiance not resembling the warm-up activity on the board.
"Sit down, hooligans," I said, my voice wavering.
"Miss, I had seen you driving yesterday over on Main," one student began, gesturing as if he were holding something up close, right next to his chest. "You was up close to the steering wheel like a granny, like this."
"I'm glad," I replied. I looked over at another student. "Javier, where's your glasses?" Javier hasn't worn his glasses in two weeks, and as a result, the last two weeks of his handwriting has more closely resembled hieroglyphics.
"Left 'em at home again, Miss!"
This is where it happened. It's like my brain wanted me to laugh, but got confused on the output, malfunctioned, and programmed me to burst into tears instead. I put my hands up to my face.
"Shit," I heard Javier say. The room was silent. With my face covered with my hands, the only sound I could hear was the hum of a plane in the distance outside. I heard the slap of a hand against skin.
"The f***’s wrong with you, boy?” another student hissed.
“I didn’t know she was gon’ CRY,” Javier whispered. “Damn.”
I almost-- ALMOST-- put my hands down and told them it wasn’t because of them, that things were fine and I was just really stressed out. I almost cleared Javier of feeling guilty of making me cry, and quelled the nerves of my students, now so wrought with concern that I could hear them pulling out their chairs and taking their seats silently.
This is what I did instead.
“I just really wish your vision was important to you.” I thought I heard one student stifle a laugh. Tears continued forming at the corners of my eyes and I wiped them away pathetically with the edge of my cardigan. The little Adam Sandler that lives in my head looked at me and said, You’re pretty sick, Chubbs.
I turned around, wrote down the pages for their silent reading on the board as well as which guided questions to complete. Then I sat down at my desk and just looked out the window to avoid making eye contact with any of them. After a few moments, I realized it felt like I was still on my conference period, which I often spend looking out the window in silence.
I swiveled around in my chair to find myself in an alternate universe.
You know that part in The Sixth Sense where Haley Joel Osment goes into the kitchen and all the drawers and cabinets are suddenly open?
That’s what it was like seeing my students quiet and working. So utterly startling that my heart began to pound. A few students looked up at me like You want to talk about why that just happened? I just stared at them, and they went back to their work.
But I didn’t talk about it. I just sat down. And 48 minutes later, I had a stack of 30 completed short answer questions on my desk.
I’m not sure if I’m more impressed at my cleverness, disturbed by my behavior, touched by my students’ sudden sensitivity, enthused by their productivity, or amused at the whole thing.
Again, probably your call.
P.S. The other time I cried was less eventful. Third period had already spread the word around, and sixth was unimpressed with my double histrionics. They were also probably still in a food coma from lunch.
P.P.S. Javier knows-- I called him over right after class to apologize. He thought it was hilarious.