Last week in 6th grade I triggered a “classroom landmine”.
This isn’t the first time I’ve set one off and I don’t really mean to cause explosive situations in the classroom. Teachers are reluctant to inform subs on the lesson plans where the landmines are or just what will set them off. The few times I’ve asked about why I wasn’t informed beforehand, I got the “student confidentially” excuse. As a direct consequence, I’m not ready for the weird reactions I get when I accidentally stumble across the trip wires that cause reactions like Art Guy & Barking Boy.
She was like any other kid in class. Not disruptive in any way. She did use, what seemed to me, an above average vocabulary and word phrasing for a 6th grader. I wasn’t aware that she was, in reality, a classroom landmine. It happened during shared reading time.
I would read a few paragraphs from the novel they were working through and then pick a random Popsicle stick with a name from the cup on the desk to continue the story. If the kid called hadn’t been following the story, it was immediately obvious. We’d all wait until his/her table mates pointed out the right page/paragraph to continue the story. They learn quickly to follow along with the class. This keeps them on their toes to avoid being “not ready” if called.
Her name came up and the “deer caught in the headlights” look told me she hadn’t been reading along and didn’t know where to continue the story. Like several students before her she flustered a bit before her table-mates got her to the correct page and paragraph.
Then it hit.
Instead of starting to read, as others had, she started choking, making gulping noises and frantically pointing at her throat! I’m stunned. I start to panic: "OMG, The kid’s gonna choke and die right here in the classroom!"
The kids see my panicked look and one of the girls at her table informs me: “Oh! She does that when she doesn’t want to read out loud. It happens all the time”. I tell her: “It’s ok, she doesn’t have to read. We’ll just pick someone else.”
As I carefully put her Popsicle stick on the table while picking another Popsicle stick from the cup, “landmine girl” shouts: “No, no, I can read, I can!” Before I can respond she starts reading the next paragraphs so fast that I can’t understand her. I think she finished the chapter we were reading but since I only caught every third or fourth word, I’m sure the rest of the class heard just a blur.
I commended “landmine girl” for reading but I explain that most of the class probably didn’t read as fast so I suggested we re-read the section just to make sure everyone understood the storyline.
As I start to re-read the chapter, “landmine girl” complains bitterly that: “I already that part” and continues with the same complaint as the rest of the class is called one at a time to participate.
I detailed the incident on the end of day status report I leave for the teacher hoping that I handled the situation as best I could and gently suggesting that a little warning would have been helpful.
Classroom tip of the day: Watch your step!!