Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tossing Shoes Out The Window

If there’s one thing I miss about high school, it’s throwing shoes out the window.

You see, one day a student had his feet up on his desk. I thought that was unprofessional. So in a moment of pure impulse, I yanked his shoes off, walked over to the window, and threw them out from the second floor of which my classroom was located.

His mouth dropped to the floor in pure shock. I smiled at him. The entire class, including my shoe-less student, burst into laughter. Perhaps my discipline was also unprofessional, but in my mind, it was a moment of genius.

Now I had the class's undivided attention. I continued with my lesson, and they sat forward, listening and waiting for me to have another crazy impulse.

From that time forward, I threw out shoes for random reasons. When a student wasn’t paying attention, I’d sneak up and tear off his or her shoes and toss them out the window. Fall asleep in class? You know those shoes are coming off. Today, some of the most interesting e-mails I receive from former students wanting to stay in touch or say hi begin with, “Do you remember the time you threw my shoes out the window?”

The administration knew of this of course, and they mostly looked the other way. Until one day, when I had a little too much fun and tossed out a good half-dozen pairs of shoes during one class. My classroom was located directly above a guidance counselor’s office, and she was new to the school. She saw shoes raining down from above, and called the dean and the principal thinking that some student had gone crazy. Close. It was a teacher who was having too much fun.

The principal and the dean burst into my classroom like it was on fire. I remember telling them, “It’s all under control. This is my doing. Don’t worry.” They gave me an evil look and left the room. They never brought it up to me again.

I wrote special hall passes for the students to retrieve their shoes. Now that I teach at a different school—at a college—I look at our classroom windows with longing and nostalgia. They don’t open in the rooms where I teach. My days of throwing shoes out the window are gone. For now, anyway.

Why do I share this? You may think it to be silly or even inappropriate, but I believe the best classroom memories come from moments of impulse and a little crazy. We can’t just stand behind a podium and lecture. Teachers must find creative ways to get our students’ attention. And if you have the right personality, bringing out a little crazy in the classroom may be just the thing to keeping them focused because they never will know what you may do or say next.

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