Friday, September 6, 2013

The day there was a lizard in my classroom and everyone lost their shit about it.

I like lizards. Lizards are my friends. Not in a sit-together-on-a-Sunday-afternoon-and-have-tea-while-we-talk-about-the-church-ladies'-big-floppy-hats way, but in a you-eat-bugs-and-I-hate-bugs-so-you-and-I-are-cool kinda way. I think lizards are neat, like maybe they're Time Lords, with all that regenerating-limbs stuff. I think it would be neat to regrow my arm. Or to grow a tail. I think having a tail would be fun. Great way to start conversations at parties. 

Anyway. Lizards. I teach 7th grade, and 7th graders have a tendency to go absolutely apeshit crazy for little or no reason, all of the time. They are tiny vibrating balls of hormones and undeveloped homunculuses, likely to burst into a tornado of badly communicated feelings if anyone so much as looks at them funny. It's a strange thing to watch them, one moment writhing and spitting like a pissed-off cobra, the next sunny and helpful, with no explanation and no transition between the two. But it's a fact of life, I guess, when puberty is lighting fires all over your brain. 

They struggle, sometimes, in the midst of their neurochemical haze, to focus on their work. If something interrupts routine, everything can go to hell in a handbasket in the time it takes to blink. I've learned, in my time in the classroom, to teach through interruptions. Last year, a student in the middle of the room projectile vomited, with no notice, all over the damn place. It was kind of impressive, actually. He didn't even look queasy, and then desks and jackets and other students and about 6 square feet of the floor were covered in bile. I managed not to break stride and kept right on talking about commas while I opened the windows and paged for someone to bring some kitty litter or sawdust or something to absorb the rancid mess. The students who were vomited upon were reasonably disturbed, but once they removed the stricken garments they stopped spazzing. 

So today, when a student pointed out a tiny lizard on the floor of my classroom, I was nonplussed. Like I said, I like lizards. This one was green and red, speckled with black, with a white and black striped tail. He was itty-bitty. Like, tooth-pick thin and shorter than your thumb. He was a quick bugger, though, and soon all the students were up on their desks, books abandoned  yelling and crying. You'd have thought I was periodically and mercilessly electrocuting them. 

I walked over to the sink and dumped out the dregs of my coffee, rinsed the glass, and proceeded to pounce around the floor like a deranged chinchilla, attempting to trap the poor little dude. But he perceived his salvation as a giant dome descending from the sky Stephen King-style and refused to cooperate. 

Eventually, one of my students, a kind and gentle young man who loves lizards, too, caught the lizard in his hand and set it in my cup. It took, like, a brutal 7 minutes from sighting to entrapment, and another 3 or so to get everybody sitting in their desks again, instead of reenacting Dead Poet Society. 

It took me another three minutes after class to convince the lizard to vacate my cup. ("Seriously, little dude, I drink out of that and I need you to understand that I'm trying to help. Step onto the leaf you adorable little monster. I have things to do.") 

I think the worst interruption to my teaching I have ever experienced, though, was during my first year, when I was not yet used to the heat (and terrifying insect life) of the South. I was teaching The Hunger Games, and a student decided that that particular moment was a great one to start eating Cheetos out of her backpack. And then she screamed, a blood-curdling, horror-movie scream, throwing the bag across the class and flipping her desk backward. Everyone panicked. Papers flew. Books landed with thuds on the concrete. Desks screeched across the floor and students scattered. 

In this instance, I was not calm and collected. I did not handle this crisis well. I was rapidly standing on top of my own desk, abandoning the students to their fate, as dozens of massive, hissing, orange-dusted cockroaches flooded out of the foil bag. 

And that was a day I shall nightmare about I am dead and buried. Preferably in a roach-proof coffin. Oh, God. *shivers*

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