Friday, April 3, 2015

Year 5: Week 29 – The Hat

In 8th grade band we were working on an arrangement of “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones. One of the things I love about my band this year is that they have a great sense of tone, which meant that they were playing this song with a very clean and warm sound.

I stopped and told them “we need to play this song with a dirty tone. This is a dark song and it needs some grit, it almost should sound a little gross and disturbing.”

“Like your mom?”

I looked down at the flute player who had said that phrase and saw a horrified look on her face. She immediately knew that she had made a huge mistake and she was petrified. She started to apologize but I motioned with my hand for her to stop.

The giggles in response to the joke quickly turned to shock and the class was quiet waiting for my response.

I had a couple options. I could take the serious approach, open up a can and explain to her the inappropriate nature of “your mom” jokes. I could be mean and provide a come back that would establish myself as the wittier person in the exchange and show that she shouldn’t mess with me. I could also make it even worse for her and calmly tell her that we would discuss this after class and let her sit with the fear of what would happen once everyone else had left the classroom.

It took me longer than I expected to figure out what to do. Maybe it was because it was the day before break or the fact that I had been in and out of meetings all week and was having difficulties focusing on teaching.

Here’s what I was thinking: the class was going really well and I didn’t want to break down the positive vibe that was in the classroom. The flute player clearly knew that she had messed up and while I was ready to engage in a verbal war, I didn’t want to go down that road and show the other students that I would participate in one-upmanship of this kind in the middle of class.

But I had to do something.

I stepped off the podium grabbed a piece of paper, folded it into a hat, wrote a silly message on the side and told her to wear it. Her only complaint was that the hat was too small. She wore it for part of the class, kids laughed at her and as we continued to have a great rehearsal, it ended up on the floor and it was forgotten.

After class I touched base with her, she apologized and we had a good talk. I’m not saying that making a paper hat for a kid to wear is the best response to an inappropriate student outburst, but sometimes you just got to do something silly and move on.

It’s hard to know what to do sometimes and what the best. Maybe the hat wasn’t the best response but along with the talk, we both came out it learning a little something about ourselves and each other.

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