I was a new teacher, at my first job at a Secondary School. I was enthusiastic about Mathematics, and wanted to pass on my enthusiasm to the schoolchildren there.
One day, whilst writing on the blackboard I noticed that one of the taller boys was having a bundle of fun attracting the attention of the class, distracting them from my teaching of the Noble Art of Mathematics.
Some of the teenage students were rather tall for their age. Several boys were taller than I was. Along with their age and size came an awakening interest in the opposite sex. In this co-educational school the classes were a mix of boys and girls, which gave plenty of opportunities for the boys to show off to the girls; and for the girls to show off to the boys.
Realising – from the sounds of laughter at the back of the room – that I had lost the attention of the class I felt that I needed to refocus on teaching them some social skills.
I paid more attention to what the boy at the back of the room was doing. Somehow – and I still don’t know how – he had managed to take off his underpants without removing his trousers AND had put his underpants back on again, over his trousers, like Superman.
I could have flipped out, shouted and perhaps demanded that the boy leave the room, apologise etc. etc. However I was so fascinated by his feat of dexterity that I had to ask, not “Why?” but, “How?”.
Standing beside this boy asking how, we shared the attention of the class. Here was an opportunity to discuss useful social skills. In this case the skill of knowing the difference between private and public behaviour, appropriate behaviour for a classroom, and how to get the attention you need without taking your pants off. A skill that could be useful for all the boys and girls in the room.
I asked the boy to stand up and adjust his clothing in front of the class, which probably felt slightly embarrassing for him since the kind of attention he was getting now was not as sexy as before.
Being a young teacher, I still felt the need to play the role of teacher, to assert my authority in the classroom and to ‘tell him off’, so that everyone would know that I am in charge of the classroom. Yet it felt daft looking up at this giant of a boy to say “Don’t do it again”… so I grabbed the nearest chair and stood on it in order to be taller, then in an over-dramatised way, said the teacherly words “Don’t .. do that … again!”
”No Sir”, he said, smiling and accepting the admonishment in good spirits, along with the lesson in social skills. I sent him out of the room to adjust his clothing.