In the spring, it can be hard to keep the class engaged. Sometimes these days they’re sitting on the carpet and I’m hard pressed to get the requisite 8 out of 10 to listen (8 out of ten was the shorthand when I began teaching for determine if the class is engaged.) So it was, yesterday in the early afternoon, when I was trying to get them ready to go into their independent work stations and a girl in the front was staring at my foot. I moved the foot over. Her eyes moved with it. I moved the foot back. Her head turned.
I looked down at the foot. Loafer and no socks. I began to feel nervous. What was she looking at? I told myself to ignore it.
That’s when she reached out to try to touch it.
I broke down and stopped telling the Ruby Group that today they were in the Listening Center and asked her point blank, “Daisy, what is it that’s so interesting about my foot?”
She looked up and said with complete composure and certainty, “Mrs. C, you are almost old.”
I was shocked and dismayed. “You can tell that from my foot?”
“Yes, look at how the veins are sticking up.”
I drew myself up and said with dignity, “Daisy my veins have always stuck out, that’s the way I was born.” Nevertheless at that second I was swearing to myself never to come to work in sockless loafers again.
Meanwhile, immediately every kid in the class started looking at their hands and wrists to see if they could see their own veins. Daisy traced the inside of her wrist, where you could see tiny blue lines.
“I have to tell you the truth, Daisy, you really shouldn’t call people “old.” I said. “I mean, I’m pretty low key about stuff like that but some people might have their feelings hurt.”
“Okay, Mrs. C,” she said. “I understand.”
The next day, not wanting to wear socks in May, I wore a dress so long it covered my feet. But then when I wanted to demonstrate how to sit “criss-cross applesauce” on the carpet I had problems because the dress was getting tangled on my knees and ankles.
There are many times when teaching is a conundrum. Learning to instruct the phonics, classroom management, staying comfortable but not looking weird … it’s all a balancing act. And students know more than you give them credit for. Daisy’s analysis of my foot was definitely higher order thinking, even if I didn’t like her conclusions. I wondered, are other teachers learning similar things about themselves from the students? And how do they handle it?