Bulletin Board and Shenanigans

Back in April, I refused to take a certain bulletin board down because where I live, the weather is so bipolar that we’ve gotten used to the fact that one day it might be 91 degrees outside and sweltering so badly that our faces are in danger of melting off, while just 24 short hours later, snow could be coming down so hard that schools are likely to be called off for the next three days.

Ahhh, the beauty of the Midwest.

(For any climate change hysterics who have taken a pause from screaming on Twitter about how we’re all going to die next month because it’s sunny outside in June and have somehow ended up on this site accidentally, please know that I’m what you guys like to call a “climate change denier” so I’ll save you some time:  YOU WON’T LIKE ME.  Bye!)

So, as a sort of prayer to God (because I’m His favorite and I often get my way), I kept this bulletin board, which I had assembled in January, up through April in hopes that He would take notice and give me just one more day of snow.  I love my seasons—all of them—but I wasn’t ready for spring just yet.  I hadn’t gotten enough snow.

Allow me to post a picture of said bulletin board.  Please, take a moment to soak it in. Give the vision time to wash over you like melted snowflakes so that you can form your own judgments…because I can assure you that my 7th grade homeroom students did the first time they saw it.

I stayed at school late one evening to put it up. The next morning, my moody 7th graders, some still groggy from sleep, some overexcited due to early morning basketball practice, began ambling in one by one.

One of my girls, her backpack hanging off of one shoulder as she entered the room, paused momentarily to study the bulletin board. “What is that dumb thing?”

“Um, I think it’s quite obvious what that THING is,” I said, giving all kinds of neck thrusts and voice inflections because sometimes you have to talk like they do in order to relate to them more effectively.  “It’s a REALLY CUTE BULLETIN BOARD.”

She raised her eyebrows, her gaze never straying from the bulletin board.  “That’s the stupidest bulletin board I’ve seen since, like, second grade,” she mused, deadpan, before continuing to her desk.  I thought I saw a small smile playing at the corners of her mouth, but I could have been imagining things.

Soon after, another of my girls trudged in and she, too, paused when she saw the bulletin board.  She was wearing her ever-present cheerful smirk and trying—without much success—not to allow it to turn into a smile. 

She likes me, you see, and my silly bulletin boards. But she’s not allowed to let people know that.  Duh.

“We’re not TODDLERS, you know,” was her reaction to the bulletin board.

“I’m just glad you’re actually here to see it and not faking sick like normal,” I responded.

Her smirk faltered—the smile was coming through.  “If I’d have known that my eyes were going to be assaulted with that thing this early in the morning, I would have faked again.” 

Everyone forgot about the bulletin board for a little while, or at least it wasn’t brought up again until after roll and lunch count were taken when, instead of allowing me to smoothly move on to real things like infinitives, gerunds, and participles, they wanted to get me off track.

“You misspelled let,” one of them said.

“How does an English teacher misspell let?” another one wondered aloud, awestruck at my stupidity.  There was a murmur of agreement all around the room. How, in fact?

One of my favorite things to do to my students is annoy them by acting like the typical teacher.  For example, if one of them asks me “Can I go to the bathroom?” I’ll yell, “I don’t know…CAN ya?  HARDY HAR HAR HAR!” in a really loud, obnoxious voice.  Then I laugh so hard at myself that tears stream down my face.

They’ll roll their eyes and act like they hate it, but I know they love it.  Sometimes I’ll even see the beginnings of a smile form on one of their cynical faces before he or she catches him- or herself and rearranges it back into its usual 7th grade frown, spins on his or her heel, and heads to the bathroom.

So that day, I couldn’t help it. I jumped up from where I was seated behind my desk and opened my arms wide in a flourish.  “Oh, students, this is very exciting,” I said, spreading my lips into a huge, toothy grin that would probably scare young children.  “I believe we’ve stumbled upon what we in the biz like to call a teachable moment!”

I would make them regret trying to get me off task by making fun of my bulletin board yet.  I walked to the bulletin board and pointed.  “Why do you think let is spelled like that?”

Blank stares.

I moved my hand down toward the llama.  “What is this?” I said slowly, and then did that motion with my hands where you kind of rotate them, palms facing inward toward your body, in a circular motion because for some reason people think that elicits a proper response and it felt like the right thing to do.

More blank stares.

“It’s a llama, children,” I said, still using my annoying teacher voice.  This time, though, it wasn’t really making anybody laugh or even roll his or her eyes. They were all just staring at me.  I was starting to feel kind of dumb, but of course, I pressed on.  “And how is llama spelled?  With two—“

“That’s an alpaca.”

That line was delivered by one of my boys who, in typical 7th grade boy fashion, only ever speaks up to say something sarcastic or mean—bonus points for both.  Even better was his delivery.  It was so dry, so Stanley-from-The-Office that you couldn’t help but just respect it.  He had been using the time that the other students had gotten me off track wisely, double checking his math homework, but apparently he’d been following the conversation at least enough to look up, add his two cents, then return to his math.

My smile faltered.  “No, it’s not,” I insisted.  “It’s totally a—“

He sighed, but this time he didn’t look up from his math.  “That’s an alpaca.  Look it up.”

So I did.

And by God, it was an alpaca.

“That Teachers Pay Teachers lady ripped me off!” I screamed.  “She sold me an alpaca instead of a llama!  It’s like a wolf in sheep’s clothing but worse!”

I took a moment to compose myself, lowering my head, placing my hands on my hips and taking deep breaths.  Now the kids were laughing, hard, but it was okay, see, because they were laughing at me and not with me.  (Or so they thought…I’m kind of a brilliant teacher like that. I also don’t hesitate to toot my own horn:  Not only did I get those stinkers engaged, but I also got a laugh out of them. Toot toooooooooot!)

“Maybe I should try to get my money back,” I muttered quietly.

“Wait…you paid for that?” one of the boys in the back said. This set them off all over again.  Obnoxious 7th grade laughter abounded.

“Of course I paid for it.  Do you think I could’ve done that on my own?”

Shrugs all around.  “It’s pretty terrible,” one of them said, “so…yeah, probably.”

“Well, I didn’t,” I said.  “And now I want my $3 back.”

“You paid three dollars for it?” someone else said, and the class snickered again.

I threw up my hands.  “Alright, ENOUGH.  That’s enough.  You know what?  Let’s do some spelling.”  I took another deep breath, gathering myself once again.  “Yeah,” I said, nodding to myself like Chevy Chase in the eggnog scene of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  I actually have one of those moose mugs; my younger brother gave one to each of us siblings for Christmas one year. It would’ve been a perfect prop in that moment. “Let’s do some spelling.  Your first word is alpaca.”

I grabbed a white board marker with a flourish and started writing it on the board.

A-L-L-P-A-C-A

“That’s not how you spell it,” one of my girls said.  By the way, have you ever heard someone speak an eye roll?  There was a sigh in her tone, too, making it sound as if she were talking to a small child with whose antics she was finally fed up.

I didn’t care.  Her frustrated TONE wasn’t going to work on me because I’m not a small child.  I’m a TEACHER.

“Well, it is now,” I said.

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