For many teachers and students, last week was the first day of school. As a former teacher, from my perspective, it was always the best day of school, therefore, I’m summoning great nostalgia. Special tactics, or “ice breakers” are required each year on the first day to engage, confuse, or scare students, thus providing expectations for the following one hundred and seventy nine days of academic exploration.
Awkwardness is the only way to describe the first day of school for novice teachers and all students. Neither, properly, know what the hell to do on this day. So, sometimes, as a teacher, you simply improvise, risking the respect from others, and even your job. I chose the first days to make it awkward for everyone just to break up the monotony of “What did you do over your summer break?” It was an attempt to break up the ice and make them feel at ease……so to speak.
Each year, I disrupted my menu of classroom expectations either because I became bored, boring, or an administrator reminded me about the meaning of the term “irreverence”. One, and only one year, I pretended on the first day of school to have a wooden arm. It was astonishing how convincing I was. With complete silence, entering the room, my left hand was clenched, precisely, with no movement, save for the help of my right arm assisting it. The room remained silent for an interesting ten or fifteen minutes. My right arm was used for assisting my left arm to turn on or off lights, open and close blinders and even log on to my computer. These students seemed either collectively engaged, confused and some a little scared. I figured if I could get the “highly gifted” students engaged, the “middle of the the road” students confused, and a few punks a little scared, it would make teaching a little less complicated.
Entertaining myself by maintaining a serious face and a phony arm, while collecting attendance, I noticed the students weren’t listening to me, but rather, staring at my left arm. I then realized it probably wasn’t so funny if one of their family members or friends had lost a limb in battle or for some other unfortunate reason, such as lighting a one thousand dollar firework off in their hand. So, I quickly gathered my immature behavior and shook my left arm as though it had just been sleeping. They all looked at me as if I was a little off, or even crazy. Some laughed or gasped, but for the next one hundred and seventy nine days, I certainly had their attention.
Days later after performing my special tactics, my administer rolled her eyes, giving me a “Be careful, Ben” warning. Weeks later, some of the parents attending the parent-teacher conference “laughingly” asked me to demonstrate my ability to have a disability.