I did my student teaching in central Kentucky in the late 1970’s. The students were a mix of farm kids and town kids. My supervising teacher had been teaching since the time Daniel Boone was tramping through the Kentucky frontier and still had bulletin boards from those days (actually, she was just a couple of years away from retirement…but seriously, she was still using bulletin board displays from her early years of teaching).
My first days in the classroom, I spent hours observing. I also spent time conferring after school, getting the scoop on the class routine, the curriculum and the students. I heard a lot about one particular boy, warnings mostly.
Not long at all after I started, I walked in one morning to discover I was the only adult in the room. Of course, this terrified me. My education professor had drilled into us that if our supervising teacher was absent, we might be technically “in charge” of the class, but we were not to teach the class without a sub. After a frantic call to the office, I discovered the teacher was out due to a medical emergency (unexpected, hence the lack of a sub) and the libararian was coming to the class to fill in. I was relieved…until she came in and started berating the kids about how they had made their teacher sick! Then she sat in the back of the room, leaving it to me to carry on, while she caught up on her sleep.
I started in with the regular routine, but it wasn’t long until “the boy” was waving his hand in the air, asking to go to the nurse’s office. Having been duly warned that this was one of his favorite tactics for getting out of work, I tried out my developing “teacher voice” and informed him he needed to do his work. A few minutes passed by, the waving hand again, another request for the nurse, another “no,” although a doubtful voice inside my head was asking why I wasn’t sending him to the nurse. The next time, there is no waving hand, just a whiny voice, “Teacher, I got something in my ear.” But I hear another voice, the voice of authority, the voice of the teacher who knew these kids better than I did. So I stand by his desk and continue the lesson, only to be interrupted by a plaintive, “Teacher, I got a tick in my ear.” This time I am worn down. I write the referral and send him down the hall. Ah, blessed peace. We get on with our lesson.
A few minutes later, he walks back into the class and hands me a note from the nurse. “I removed a tick from his ear. He should be fine now.”
Lessons learned: take advice, but rely on your own judgment when you are the “responsible adult,” get to know students for yourself, and listen to what students say. Above all, if a farm kid tells you he has a tick in his ear, believe him!