Laughter = Survival!

I teach, and I think I would have literally died of embarrassment by now if I couldn't laugh at myself.
One of the worst - and, consequently, best - examples of this happened early in my career. I'll set the scene: thirty-some students, a blackboard, a front-clasp bra, and one mortified teacher. (No nudity involved, look elsewhere for that. This is not sexy, just awkward!)
I'm a generally hyper and energetic person, particularly while I'm teaching. I was in front of a particularly rambunctious group of kids, which is always entertaining but equally high-maintenance, and I was writing a question on the board while trying to simultaneously keep the discussion going. In punctuating the last sentence on the board, it became all too clear that I had written higher than was physically manageable while half-turned to respond to the latest comment...and the clasp popped.
It was audible, and completely obvious even in a high-cut top. The class went completely silent. They were waiting for a reaction, and it was obvious that they were going to be hysterical no matter what. I was horrified for about two seconds, and then one girl burst out as though she would explode if she held it in a moment longer: "Miss, your BRA!" At that point, there was to be no dignity in the situation. I was laughing (arms folded), they were laughing, and everyone in the room was almost in tears and out of breath.
I held up a hand, still laughing. Everyone went silent - not the norm for a new teacher under most circumstances, but I think they were still in shock. I regained a fraction of my composure, just enough to point at the question I'd (thankfully) finished writing, and ducked...into the closet. I didn't want to completely lose sight of the class, though, as there were some notorious pencil-stabbers and eraser-throwers in the mix. One of the girls jumped up and tried to shield me while I tried as gracefully as possible, which is to say not gracefully at all, to refasten the obnoxious thing through my shirt. At some point in the process, which didn't take long but felt like an hour, she commanded "DON'T YOU ALL LOOK!" as though I were completely naked behind her. (She was a tiny little person, which made it even funnier.) When I turned around, no longer disheveled, they all had the courtesy to at least pretend they were working studiously. All of them. Which would be almost suspicious except that I was silently grateful for the token of respect, given the circumstances.
I had to fight back giggle-fits for the rest of the class period - this took much longer to tell than it took to happen, and amazingly little class time was lost. As for the kids, well, I'm sure they laughed later out of earshot, but that day they showed more composure than I'd ever seen in that group for any extended period of time. I laughed until I cried as soon as I was safely through the door of my apartment until my then-roommate must have thought I'd completely lost my marbles - I couldn't stop for long enough to explain, I could only choke out half-words.
I was a little worried about what would happen with that class in the future. You can't possibly regain respect after that fiasco, right? On with the boob jokes and knowing looks? But somehow, seeing me in the thick of an incredibly embarrassing moment, and seeing me roll with it, acknowledge it, and move on with the class, had the totally opposite effect. They were still a high-energy bunch, but I didn't have to use any of the tips and tricks for classroom management that veteran teachers had suggested. They'd stop on a dime if I even looked ready to talk, and I was able to move through the material more quickly than with my other classes. Most shockingly, I never heard a word about it from anyone outside that group.
A few years later, I was talking to one of the girls from that group, and she told me secretively, "You're still the best teacher." I laughed and asked her why, because my own rating of those first few years was, at best, that I'd been green, stumbling through, and trying my best to improve. She looked around at said conspiratorially, "Remember the..." and made a gesture in the general bra-area. "You didn't get all pissy and act like nothing happened, you were real about it. You knew it was funny and you didn't yell at us because we couldn't help laughing and then it was just like, okay, next!"
I think I would have done my best to block the whole thing out if she hadn't brought it up.
A quick little tag-line deserves a place here: Since then, I've heard almost identical stories from not one, not two, but THREE other teachers. Only one of them laughed about it, though. The others described it as one of their worst-ever moments in the classroom.
I suppose this has a moral, scratch that, two of them: First, you need not be perfect, serious, or aloof to gain the respect of a bunch of teenagers...In fact, you can't be. They'd see right through it. Second, front-clasps are the devil.
That is all.
citystargazer citystargazer
26-30, F
4 Responses Jul 20, 2010

Thanks! Though hopefully not many unsuccessful clasps... :D

I admire your ability to laugh when its a different response expected. I hope you many happy and successful clips in the future.

I think that's the best response anyone could possibly ask for. :) Thanks!

What a hilarious story! I would absolutely drink a beer with you and let you tell me stories for hours.