So I’m not the kind of student I used to be. I used to be Miss Goody-Two-Shoes, Teacher’s Pet, all that nonsense. I wanted my teachers to like me, since my parents didn’t. It was a kind of passive-aggressive revenge that–surprise!–didn’t really work. Abusers don’t look at all the people who like you and rethink their whole approach. Gee whiz, if all these nice folks like you, who am I to hate your guts? Nope. Not how it works. In fact, among certain personality types, being well-liked makes you more hate-worthy. But hey, I was a die-hard optimist at 12 and 15 and even 19.
So I stepped into a formal classroom two years ago for my first Level One Russian class. I was 32, and things were different. For a start, I was a ham. I still didn’t want to make my teacher’s job any harder. But I sure as hell wanted to have some fun. And do you know what I discovered? Nothing can make you feel more vitally alive than goofing off when the teacher turns her back. Nothing. Heart palpitations. A surge of adrenaline. The works. Call it bungee jumping for the recovering goody two-shoes.
The problem is that I’m now supposed to be the teacher. Talk about spoiling my fun. And everyone else’s, too. What a drag.
I was working in the ESL classroom where I volunteer, and a young man was pretending not to understand the vocabulary that the teacher was presenting. He cocked his head, pulled a sweetly innocent face, and asked his class partner whether the teacher had really meant something else. He would make outlandish associations, brilliant in their own completely off-topic way. “Garage? Garage? Oh, she means giraffe. Giraffe!” His class partner then playfully slapped him with her notebook, which only encouraged him to do it again.
Now as a class volunteer and future educator, I could see a lot of problems with this. His partner couldn’t concentrate on the lesson. He was paying only enough attention to get another word for free association. And their giggles were distracting their neighbors. No good.
But as me, I thought it was hilarious and a pretty impressive display of wit in a beginning foreign language class. I even thought Lewis Carroll might be pleased with this approach to language learning. Then I laughed a couple times, which was quite possibly the worst thing I could’ve done.
In the end, the teacher simply split them up and rearranged seating in the back corner–and then I had no problem keeping the riddler on-task. But it was embarrassing to realize I had wanted to join in, rather than be the tutor I’m there as. It even scared me a little. What if my own class in a year falls into chaos, and I don’t even notice because I’m having so much fun?
The moral of this story, boys and girls? If you are still a devout goody two-shoes, strike up the band and pull some pranks now. Before it’s too late.