Larry Efird: A time to laugh …
Teaching is serious business. But it can also be funny. Teachers need to laugh — often and hard. Some would say they need a drink, but since I don’t like alcohol, my beverage of choice is Dr. Pepper. It seems to do the trick for me.
I remember a day that could not have gone worse, and I had no choice but to make a parent phone call. (Principals will tell you contacting a parent should be the first response, not the last, but sometimes we teachers have to learn the hard way.) After getting the right number, because the first two or three numbers I tried didn’t work (of course), I finally got the mom’s place of employment. I didn’t know it was her work number, and after the call went through, I was connected to a recording (of course) which asked me to select the department I would like to be connected with.
The very first option was, “If you need mental health, press one.” I hadn’t thought about needing mental health up until that moment, but it certainly sounded like a good choice. I quickly recovered my wits and made the selection for the operator so I could give her the name of the person I needed. Because the mental health selection made me laugh, when I did get to talk to the mother, I was not aggravated, but actually in a good frame of mind so I could have a decent conversation with her about her child’s “attitude” which had been on display in my class for several consecutive days.
Another time a student asked me what kind of day I was having, and I thanked him, but also commented how tired I was feeling from not having slept well the night before. He said with a genuinely concerned expression on his face, “Well, now that you mentioned it, you do have some big black circles under your eyes.” I wanted to say, “Thanks for making me feel better,” but I couldn’t help but laugh because he was just trying to be nice.
We as teachers have a hard time letting go and letting up sometimes. We can think the entire success of our school and the preparation of the entire next generation depends upon how well we can prepare them for their EOCs or state final exams. We want every student to love learning and make responsible choices. We want the work we do to have immediate results and rewards, but we know we’re in the wrong profession for that.
I also got a chuckle last fall when my paycheck was $300 higher than usual one month. (Why is it that without fail I secretly always hope my check will be for more each month when I know exactly beforehand what it will be to the penny?) Well, that fantasy came true for me, and then I suddenly realized that was the equivalent of my entire pay raise for the entire year. I’m one of the veteran teachers who has taught too long to get a raise. That’s also something that makes teachers laugh, but it’s really not that funny.
My first thought was to use all that extra cash to pay for the “$300 Band-Aid” I had gotten at the emergency room a few weeks before. I also wondered if I could use the $300 dollars to pay for some new textbooks for my AP class, but that would only have bought three books, so I needed another $2,700 to pull that off. (I don’t plan on teaching nine more years, so that turned out to be a bad idea.)
I’m glad I can work with happy people who understand that staying angry all the time isn’t going to make us feel better. I’m also glad I work with people who love kids and who take time to laugh when the teacher tears start to fall.
The Book of Ecclesiastes wisely says, “There’s a time to laugh and a time to cry.” When I can choose to laugh, I know I’ll be okay. But I might have to cry first — while I’m reaching for a Dr. Pepper.
Larry Efird teaches at A.L.Brown High School.
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