Updated: Dec 29, 2019
Confession: One time I took my sandal off, tossed it across the classroom, and clocked a third grader right in the head.
Okay, let me back up.
Please bear in mind, third graders can be daunting.
They like to yank their teeth out right there in class, preferably while you’re giving directions, and stick the bloody, gangling thing in your face even though you’ve told them a million times to only wrench their teeth out of their mouths in their regular classroom or in the library or in the cafeteria or anywhere but in your music class. They’re also on the precipice of proficiency in the art of sass which is both unexpected and impressive. Not to mention they’re downright adorable—disarmingly so. Even when they pout, you just want to put them on a cracker with cheese whiz and gobble up about fifteen of them at once.
I swear, in terms of classroom management, those kids shook me down for my lunch money.
For the life of me, I could not get those little peanuts to stand still on those three-tiered risers and get through a song without scratching scabs off their kneecaps or cramming their fingers up their nasal passages all the way to their elbows. They looked every which way but toward the pretend audience, and don’t even get me started on all the times they got the giggles because, if I’m telling the truth, they made me get the giggles too.
I’m not proud of it.
Through November and December, we worked hard on being focused, facing the front, and fighting the urge to fidget when we were on stage. Eyes to the front. Arms down. No bouncing. No picking noses or scabs. Let the songs flow out of our souls and fill the whole room with magic! Show the audience we are professionals!
By the week of our Christmas concert, they could stand on the proverbial knife’s edge and not flinch so much as an eyelid. I could have presented them to the Queen of England.
To be absolutely sure, though, I had to test them—create some diversion off to the side of the stage to see if their eyes would stray, if their heads would turn.
So of course, I took my sandal off.
I tossed it across the classroom.
I watched it soar in slow motion, heel over toe—heel over toe, and thought… uh, oh.
That one might’ve gotten away from me.
I willed that shoe to stop. Or slow down. Or speed up and fly right over their heads. Or disintegrate in midair and completely evaporate.
Instead I watched in horror as it clocked a third grader right in the head.
If my intention was to intentionally distract them to see if they would lose all concentration for the task at hand, mission accomplished.
Would you like to know the first words to come out of my mouth the second that child realized he’d been brandished by a Birkenstock and shot me a look that could strip the stripes off a snake?
They were: “Oh, dear God. Please don’t tell your mother.”
Not my finest hour, I have to tell you. I was sick to my stomach the millisecond those words came out of my mouth.
When I’m out and about speaking to audiences and promoting my book, Monsters Under the Bed: Practical Steps for Keeping Our Children Safe from Sexual Predators, I tell this very story and still cringe every time. It haunts me.
I told all the little peanuts that day to sit down on the risers and apologized profusely to this little gentleman who, mercifully, was not concussed.
I said to him, “Sir, you are absolutely entitled to tell your mother anything you WANT about getting clocked in the head today. It is not your responsibility to take care of me. It is my responsibility to take care of you.”
Here’s what I told the rest of them:
· If an adult does something and tells you not to tell anyone, that’s actually the first thing you should do! RUN! Tell an adult right away! Don’t wait! Tell a whole bunch of adults!
· Never keep a secret for an adult. Surprises are okay—secrets can be very, very bad.
· Adults should always be the ones to protect children—children should not be the ones protecting adults, especially if that adult has done something wrong.
We love our children, no doubt. But all of us have a primal sense of self-preservation that kicks in (as it is designed to do) when we anticipate a threat of any kind. I never want to react in a way that would compel a child not to speak on their own behalf. I only ever want to encourage children to find their voices and learn to advocate for themselves. Taking responsibility for our actions and apologizing when we do something wrong is a great example. And it goes a long way with young people.
Daisy has spent over 25 years in the classroom and has managed to preserve her sanity—mostly. Actually, she feels quite blessed to be doing what she loves. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology in 1990 and a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction in 2004. She is currently working on a Master of Fine Arts in writing for children and young adults at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
In the summers, you can find Daisy in her gardens with her husband. You might also catch her in her office writing underneath a real chandelier. As often as she can, though, she loves spending time with her grandbaby. (He was born on her birthday, you know. She’s been impossible to live with ever since.)
If you are interested in having Daisy speak for your school district, provide professional development for your staff, or visit your school to talk to students, please contact her through this website.