« Back to Blog Home

Helping Hand

I’m human, so I’ve had more than my share of embarrassing moments. You know what I’m talking about–those times that I’ve said something I shouldn’t have or done something so dumb, I wanted to crawl into a hole.  Most of those moments happened when I was young–in high school or college–and are long forgotten.

However, I was talking to some teacher friends the other day and one of them remembered a tale I’d told them about one of my moments.  I wish she’d forgotten, but that’s the problem with teachers, they remember everything and this one incident was just too good.  Hell, it’s so good, I’ve written about it before.  For my most embarrassing moment ever, I waited until I was several years into my teaching career and then I made sure I did a thorough job horrifying a group of 9th grade English students on the first day of school.

I like teaching.  For me, the first day of school was as exciting at twenty-seven as it was when I was seven, so I made sure I had a new outfit, new shoes and that I was completely prepared for my new charges.  I’ve always enjoyed getting to know my classes and when I was an English teacher, I had a lot of opportunity to do so when discussing the literature we studied.  I was relaxed, happy and confident and looking forward to a good first day.

In other words, I had no freaking clue.

I’d been teaching for a few years, but had to change jobs, so there I was in a new place, needing to make a good first impression.  I watched as the kids filed into the school and later as they found their way to my classroom.  I’m not one of those “don’t smile until Christmas” teachers.  I tried to put my students at ease, especially since most of my classes were 9th grade.  The kids were nervous, they had come from a number of different schools and I had no intention of scaring them.

I greeted one of my midday classes, and started giving them the rundown about me, the class and my expectations.  Having been on my feet for several periods, in high heels, I pulled one of the desks over and figured I’d perch myself on it and talk to my class.  This is when I learned that not all desks are created equal.

I was used to desks that were essentially a table and a chair.  That means the table part had four legs.  Well, in my new school the desks were one piece—just a chair with the attached desktop.  And the desktop?  No legs, no extra support and I sat my booty right on top.

Let me tell you, gravity works.  Before I knew what was happening, I felt the desk tilt backwards and I was going ass over elbows off the desk.   I somersaulted backwards.  No lie. I landed on the floor, on my butt and stared out at the shocked faces of my class. They didn’t want to laugh.  They didn’t.  But they couldn’t help it. First one lost it, then another and then I was looking out into a sea of hysterical fourteen-year-olds.

This wasn’t the way I wanted to start my stay at this school.  I was mortified and frozen in place on the floor, wondering if I’d broken anything.  Oh, and did I mention I was wearing a dress?  I not only performed the ultimate in teacher acrobatics, there was a peep show to go along with it.  Thank goodness I wore conservative undies.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, one boy, his name was Tom, rose from his seat and came over to me.  He squatted down, helped me up and righted the desk.  My first phone call home that year was to Tom’s mother to tell her about the gentleman she raised.  Be sure, I wasn’t angry at the kids who laughed—not at all.  Since I didn’t get hurt, what happened was funny and it became part of the class culture.  But as I look back on that embarrassing moment, I find there are some interesting connections to be made.

When the desk betrayed me and I flew backwards, I’d lost control.  I feel that way sometimes when I’m writing.  Some days it’s great and the words flow; other days it’s not good.  It’s like you’re frozen in place, not moving, stuck.  But then, there will be one person who helps you, a single person who offers a hand and pulls you up with a kind word, a short critique or some needed honesty.  So, as I flip off the metaphoric desk, and struggle with the words on the page, I know that eventually someone will stick out a hand, and I’ll be able to move forward.

As far as my embarrassing moment, by the end of the day, everyone had heard about my fall, including the principal.  Once people were satisfied that I wasn’t physically hurt, we had a good laugh about it.  Isn’t that always the way?

Okay, now it’s your turn…embarrassing moments, anyone?