meat the teacher fiasco

It's five o'clock and Meat the Teacher night is beginning.  The crowd is extra large due to the issues with an error in homophones (or homonyms - I can't always keep them straight), assuming that the teachers were putting on a barbecue, which would be cool because nothing builds community like the collective bonds of setting animal flesh on an open flame and then digging into the carcass while talking about the weather.

A man pulls me aside and introduces me to his son.  "You'll like his class, Josiah."

He then whispers to me, "He's a Graphite Geek. Plays Hang Man and other violent paper games non-stop.  He loves pencils.  I'm guessing he'll love your class."  

I whisper back, "I hope he likes learning, because we don't really play Hang Man in my class."

I sigh, realizing that this will be another year of reminding students at the beginning that the pencils are tools, not toys.  It's not that we won't have fun.  It's just that the fun won't revolve around playing simple games or throwing paper balls at one another.  

The principal strolls into my room.  "How did speller check not catch that?" he asks. 

"It's not misspelled.  It's misused."  

"What's the point of technology if it's going to fail on you?" he asks.

"Yeah, it can be unpredictable."  

"Must be a glitch," he adds. 

The dictionary didn't fail him. The failure was human. Technology is predictable and flawless, making mistakes only when programmed improperly.  The beauty of humanity is that we aren't predictable, because as hard as the district office tries, we can't be programmed.  It's why we can be creative.  It's why we have stories.  We're not mechanical.  Nothing is clockwork.  

The principal humbly faces the consequences by running across the street to the meat market.  Gertrude rounds up a few parents bail him out and spread the news that it's a "bring your own meat" barbecue. (It's that rare moment when a micromanager saves the day)  Around six thirty we're all eating.   A pick-up game of baseball has started among the parents and the kids, losing interest, have started their own game in the street.

I end up playing soccer with a few of my students.  It strikes me that this is how it should always start, not with lectures and rules and procedures, but by playing together.  None of us say anything, but they are seeing who I am as a person so that they can understand who I am as a teacher.

We've gone from an awkward "meet and greet" to an all-out carnival - united by the shared celebration of learning and the shared experience of burning animal flesh.  Perhaps this is how every school year should start. 


  1. I agree. Far too many of my students are completely stand-offish within lessons, as I discipline them, and many of these same students are really pally when I see them out of class, and in a 'fun' environment like a theme park, or playing 'soccer'.

  2. Your blog post was great and I enjoyed reading it. Hi I am Brittney Jolly from a EDM 310 class and would like you to check out my blog if you have a chance I will be posting on your blog every two weeks until December.

  3. Agreed. A lot of students are shy in the beginning but if a teacher is willing to "play" a game with them and get them involved maybe they will be more willing to learn. My name is Caryn, I enjoyed your blog. I will be commenting on your blogs frequently, if you get a chance you can check out mine.

  4. My name is Sarah Pierce. I enjoyed how your story helped explain that teaching is a collaborative process. When teachers allow students to see them as human, rather than the person who will give them a grade, more learning takes place. When everyone works as a team and helps each other, great things will happen!

  5. I agree. Children can be so intimidated when entering a new classroom. They may not only be anxious about meeting the teacher but the other students as well. If they have a chance to let their guard down and have some fun, they will be more excited to learn. If you have a chance, you can check out my blog at .

  6. Instead of "Meat" the Teacher, we had Back to School Night. Probably should have called it "Baby Back Ribs at School Night" for better attendance. Great piece. I am a principal and agree on the right way to start. Joe Neff