A Teachable Moment?

Last Thursday began like any other day. Except it didn't. Not at all.

At approximately 7:45 in the morning, I opened my eyes, grabbed my phone and nearly threw it across the room. 7:45? How could this be possible? My students start filing into the classroom at precisely 7:35 every morning!

And here it was, 7:45, with me still in bed. Instantly, I felt sick. By the time I was running for the bathroom to start throwing myself together, my phone was ringing.

A coworker wondering the same thing I was, "What on earth is going on?"

I eventually made it to school, still shaking from anxiety and adrenaline. My entire body throbbed with the dread of facing my students. What could I possibly say to them?

"Sorry guys, I was asleep while you were sitting here wondering where I was."

After taking a minute to calm my frazzled nerves, I called my coworker's room and had her send my class to me.

I took a sip of coffee and stood at the door, waiting. It was only a few minutes before I heard them bubbling up the steps and headed toward me.

Show time!

With a winning smile I greeted them, gave out hugs and high-fives, and told them to grab their writing journals and meet me on the rug. I politely smiled through all the questions about where I had been.

Once we made it to the floor with journals and pencils in hand, I sat down and asked the question burning in everyone's mind -- "So, let's hear it. What could have possibly kept me from being here with you this morning?"

The answers started out simple: I forgot it was a school day, I had a flat tire, I got caught up reading and forgot the time.

"Oh c'mon," I laughed, "No aliens? No mystery? What a boring morning I must have had. Certainly something crazy must have happened to keep me away from you."

I saw the lightbulbs go on above their little heads.

"A fire! Your house caught on fire and you had to save your dog!"
"Someone padlocked you into your house!"
"Aliens captured your family and you had to save them!"

And on and on and on we went... until I stood up, went to the board, and wrote this:

I told them they had 10 minutes to write anything they wanted to explain my tardiness, and suggested this would be a fabulous time to go nuts with figurative language. With that, I turned our music on, started a timer, and began to pace the room.

At the halfway mark, I heard groans -- they had too much to write and not enough time!

When the timer went off, I had to practically pull still scribbling students from their seats.  But it was time to share, and everyone wanted in on the action.

We laughed our way through the next 21 explanations for my late morning, our personal favorite including my untimely parachuting into a warzone and abysmal attempt at shooting my way out of the chaos (I shot at everything I saw, but missed every shot!). In one story my car broke down, so I rode a turtle to school. In another, I found a secret portal in my closet and sped away to a new world. In still another, I was a part of a high speed chase!

By the time we finished reading, we had to head out the door for P.E. and the poor kids never did find out the real story of my out of sync morning. But I have to say -- their versions were much more exciting! And an excellent opportunity to play with figurative language and revision.

Thankfully, my epic teacher fail was saved by their imagination and fantastic writing skills -- a teachable moment, after all.


  1. ohhh, that's my worst nightmare! You turned it into an amazing lesson though! What a cute idea. I bet your students had a riot writing and sharing their stories! (It's almost worth staging a late arrival on purpose and having another teacher watch the kids for a few minutes, just to get that great writing topic...!)

  2. I love the way you unfolded this story. What an awful realization to find out school was already starting. You did take advantage of a teachable moment, way to handle it!

  3. Brilliant! Love how you unfolded the story a bit at a time. And what a wonderful way to recover. Love the positive choice. Just Brilliant. :-)

  4. Thanks guys, it surely helped me get back on track to treat it with a little fun instead of staying frazzled!