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Monday, October 14, 2013

A remembrance from Shelley Rogers Thissen

I entered the teaching profession in response to a letter from then Governor Frank Murkowski to all early retirees from the State of Alaska. He wanted us to go back to school, get a teaching certificate and then help man teaching positions in the Alaskan Bush.  I have been through the best and the worst of times since I decided on the pathway of becoming a teacher.  I needed support and good advice in so many areas, not the least of which was something called “Classroom Management”.  Here’s the story of Mike Kirk’s best advice to me on how to control any student, anytime, anywhere!

            It began with Mike asking me if I had a minute?  Half an hour later, I was laughing until I cried.  According to Mike, he had met a teacher from Wyoming once.  Wyoming had been having an impossible time filling one of their bush teaching positions.  That particular part of Wyoming was peopled, for the most part, with elk, oh, and wild-eyed rancher’s kids.  After repeated attempts to get ANY teacher to stay, Wyoming considered a short, kind-of-pudgy, red-headed female teacher who wore bright red, ankle top, lace-up tennys every day, rain or shine!  Wyoming’s Board of Education members rolled their eyes, drummed their fingers and mumbled under their communal breath.  They had to have “SOMEONE OUT THERE!”, so, they hired her, ON THE SPOT!

            The first day of class our innocent, red-headed, red tennied teacher strolled into the classroom with an uncanny sense of confidence about her.  Kids were running in and out of the back door chasing chickens, leaping from table to chair to table, yelling at the top of their lungs and were, generally, completely OUT OF CONTROL!  At that point, our dear little teacher threw her coffee cup, full of boiling coffee, high into the air above the class.  Before the cup began its descent, she drew a 44 magnum pistol out of her right ankle top tennis shoe and blew the coffee cup to smithereens!

            For the first time in forty years there was dead silence in a Wyoming classroom.  For the rest of the year every student and parent addressed her with a very careful, “Yes, Ma’am” and “Will Do”.  Each and every student paid attention to everything she said in her softest voice, did ALL their assigned work and, generally, completed everything that was asked of them, in top form, ALL YEAR.  There were no complaints from the parents, all her students achieved “A’s” on their report cards and even did bonus work around the classroom without being asked.

            Mike’s Moral to this Story was: “A teacher MUST establish and maintain the upper hand in their classroom AT ALL TIMES!”  I know you can hear his clipped German accent telling me this story and I know, too, you’re laughing.  I wonder what might happen if I pulled this particular management stunt in a classroom today?  Well, NEVERMIND, BUT, I got the message.  With such an unforgettable image etched on my mind, Classroom Management has ceased to be any problem for me, WHATSOEVER, AT ALL!

Gratefully and Lovingly Submitted by:  Shelley Rogers Thissen 

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