First year of teaching

First year of teaching and the invaluable stapler!

My 36th year of teaching is coming to a close and I thought today would be a good day to give educators some encouragement from my first year of teaching. And, yes, I can remember that far back.

Keep your sense of humor

If you are going to stay in teaching for more than a few weeks, you’ll need a sense of humor. If you don’t have one, develop one quickly or find a new profession.

Not everything is funny at first. There were several times in my first year that I found myself thinking, “This will make a funny story someday.” But, at the time… it just sucked.


I was hired to teach band at a public middle school on the eastern shore of Virginia. This school was old and had no air conditioning. They also had no band or chorus room. Our classes were held in the auditorium on the stage and our lights were the stage lights. It was hot, I was nervous and I sweated a lot.

I was busily teaching some elements of music theory to my class. More specifically I was talking about music theory while the class ignored me and talked to each other. I was writing on the board and moving lower and lower.

I’m 6’5″. In order to write on the bottom of the board I need to squat down. As I squatted down on this hot, late August day I heard a loud ripping sound. The sound preceded a pleasant, cool breeze to my private parts, followed by a wave of terror.

Thinking on your feet

If you are going to survive as a teacher you’ll need to think on your feet. You have to be able to improvise. My pants were split, and it was not a small tear. Now what?

I paused, expecting to hear a reaction from the class. There was no way they could have missed that ripping sound. To me, it sounded like a buzz saw. But, the students hadn’t heard. Thankfully, they were so busy talking to each other, they hadn’t notice anything.

(A side note to my former students. Do you see what you missed by not paying attention. You could have such a good time laughing at your teacher!)

Anyway… I was in a crouched position, enjoying the cool breeze and looking at the students. I decided that I would stand up while keeping my back to the board. (Teachers, make sure you do your squats. Stay strong!) I made it into the upright position and taught the remainder of the class without the students noticing my ghastly wardrobe malfunction.

Being resourceful

A career teacher can’t run home every time something challenging happens. I had made it through the class, but there was a full day in front of me. I was living alone, with no one that I knew living near me. In other words, the cavalry was not going to charge in with another pair of pants and save me.

Once I was certain that all of the the students had stampeded out of the auditorium, I ducked into my office. What was I going to do? I couldn’t teach a whole day with my pants blown open.

As I stood, pondering my situation, I inventoried the items on my desk. Pencils, pens, legal pad, tape dispenser, stapler… STAPLER! I quickly dropped my britches around my ankles while grabbing the stapler. I reached down and deftly squeezed several staples into the seam of my pants.

Closing thoughts

The staples held and I am unashamed to say that I wore those pants several more times without getting the seem properly fixed. What can I say, the staples were doing a good job!

In some ways this story is a metaphor for teaching. Instruments will break at the last minute. Well crafted lessons will occasionally fall flat and you’ll need to find a quick fix in order to move forward.

Breathe, laugh, look at what you can do to adjust and above all…keep your wits about you.

Thanks for reading! For more on my first two years of teaching, click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *