On Friday I taught with a teacher who tried to shame three classes of completely unshameable students. It wasn’t pretty. The kids wear these polyester track suits and their chairs are slick, so they routinely fall out of their seats, and then they just get back on them. They’re those kind of kids. They’re first year junior high kids. They don’t really look embarrassed when they fall out of their seats, and some of them kind of look like they enjoyed it. So that is who she was trying to shame.
So trying to shame people who are not prone to feeling shame takes an incredible amount of time and energy, I’ve noticed, and this teacher has not had a single day off in a month. She also has to work every Saturday and Sunday in June. I had to stand next to her while she was talking and look out into the class. I kept thinking, God I wonder what they’re thinking right now. I know I was thinking, I wish she would stop talking, and this sweater smells funny. It was one of those speeches where she would say, Do you think you can learn this on your own? Really? And then she would say, well maybe Emily and I won’t come to class then, and you can learn it on your own. This kept catching my attention. Each time I would think, Really? Could we do that? But it didn’t seem like the time to ask her if she was serious.
So we get to the third class, and I look out while she’s talking, and I see the leader of the class. He’s one of those boys who is always coming into the office with a scratched cornea or a skinned knee, and this week he broke out in a puffy rash all over his neck and back. It should be said that he doesn’t always shut his mouth all the way and that when the teachers say his name, they sigh it. So yesterday while the teacher was giving her third consecutive shaming speech he was slowly rubbing in an anti-itch cream into his arm pit as a covert way of scratching the itch. This lasted for 45 minutes, and his mouth was open the whole time.