It was the fall of 1987, and I was many months pregnant with my second child. I hadn’t gained that much weight, but since I’m only five feet tall, it didn’t take much weight for me to appear almost as wide as I was tall. In fact, I was so “round” that one of my senior girls had nicknamed me “Weeble Woman.” Perhaps you remember the roly-poly toys with the weighted bottoms and the advertising slogan, “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”? Yeah, although certainly not complimentary, that was a fairly accurate (and quite creative) description of my physical appearance at the time.
But I digress.
As any pregnant or previously pregnant woman can attest, those final months of pregnancy can be a tremendous torment on a tiny bladder, necessitating frequent (and sometimes urgent) trips to the ladies room. As a high school teacher, I was limited to the four-minute segments between class periods, so every fifty minutes I would wobble my way from my classroom near the end of the hall to the faculty restroom at the top (praying with every step that there wouldn’t be a line!).
Following one of those trips, I came back to my classroom to find that two of my boys had gotten into a fist fight during my brief absence, and the teacher across the hall had had to break them apart. I couldn’t possibly postpone my restroom trips between classes, but I could no longer trust those boys to be in my classroom while I was gone, either–so I started locking my classroom door and making my students wait in the hall until I got back. Bad idea.
One particular day is forever scorched into my memory. On this day I locked my classroom door before my sixth hour class and hurried up the hall as fast as my little Weeble Woman legs would carry me. The restroom door was closed, and one person was in line in front of me–oh please hurry, hurry, hurry! A moment of genuine panic preceded the final opening of the door and the gush of sweet relief (I know you know the feeling!).
In my rush to get back to class before the tardy bell, I made a terrible mistake–I somehow managed to unknowingly tuck the back of my dress into the top of my pantyhose! And then I hurriedly wobbled from the restroom at the top of the hallway to my classroom at the bottom (walking right past the high school principal who had to have seen my predicament but chose not to advise me!). I sashayed down that hallway with my big ol’ EXPOSED pregnant butt swaying in the breeze behind me for all the world to see (or at least a couple hundred of its teenaged inhabitants). I was told later that one of my senior girls (the same one who had given me the nickname) witnessed the spectacle and thought it was so funny that she ran ahead of me and into every classroom to inform the other students of what they were missing so they could run out into the hallway and see Weeble Woman’s downfall for themselves.
And then I made it to my classroom door, where my students (mostly boys) were waiting for me to unlock the door. A few snickered as I maneuvered in front of them with my key (I didn’t know why), but no one said a word–until the soft-spoken, gentlemanly math teacher from next door came up to my desk and whispered ever so meekly into my ear, “You might want to check the back of your dress.”
That was 23 years ago, and I can laugh about it now, but back then I was so mortified that I prayed for nothing less than to fall into a deep, deep hole and remain there until a freak electrical storm could somehow surge through my students’ brains and erase their collective memories of those few moments. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but they did eventually tire of making me the “butt” of their jokes (either that or my pregnancy hormones kicked into overdrive and they soon realized that I could inflict much more pain and suffering than they could!).
That certainly wasn’t the only time I embarrassed myself in front of my students, but most of the other occurrences paled in comparison–like the time I fell on a stair (that’s right, just one little stair, and I lacked the grace to step down from it successfully) or the time I wore one blue shoe with one black shoe. And then there was the time I was reading aloud to my world lit class and somehow misread the word “peninsula,” replacing it with a word more frequently used to refer to a certain part of the male anatomy (yeah, you can figure it out). The room was deadly silent; no one laughed–no one even smiled. I was horrified–until I realized they weren’t laughing because they weren’t even paying attention! (Sometimes boredom and inattention can be welcome in the classroom after all.)
And then there was the time I made a reference to Karate Kid in front of my yearbook class that was so inadvertently bad that I can’t even write about it–suffice it to say that every girl in that thankfully small class was laughing hysterically, and the only boy in class was literally rolling in the floor. I could do nothing but put my head down on my desk, hiding my mascara-streaked, crimson face until the hysteria subsided (which took a long, long time!).
Over the years I learned at least as much from my students as they ever learned from me, and from my many embarrassing moments I learned a few things as well. Most importantly, I learned to laugh and not to take myself so seriously. (I wish I could have learned that lesson much sooner!) I also learned never to exit a restroom without first checking that all items of clothing are properly placed and suitably secured.
And I learned to be forever grateful (hallelujah and amen!) that my years in the classroom preceded YouTube and the advent of cell phones with cameras and video capabilities!