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Tell us about a time when you managed to extract yourself from a sticky situation at the very last minute.

I can’t think of anything that fits the bill. The only episode I can think of is a situation in which I found myself, and without help I couldn’t have “escaped.”

About 5 years ago, I changed jobs, and began teaching at a different elementary school, K-8. I teach computers, and had a problem with kids rolling around in their “office” chairs. (Rolling chairs in a classroom aren’t a good idea.) I also had a problem being the “new” teacher, and with older kids, especially, trying to see how much they could get away with. One of my first rules problems was that traveling in chairs was not allowed. As I walked around the room to help people with their tasks I would, I rolled kids back into the space if they has decided to move around to chat — 7th and 8th graders would rather do that than anything. If had to remind someone too many times, I’d take their chair away for the rest of the class period. Other teachers will relate to chatty middle-schoolers!

I like to use humor in the classroom to make a point, or to diffuse a confrontation (between me and the student). I don’t belittle students or embarrass them and don’t shout at students in anger. If I have a problem with a particular student, I call them to my desk or just outside the door and discuss it privately with them. In fact, generally, it take an awful lot to make me angry.

One day, only a few months after the year began, I was called to the principal’s office. Yes, that scares teachers, too. She told me that a student had complained to his parents that I had pushed his chair forcefully into his desk and hurt him. She also said that this student said I had hit another student over the head with a water bottle. The parents were convinced I was being a bully and was unfit to teach. The truth is that I did tap an amusing 8th grader on the head with an empty water bottle when he said something funny-sassy. We both laughed.

The rest was pure fiction, didn’t happen. Since I was new to the school, the principal had to make a judgment and a decision. She listened to me — and told me she would talk with the parents. They still wanted a meeting with me and the principal together. It was one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve ever sat through. They were mad, and believed their son. They wanted me fired, and the alluded to legal action. The principal stood firm, defended me, and said it would not happen again. They weren’t happy, and of course I lived in fear for a few weeks. It blew over, wasn’t mentioned again. But it left a me feeling defensive and vulnerable.

The irony (and justice) of this is that the student did return for 8th grade. He and a few other guys (including the one I “hit over the head with a water bottle”, became my lab lingerers, stopping by to visit and chat with me after lunch, or between classes. The continually amused me, and by the end of the year I had a special place in my heart for all of them.

I have never been so grateful to another person for putting her faith in me, and standing up to others on my behalf.