Saturday, March 31, 2012

Reflections of a Retired Teacher
If the Shoe Fits
A Research-Based Approach
March 31, 2012

     Prologue:  For those educators who are sick of hearing that they must immediately implement a certain teaching practice because it’s “research-based,” here’s a true story with an idea for using this worn-out claim for a bit of personal classroom amusement. . .

     No one has ever tagged me as a fashion plate, but I have always aspired to being color coordinated.  This was certainly true of my classroom attire—nice suits with matching purses, jewelry, and shoes.  Oh, the shoes!

     For the first few years, I clipped around in those pointy-toed, spiked-heeled jobs that were all the rage in the late 60’s and into the 70’s.  They quickly proved to be an annoyance, especially when I was the designated pitcher for my 7th and 8th graders’ recess softball games.  With each new day in the classroom, the need to stay on one’s feet and in motion became more apparent.  One’s choice of shoes, I surmised, is directly related to the appearance of corns and calluses, which greatly affects one’s comfort level, which is closely associated to one’s classroom presence.  These facts were research-based.  The toe-smashing shoes on stilts had to go!

   Thus, I began collecting comfortable wide-width pumps with low stacked heels that were conducive to fast walking and slow running. Except for a few minor differences—square toes or round toes—every pair was essentially the same design.  As the years rolled along, I began leaning toward an emphasis on neutral colors, a tangible sign of my growing fashion maturity.  The bulk of my shoe stockpile was sensible beige.

     And then, one fine day in ‘89, the inevitable happened.

     Having completed my formal lesson presentation, I sat dangling my legs over the edge of my desk as I answered questions from my group of gifted sixth graders.  I clicked the the heels of my shoes together, punctuating my satisfaction with their intelligent interest. 

     Then, without raising his hand, a wide-eyed boy pointed in my direction and shouted, “Miss Whisnant, your shoes don’t match!”

     Huh?  My feet stopped swinging in mid-click.  I looked down.  I wiggled my toes and felt the same degree of comfort from both feet.  Both beige.  Wait a minute!  Slightly different shades.  One square toed.  One round toed!   Researched facts don’t lie.

     My shoes didn’t match.  Whoops!

     A group gasp from my audience sucked the air from the room.  Apparently their teacher was a dunce.

      Think fast, Margaret!

     “No,” I said.  “They do match.  These are designer shoes.  They made only two pairs, and I bought both of them.”

       I scanned my audience.  Some were still leaning forward, focused on the shoes, their mouths gaping.  A few were blinking in my direction.  Eyebrows started rising.  Some made eye contact and grinned.

     “Really,” I said.  “If you don’t believe me, I’ll wear the other pair tomorrow.  They’re at home in my closet.”
    A chorus of laughter re-oxygenated the air.   “Awwwwwwwww, Miss Whisnant,” one of them howled.  “You’re crazy!”

    They upgraded me from dunce.   They had to. Their decision was research-based.

   I will take responsibility for creating some of the goofiness in this world but I don’t apologize!  Time after time when I encounter my former students as adults, the conversation rarely centers on the subjects I taught.  Without fail, they begin reminiscing and laughing about some wacky incident that took place in my classroom.  

     Goofy is good.  Goofy is educational!    The happy moments you create for your students will live just as long and strong as any facts you teach!   Maybe even more.

     These truisms are research-based.   Go to your closet and start shuffling through your shoes.  You know what you have to do.


  1. Margaret, Your students were so lucky to have you as a teacher. Your wit and humor are always just what I need!

  2. Love this!! And so true! (and that's research based!)
    First Grade Blue SKies

  3. Your story is so funny and makes me feel like less of a dunce when I did the same thing, only I came to school with one black boot and one dark brown. It wasn't until 7th period journalism class (7th period!!!) that I sat down in a student chair in the computer lab, exhausted from running around all day trying to get the latest edition of the school newspaper finalized and uploaded to the printer, and looked down. I gasped when I saw I had two different shoes on! Then I laughed and asked my students if they had noticed. None had (or so they claim), but they started laughing so hard that it was 7th period before I had noticed. Looking at my feet, obviously, was the last thing on my mind that day.

    I felt so embarrassed, but you are so right: that moment of laughter was worth the embarrassment.

    1. Great minds do run in the same circles! You almost got by with it! I double dog dare ya to do it again on purpose to see if anybody notices

  4. I haven't had any mismatched shoes or clothing (well not accidentally anyway), but my VERY FIRST YEAR teaching, I did manage to get my feet tangled in a backpack while walking up an aisle of desks. I hit the floor with a SMACK, scratched one of my 7th grade boys on my way down, & my shoes flew off as I landed! A full second of silence was followed with uproarious laughter from my students & me! That 5th period class hasn't forgotten me!

    1. Your story rocks! Every teacher worth his/her salt has fallen over, on, under, or with something in the classroom--including students. I once kicked my chair aside to make more room for writing on the blackboard. At the end of the lesson I walked over to stand behind my desk my desk, ask if there were any questions, and sit down where my chair should have been! I know about that vaccuum of silence! Your story would make an excellent blog entry! Please send me a link when it's done.

  5. Oh... that made me giggle!!! Like you, I've worn two different shoes, but mine were black flats and it was a class of remedial science students (mostly boys) who pointed it out to me. Totally worth the laugh because for weeks afterwards they'd make a big deal of checking to see if my shoes matched.

    Someone should publish a book of embarrasing teacher moments... it'd would be a best seller!

    Teacher Talk

    1. Thanks, Addie! So glad I wrote this little essay. I'm learning that many teachers have had a bad shoes day! I think you're right about the book.

  6. Last year I went in with my shirt on INSIDE out! The kids didn't notice but one of my co-workers did. We shared a great laugh!

    1. I got a laugh out of your story myself! I'm not going to ask why or how that happened. OK. I lied. How and why did that happen?

  7. Thanks for the giggles,,,,,I too, remember the day I leaned too far in my chair, the chair went one way and I found myself under the reading table. My students suddenly became very quiet, when my assistant turned to see what happened, I happily waved to her from under the table. My students knew then, it was "OK" to laugh with the teacher!!

  8. Loved your story so much, Margaret!! I never wore two different shoes, but i did bend over to pick some long forgotten item up off the floor and my entire class heard my pants split down the back!

    1. Now that's what I call creating memories! Thanks for sharing, Amy.

  9. Omg! I am giggling at not only your story, but all the fabulous comments! I don't think I ever came to school with two different shoes, but I certainly have said some embarrassing things...OY vey! That's another story! Thanks for always making me smile!
    Secondary Solutions

  10. In my classroom, we say, "Friends don't let friends look foolish." That means a reminder that anything (teeth, zipper, nose, clothing, shoes, etc) needs attending to is best delivered by a concerned friend.
    I've done the mismatched shoe thing (and worse), and have always been touched when a student has said kindly, "I hate to tell you this but..." My colleagues are not as brave--and have let me look "disheveled" all day long!

    My ability to fall down on/in front of others is also legendary, but that's more than enough sharing for one day!

    I'm a new follower and I'm so glad I found you. I needed a chuckle today...

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

    1. Thanks Kim! So glad to have you as a new follower.

      I think teachers are better at "falling down in front of others" than any other profession. We are always on the go and have to be ready to change directions in a split second. No wonder we fall down a lot!