The School of Hard Knocks

By Steven Law

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, April 26 2013 8:00 p.m. MDT

“Whoa! Whoa!” I yelled. “I meant sit anywhere on the carpet!”

But it was too late now, for third graders follow Newton’s Third Law of Motion which states, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

But the third graders had met a force that was not equal to its own. It was the force of a china shop versus the force of a bull. I was the china shop. The realization, I must say, came as a bit of a surprise to me. So even though I protested and urged them to return to the carpet, my protestations went unheeded.

There was only one garbage can left, and some kid made straight for it.

One kid climbed up on top of the stand-alone supply closet and sat there. There was room for three more up there so three more kids climbed up and joined him. The rest of the kids were running around in hysterics trying to find a place cooler than a garbage can or the top of a coat rack. Somebody hid under their desk. Another kid climbed to the top of the coat rack and sat on top of it.

“Stop! Stop!” I yelled again. “Alright stop! You guys are being crazy.”

But they kept running around. There would have been no less chaos if I had released a colony of wasps in the room.

“I’m going to count to five and wherever you are when I’m done counting that’s where you have to stay while I read the story! One . . .”

This turned the whole thing into a game. A teacher-sanctioned game! And the countdown was the cue for everyone to jump up from where they were and run around even more. The kids in the garbage cans jumped out of the garbage cans and looked for new places, the kids on top of the supply closet and coat rack jumped off and ran around looking for new places.

“Two . . .”

And now, with the garbage cans and top of the coat rack and supply closet suddenly available, other kids bolted straight for them and climbed into the garbage cans and tops of the coat rack, and supply closet.

“Three . . .”

One kid hid himself in the coats pulling them over himself.

“Four. Find a place.”

Last second of pandemonium.

“Five!” I yelled, and everyone froze in their spot like we had been playing freeze tag. If they were in the motion of running, which most of them were, they froze in a running position.

“Okay,” I said, “Now, stay where you are and I’ll read the story.”

I opened up the book. Cleared my throat. “The Politically Correct Spider Befriends a Fly.”

My classroom shared a wall with another third grade classroom at Dante Elementary.

I made it to about page four before the other third grade teacher poked her head in the door to see who was banging on her wall. It turns out that the four kids sitting on top of the supply closet were swinging their feet, and in the process they were kicking the wooden doors of the closet, which sounded loudly in the other classroom.

She opened the door to see four students sitting on top of the supply closet, three students in trash cans, three on top of the coat rack, one hidden among the coats, two or three of them scrunched beneath their desks like an earthquake drill, and the rest of them frozen in a running position. Only Helpful Helen, Sweet Sara and Mindy Manners remained on the carpet. I was on the chair reading them a story.

“What is going on in here?” she demanded. “Get off that coat rack! Get out of those garbage cans! Everyone go back to the carpet.”

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