My teaching days are a veritable goldmine for ridiculousness. That one time I maybe sort of lost a colleague’s son in Manhattan, that one time the sixty year-old tour guide at Gettysburg asked me out in front of my students, the countless number of ridiculous things my seventh graders said and did, these are all fantastic stories.
And the time I had to explain why a stained dress was so important.
Career Day can be kind of boring, and so my fellow teachers and I worked really hard to get as many fascinating characters as possible to visit our students. Our population was extremely diverse, many immigrants, many students receiving free or reduced lunch, and so it was extra important to show our kids how many doors were open to them.
During the months leading up to the event, we touched base with a wide variety of professions, some parents of students, some friends of teachers. There were musicians, doctors, an architect, a sound engineer, a police officer, and even a juvenile parole officer, who hilariously knew a few of my students through their after school mishaps. We encouraged all of the speakers to bring visual aids, handouts, and multimedia presentations were also strongly encouraged.
We did not anticipate what happened next.
The day had gone pretty brilliantly – my students were behaving professionally and dare I say they were genuinely engaged and interested. Their questions were thoughtful and polite, and there were a minimal number of disruptions. The students returned from lunch for their afternoon sessions, and I sat in the back as the next presenter set up his slideshow.
Special Agent whoever he was of the FBI had a lot to teach my kids. He wasn’t so enthused to divulge the details of how one becomes an agent, however, he was completely focused on sharing image after image of….crime scenes.
To my seventh graders.
Now, these guys were not exactly innocent little tulips, most of them being experts at Grand Theft Auto and having memorized Scarface. But we teachers were paralyzed in that moment, unable to redirect the speaker who was as clueless as one can be.
And then his final slide. Boy howdy, he was proud of this one. This was the jewel in his little special agent crown – an image that had yet to be widely seen, as this was before the dawn of high-speed internet and Google Image searches.
Projected on the white board was an evidence photo of Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress.
Admittedly, the adults in the room were intrigued and probably took too long to shut off the projector because yes, it was impressive. Gross, but impressive. I definitely bragged to friends after the fact. But we were quickly snapped back to reality as the questions began. Why is her dress up there? Hey Miss, that looks like that dress you wore yesterday! Why was President Clinton in trouble? WHAT IS THAT WHITE SPOT.
I guess Special Agent man had never met a kid or been one, because he was pretty disappointed in the general reaction. And while those of us in charge tripped over all of our words conducting damage control, we telepathically communicated our regrets to one another for not requiring a preview of presentations.
That mistake would not be made again. And if nothing else, the dress did distract them from all the bloody knives and such.