At the start of class, students are working on a bellringer assignment, just a little something to get them going. The room is humming with the white noise signaling the start of class--a couple of quiet conversations are finishing up, papers are rustling, desks are shifting. Nothing major, nothing too distracting, nothing to yell about.
Still, two girls almost simultaneously ask a boy to please shut up. "What?" he asks, "Why do you have to gang up on me like that?" Basicially, he had been minding his own business, making some clicking noise with his tongue, probably unconsciously.
"That's annoying," one of the girls says.
"Yeah," the other says. "Annoying!"
I walk over. "I'll tell you what's annoying," I say, ready to tell them about all the other noise going on, about the rudeness of telling someone to shut up, about students not working.
"What annoys you?" the tongue-clicker asks me. "Black people?"
"Oh never mind," I say and walk away.
Minor annoyances occur every day. How you handle them says a lots about your teaching. Some teachers get worked up over the tiniest little thing, the quietest little "fuck you" or other sign of disrespect. These days, I make it a point to ignore the ignorant. But it reminds me of when I was in high school. I remember thinking it hilarious when a friend and I started making pigeon noises in the back of the room. It was junior year English (the very same level I now teach) with a boring teacher that didn't really seem to know what she was doing. We figured we were probably driving her absolutely crazy. We also thought we were doing a pretty solid bird call.
When I think about it now, I realize the teacher probably heard us, probably knew exactly who was doing it. And she probably simply chose to ignore us.