Slice of Life: Unexpected Chaos

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I don’t know all the details. The entire sixth grade class was outside for a short recess and I was in the office when a call came in over the walkie-talkie about a student falling off the slide, and landing on their head. The nurse rushed by me with a wheelchair.

As the class came in from the outside, I heard murmurs about the incident, with some students telling me that another student had pushed the fallen student off the top of the slide, on purpose.

The next class period in my classroom was chaotic, as the student who fell is a member of that class and all of their friends were worried (I am purposefully writing gender-free here, to protect privacy). Some students got called down midway through class to talk about what happened on the slide to the vice principal, further disrupting the learning.

I did my best to acknowledge the incident in very general terms — expressing concern for the student who had been hurt — without opening up the classroom to accusations. I had the sense that any opening about the incident could easily turn my classroom into a courtroom.

Unfortunately, this particular class needs very little distraction to get off-track – nearly every day requires a command performance to keep the lessons going forward — and I spent the entire hour trying to keep them on task with our reading and our game design project. I can’t say I was all that successful.

The ambulance pulling into the school driveway just outside my window didn’t help. It just made us all more worried and concerned, and for the fallen student’s friends, even more angry. I kept the calm as best as I could.

A note later from the vice principal confirmed some of the incident that students had suggested to me in the hallways, about the push seeming to be intentional (but probably not the severity of the injury). Some things are hard to explain, difficult to understand. The impulsiveness of adolescents is a known and yet surprising part of child development.

I just hope my fallen student is doing OK.

Peace (on the playground),


  1. I hope s/he is okay. I know the feeling of “those classes” that are easily distracted and some days it just seems like everything conspires against focus…

  2. Oh Kevin!

    It must be traumatic for some of your students.

    Were you able to use this incident as a jumping point to discuss the need of kindness and being safe in playground? Ir would it have created added unnecessary chaos in the classroom?

    Being a novice teacher, I would appreciate if you share with us how you dealt with this incident & aftermath.

    Best wishes.


    • We did talk about the incident, but only briefly, as I didn’t know enough at the time to guide discussion. There have been talks about playground safety, but this was something a bit different, and it was dealt with by our administration.

  3. Such are the uncertainties of the school day Kevin. Such matters test our adaptability. The truth of such situations is often elusive until the very end. Your inner thoughts as you negotiated this part of your day were easy to recognize for those of us who teach. Breathe in, breathe out, move on as Jimmy Buffett once wrote. A revealing slice of life.

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