A Half-Truth That Bugs Me
Updated: Mar 23
One thing I've prided myself on as a teacher is that I have always strived to conduct myself with integrity, but there was one time I was definitely skirting the edge.
The school day was almost over when I saw it. In the under-seat bookrack of an unoccupied desk was a brown paper bag, undoubtedly a packed lunch that didn't get eaten.
At the time it didn't seem to be matter of importance, but that assumption would prove false in mere minutes when one of my students would accidentally bump into the desk holding the lunch bag and unleash a plague on the classroom.
For in that bag were not just two tangerines, but hundreds (thousands?) of fruit flies. The bell would ring in just thirty minutes, but right now my class was in chaos.
One of my students pulled her hoodie over her head and asked to leave the classroom out of fear of our tiny insect invaders. After telling her the bugs were harmless fruit flies, she seemed to come back to herself and settle down. But two minutes later, her hand would go up and ask again to leave the room.
At that point, I knew I either had to let her (and the entire class) leave... which was not an actual option or think of a solution fast.
To this day, I don't know how I thought of this on the fly (sorry, not sorry for the pun), but a slightly deceitful idea popped into my brain. I asked this student if she trusted me and she responded that she did.
I asked for her to give me ten seconds and I'd be right back. I grabbed an empty water bottle and filled it up in the water fountain just outside my classroom. Reentering the room, I handed her the bottle and told her to hold it over her head.
Naturally, she gave me a skeptical look. I asked her again if she trusted me and she replied, with a little more hesitation than the first time I asked, that she did.
I explained that it was physically impossible to fly underwater and that by holding the bottle over her head the fruit flies would keep their distance. She reluctantly raised the bottle and held it over her head.
Two minutes later, her other hand went up. "Mr. Speight, I thought you were messing with me, but this is really working," she said.
"See? I tried to tell you that nothing can fly underwater. I'm glad to hear it's helping you," I said trying not to smirk.
Then the unexpected happened. Another student asked if they could fill up a bottle. Then another. Others pulled water bottles out of their bags.
Nearly everyone was now holding a water bottle over their head... save a couple of silent students who caught on to my wordplay early and weren't buying it.
The day had nearly ended when one of my skeptical scholars raised their hand and said, "You cannot let them go home believing this." The gig was up.
The entire class shot daggers at me with their eyes. I shook my head and said I hadn't been fully honest with them. I explained, "What I told you was true. It is physically impossible to fly underwater. A lot of things can swim, some things sink, but nothing can fly underwater."
I still feel a little bad for my slightly deceptive approach, but ultimately creative problem-solving saved the day. My students stayed in the classroom (which was really our only logistical option), were able to finish everything they needed to get completed, and were able to ignore the annoying bugs (thank you placebo effect).
Harvard Business School defines Creative Problem-Solving as a process one can utilize to find creative solutions to problems with an unknown cause through separate processes of divergent and convergent thinking and implementing the plan. It is a transferrable skill that teachers in all academic settings possess in spades and it will undoubtedly serve us well as we venture into new fields like Instructional Design.
Ever have to think on your feet like this or use creative problem-solving in your classroom experience? Let me know in the comments below.