In his upcoming autobiography, Paul Galvin describes in detail what happened the day he accidentally struck a pupil with a duster.
Galvin was wiping down the blackboard when his class entered the room. At the back of the room, a group of them started using their chairs and desks 'in unison' to make as much noise as possible.
Without turning around I stopped wiping the blackboard. Usually this would have been enough for me to get the message across.
The noise continued. These boys were normally well-behaved and didn’t need to be told anything twice. I knew them well. We got on well. The games continued with the desks and chairs behind my back.
This time I asked for silence, again without turning around. The games continued however. After asking for silence more of them joined in to add to the chorus and make an even louder din. I was disappointed that they were being sneaky while my back was turned. The novelty of the new desks had obviously gotten the better of them. If this was to be the new practice I’d be in for a long year.
The noise continued and Galvin started pondering what could be done to get them to shut up.
I felt I had to nip this in the bud. As I wiped the board I thought about throwing the duster in my hand at the back wall.
A warning shot. Then I thought better of throwing it and kept wiping the board. I needed to do something to halt this. It was the type of misbehaviour that can escalate and undermine you quickly. Usually, if I really wanted to make a point in class I’d whisper it. To the class generally or in the ear of an individual.
Whispering wouldn’t solve this problem. The din grew louder. Without looking I threw the duster aiming for the back wall behind me. It flew to my left at an angle you couldn’t imagine. It hit the side wall to my left about two desks down a row of six desks. It landed a few feet away from me. That wasn’t all. It ricocheted and hit a boy on the head. If I tried to do it again a million times I couldn’t. It was a freak occurrence. I was as shocked as anyone in the class. I immediately apologised.
The pupil in question, Galvin continues, wasn't even among those making the noise. Galvin contends that the boy 'was calm and accepted my apology.' He took the boy to the principal's office and informed him of what happened.
We then drove to his house. I walked him inside with my principal and explained everything to his mother first and then his father, who arrived later.
I was disappointed but mostly sorry for the boy. It was irresponsible of me to do what I did, but not atypical of me to do something unconventional. What happened shouldn’t have happened. Of course I am sorry it did.
Galvin admits to be a somewhat idiosyncratic teacher. In the book, he recounted how he hung from the steel beams on the ceiling as his students entered the room. Not one of them noticed him up there. After they were all sat in their chairs, talking noisily among themselves, he dropped down to the floor, breezily telling them to 'open their books, guys, let's go it's time for class.'
... letting on like it’s the most normal thing in the world to drop from the ceiling. The look on the boys’ faces was priceless. ‘Jeeeeeeesus, he just came down from the ceeeeeeilin’ . . .’ That got their attention.