1. Don't speak in anger.
2. Never shy away from a teachable moment.
3. Find the funny. The funny will keep you alive.
That's it. I don't always accomplish all 3 every day, but I make the attempt and I apologize when I'm not successful. Especially when I don't accomplish #1. I've probably apologized to more 12 year olds than any other group of people on Earth.
I do believe, however, in the teachable moment, and I find myself sometimes teaching lessons that I never planned (see examples: here, here, and also here). I also don't tend to shy away or ignore topics that kids seem to be/show to be misunderstanding. I like honest answers, and I don't think there's anything wrong with answering the "tough" questions as long as you speak respectfully, intelligently, and without personal bias.
On Wednesday, my 3rd period had a 5 minute discussion on how one of the student's sentences --
"Joe, a black student, was sitting in class" was not a racist statement but that their continual assumption that I like country music and NASCAR because I'm white might be.
(For the record, *Joe, is in fact, a black student, and he created that sentence himself. Also, for the record, it's a pretty funny story to tell, but in trying to recreate it in teleplay form, every last one of us just came off looking terrible.)
It's also how, during today's assignment, I discovered that my students didn't know the name of one of our mustachioed teachers and have been calling him "Dr. Phil" for the last 4 months.
You be the judge.
For the record, these kids don't have this teacher, so I don't really believe that they're trying to be mean-spirited. Unless he really hates Dr. Phil, I suppose. Then it would be mean.
Still... Tuesday's teachable moment is going to be all about introducing yourself and learning people's actual names as a sign of respect.
Never. A. Dull. Moment.