Sunday, November 29, 2009

'Fess Up, Teachers!

I was going through my Sunday morning ritual of reading PostSecret. If you've never seen it, you should give it a look. It's a site where people confess their innermost secrets by sending them in on postcards with appropriate pictures and captions. This one caught my eye:

I must admit that this is not my postcard, as I don't teach elementary school and I hate Twilight. Personally, I would have watched Die Hard. But this postcard did get me thinking. We all have little teacher secrets we don't let on to everyone. I'll tell a few of mine.

Many years ago, I spilled a Coke on a set of unmarked tests. I was too embarrassed to admit what happened. The tests could never be marked or returned to parents, so I kind of put the students off until they forgot the test ever happened. It tooks months for them to stop asking.

I often read essays aloud in class when someone writes something great. I don't identify the writer unless they choose to be identified. Sometimes, I choose essays by shy kids, even if their papers are not the best ones. The students often look mortified, but I've had a few claim ownership of their papers, and I think it changed their lives in some way.

An mean spirited admin once came into my class and tried to tell one particular student what to do. I knew the kid, and I knew the admin was walking into a mine field, but I let it go. Sure enough, the student told the admin exactly where she could shove her walkie talkie, horizontally. I still laugh about it to this day.

So, those are a few of mine. If you'd like to share, please comment. I repectfully request that you don't post anything that could land you in the rubber room.


Anonymous said...

"Teachers tell me you're a funny guy, but you're never funny in class," said my first year mentor. He told me that Clifton Fadiman, a famous wit who starred on TV game shows in the 50's, started out as a Spanish teacher in Brooklyn. According to legend, Fadiman taught for 15 minutes and told jokes for the rest of the class. All of his kids passed Regents, so he got away with it.

Hoping to emulate Fadiman's success in my second year, I decided to lard my social studies classes with jokes. When we got to Judaism and Genesis in Global History, I opened with an Adam and Eve story: They got married and went on a honeymoon. When they returned to the Garden of Eden, Adam noticed that Eve was depressed. "Is there somebody else?" Adam asked. Replied Eve, "Who?" Usually the reaction was delayed.

The all-time favorite joke, mine as well as the kids', was worked into a lesson on Native Indian cultures, specifically their language diversity: A missionary priest was teaching English to a tribe of Indians. Since their language was not written down, he taught them by pointing to objects, saying the words in English, and having the Indians repeat the sounds. One day, he took the Chief out for a lesson, pointing to trees, deers, and streams. The Chief pronounced every word as best he could. Suddenly, they came to a clearing in the forest and they saw a naked couple messing around.

"What that?" asked the agitated Chief. The priest was nervous and befuddled. He didn't know what to say. Finally, he blurted out, "That's ... riding a bicycle." Instantly, the Chief pulled an arrow from his quiver, raised his bow, and shot the male Indian dead.

"Why did you do that?" screamed the priest.

"Riding MY bicycle," replied the Chief.

The kids howled. Every time a transfer student came aboard, the kids would yell out, "Tell him the joke about the bicycle."

How I avoided a ride to the rubber room for my risque teachable moments I'll never know.

Anonymous said...

Simple tip:
Photocopy the tests (after the Coke dries, of course).

Grade and return the tests.

(I've been there, done that [the above test-salvaging].)

Anonymous said...

TEACHER (to male student during probability lesson): When flipping a fair coin, what's the probability of getting head?

Anonymous said...

TEACHER (to female student during probability lesson): When flipping a fair coin, what's the probability of getting tail?

Anonymous said...

For twenty years I have been bantering with students in the classroom, sometimes going right up to the edge of what some admins would call "inappropriate" but the humor keeps the kids connected.
One kid contacted me years later and said that he still remembered my description of the semi-colon as the "18-hour Wonderbra" of punctuation that lifts and separates independent clauses (no hand gestures allowed at this point). That sort of thing can put life into some pretty dreary subjects.
Ironically, my first major run-in with administration has happened this year, when some so-called colleagues decided to make my life miserable. They are in tight with the admin, so the allegations tend to stick, and now I have to go through a long evaluation process to prove that I'm actually good at this job.
Dozens of kids have rallied behind me, including former students who sent supportive e-mails and letters to the admin asking them to give their collective heads a big shake.
A wise friend told me to stick to the classroom and let the kids heal me. Good advice.