Saturday, February 17, 2007

Funny things happened on the way...

As I get closer to maternity leave, I've been reflecting on my past two years as a teacher. I work in a public high school, which at times can be frustrating, rewarding, challenging, hilarious, heartwarming, surprising, and usually all of those and more all at once. I thought I'd share some of my favorite "lighter moments," mostly because I was thinking of them this morning while laying in bed unable to go back to sleep. I apologize if I appear to be making fun of any of my students. Sometimes, all you can do is laugh.

  • Last year, I had a new student, a short, wiry kid who was new to the school. He liked to wear basketball jerseys of famous players. One day, as he was walking in front of me in the hall, I noticed he had a large, very expensive price tag sticking out of the back of his Michael Jordan jersey. My first thought was that perhaps his parents never told him to take off the tags before you wear something, and I said "You might want to stick that tag back in your shirt." He replied, "But I want everyone to know how much it costs!"
  • While reading Homer's Odyssey last semester, we came across the description of Odysseus pouring out a libation to summon the departed as he enters the Land of the Dead. My students, unable to understand the concept of "libation," asked me to explain it a little further. So I used an illustration I thought they'd connect with-- pouring a 40 out on a street corner for a friend who had been shot, like in Tupac's song. THEN they got it.
  • Recently, while watching the Zepherelli film version of Romeo and Juliet, we came to the scene in Act III where Romeo and Juliet wake up after their first night together as a married couple. I fully expected them to giggle at the partially unclothed scenes, but I didn't expect what one female student exclaimed: "It's too early in the morning for this!" "Too early for what?" I asked. "For the kissing and stuff! It's gross!" At first, in my confusion, I thought she was meaning it was too early in the morning to WATCH such a display of affection (it wasn't even 9:30 yet), but then she added, "What about morning breath? Ewww." Ah, ha. "Just wait until you're married," I told her, "You'll understand one day."

  • One of my ninth grade classes can be, how shall I put this, a bit "unruly" at times. On one such occasion, we were attempting to have a class discussion when a silly argument broke out among the students and they began behaving more like 3 year-olds than teenagers, with some yelling and "nya-nyas" thrown in for good measure. A bit frustrated after it continued despite my efforts to steer the conversation back to whatever topic we were supposed to be discussing, I sighed and noted that "Sometimes, some of you make me think that the phrase 'mature ninth grader' will always be an oxymoron." One young lady immediately raised her hand in disgust. (I have to mention here that her mother is a former English teacher.) "Mrs. Redd, you can't call us that!" "Excuse me?" I replied. "Mrs. Redd, I'm going to tell--you just called us all morons!"

    Other students actually had to explain it to her repeatedly before she got it. Now, everytime we bring up "oxymoron" in class as an actual literary term, that same student haughtily exclaims, "Remember when you called us morons?" I suppose students these days like to remind others of their ignorance?! (Actually, that's probably true. They don't care if they get called on and don't know the answer. In fact, sadly, they are often proud of not knowing something. Sigh.)

  • Earlier in my pregnancy, at about 7 months, the topic of my huge ice-water-filled QT mug somehow came up in my World Lit class (I should post a picture someday--the 1-inch thick insulated plastic mug really is bigger than my head). One young lady asked, "Is that filled with coffee? Mrs. Redd, can you drink coffee or hot tea when you're pregnant?" Another student, a new father himself recently wise in the ways of pregnant women , answered for me: "Well, you're not supposed to have caffeine but you can drink decaf and I think you can have like one cup a day..." "No!" the first student exclaimed, "I mean, like hot soup. If you eat hot soup, won't it burn the baby?" Amid our laughter (I couldn't help myself), another girl answered her: "Of course not! The baby's in a protective sac in her stomach!"

    I think we exhausted a good ten minutes that day at those poor girls' expense explaining concepts they should've grasped in their mandatory health class the year before. I remember distinctly pointing to my abdomen saying, "Your stomach is up here, while your uterus is lower down, here. Although on me, it's encroaching upon my rib cage at the moment!"

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