A new crop of 7th graders now inhabits my classroom. They’re coltish, talkative, and desperate to master the art of sarcasm. Uh-huh. They’re not very good at it. I give them props for trying.
Needless to say, they are no match for me. But if they’d like to take me on, hey, I’m game. “Bring it,” I say, with a wink and a smile.
One of my classroom standards involves not using “vulgar” words. Curse words are obviously forbidden, but I do not wish to be subjected to vulgar (potty) expressions either. Like the word c-r-a-p.
I tell the students very nicely at the beginning of the year not to use this word. And then I wait, because it’s only a matter of time until it slips out. Sometimes the violation is of epic proportions. Today I’ll tell you about one of those times.
So last year during work time, one of my jolliest, most talkative students was rummaging for something in his messy desk. “I can’t find anything,” he complained, “because of all of the crap in here.”
“What?” I said, in my best shocked-teacher voice. He turned around. My eyes were twinkling, but I did not crack a smile. The other students’ heads came up in true “prairie dog” fashion. They knew to stay silent–or risk missing the show.
“Look,” I deadpanned, “it’s bad enough that we have ants in here. Are you telling me that we have feces too?” Feces is one of their science vocabulary words. Nevertheless, amid the stifled giggles, there were whispers of “What’s that?”
“No, I didn’t mean … there’s not really …” the student managed to say, between gusts of laughter. And then he said, “Oh, crap.” By now his classmates were close to losing it. Ah, but I am the master of the poker face.
I reached for the container of Lysol Wipes. “See this?” I said. “It says that it kills 99.9% of germs.” I put it on his desk. “Clean the number two up.” He doubled over with laughter.
But I wasn’t finished. “Next time,” I said somberly, “kindly excuse yourself and visit the men’s room. Instead of using your desk.”
As if on cue, the break bell rang. Mirth exploded. Into the hall my students fled, to wail with laughter and share the joke with the 6th graders.
I could have read those twelve-year-olds a lecture about vulgar speech and potty words. Instead I choose to be memorable. So much more effective, don’t you think?