Be vulgar at your own risk!

Last year's class arranging word magnets
Last year’s class arranging word magnets

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.”

Some of last year's girls
Some of last year’s girls

“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?

Laura Hile (1)

11 thoughts on “Be vulgar at your own risk!

  1. Yes! Yes! Yes! YOU are a master teacher! My disallowed phrase was the S word. You know, the SH… Word. The other phrase for BE QUIET. I think that is so disrespectful for anyone to say at home or school, whether child or adult.


  2. Poor kids. They really are at a disadvantage here, aren’t they? *giggles* Well, at least they’ll have a very good understanding of sarcasm and its effectiveness before the end of the year.


  3. Like the other Denise, I didn’t let my students say the other words for “be quiet.” I would love to come observe your classroom. You are influencing so many lives and one day your students will realize what gifts you have given them.


  4. Well done. Having substituted at this grade level, and I have to add that 8th grade was the worse, I can appreciate a teacher who knows how to use sarcasm to get a point across. It works so well.


  5. I love the tactic! Kill them with kindness, or laughter 😉 I can only imagine the hundreds of stories you would have after only a year of 7th graders! Thank you for sharing this gem!


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