Monday, June 6, 2011

Summer vacation isn't the only benefit to teaching--you learn new profantity too!

Whenever people ask me if I like teaching, my standard response is to make the Jenna Marbles face.

(If you haven’t seen the video explaining the face, go watch this video immediately. It’s only like 3 minutes and hilarious. She’s my new hero.)

That usually ends the conversation.

But some people just aren’t deterred by the face and want an explanation of why I feel that way.

Which means I have to explain, and the answer is super complicated.

Why? Because there are a lot of things about teaching that are mind-numbingly, soul-crushingly awful. Like grading. And waking up in time to be there when school starts at 7:25. And teaching the same thing period after period, day after day, year after year to the kids who didn’t bother reading the books you’re teaching and couldn’t care less who Atticus Finch or Hamlet or Jay Gatsby are.

But that’s also not the whole answer. Because there are great parts too.

Like having summers off.

No really. That part is awesome. It’s everything you always thought it would be. It’s like when you were a kid, but better. And it’s coming in less than two weeks.

Be jealous.

But there are also the kids, who, for the most part, are awesome. Granted, I teach high school kids, who are almost like people. Almost. I mean, okay, they’re not QUITE there yet, but you can usually have a real conversation with them and they very seldom pick their noses or have potty-training accidents in MY classes at least.

And probably the best part about teaching is that I learn something new every single day.

Which can also be a crappy part of teaching. Like the day I had to learn that you can’t accidentally say a certain word in front of ninth graders without them running home to tell mommy and daddy what Miss Goodman said in class. Learning that one sucked.

Although most of what I learn at school isn’t totally school appropriate. But that’s what makes that aspect of the job so much fun.

For example, last week, I learned a new word: “asswich.” Now, as an English teacher, when a kid introduces me to a new word, I want to make sure that I fully understand its meaning and correct usage. So I made the kid define it. He told me that it’s a noun that originated as a combination of a part of the human anatomy and the word sandwich and, to the best of his knowledge, was first used by his father. I then asked him to use it in a sentence. He asked another student for a piece of gum, was refused (as he knew he would be), and said to the other student, “Come on, stop being such an asswich and give me a piece of gum!”

That’s my favorite new one to use in traffic. I taught it to my dad that afternoon as well. And used it just yesterday when my computer wasn’t working right. (And definitely used it to describe Steve Jobs as I had to go to my parents’ house to use a PC to get my next book ready to be uploaded for the Kindle. Yes, Steve Jobs, you’re an asswich.)

I’ve also learned some great life lessons from my kids. Like when we were reading A Streetcar Named Desire (one of my personal favorites) and I asked the kids why Stella stays with Stanley after he hits her. I was looking for something along the lines of because she has low self-esteem.

(I would have also accepted anyone saying because, at least in the movie version, Stanley was REALLY freaking hot!)

So I ask the question and a kid raises his hand, extremely politely, and waits to be called on. I call on him and he, very calmly and still very politely tells me that Stella stays because “Bitches be schemin’.”

I tried to keep a straight face. I really and truly did. And I’d love to say that I succeeded. But I didn’t.

And when you think about it, considering the end of the play, that’s not actually a terrible answer.

Of course, then it became the answer to every question I asked in class. And as I eventually realized, that’s actually a really good answer to almost any question you could possibly ask.

“Why do the Duke and the Dauphin turn Jim in in Huckleberry Finn?”

“Because bitches be schemin’.”

“Why does Lady Macbeth convince her husband to kill King Duncan?”

“Because bitches be schemin’.”

“Why doesn’t Daisy Buchanan have any real intention of leaving her husband?”

“Because bitches be schemin’.”

"Why does Rosie poop on my rug when she's mad at me?"

(That one works on two levels!)

“Why isn’t the iPhone 5 coming out until September when I need a new phone now?”

You get the idea.

They’ve also shown me my favorite YouTube videos. Like Sassy Gay Friend.

If you don’t know who he is yet, you’re really going to need to watch his videos. Basically, they take a lot of the classic tragedies (and some modern stories) and explain how the entire tragedy could be avoided with the help of a Sassy Gay Friend. He tells Juliet Capulet that she’s a 14-year-old idiot who took a roofie from a priest, tells Ophelia to go write in her journal instead of killing herself over Hamlet, and tells Lady Macbeth that her problem is that she needs a hobby or an orgasm right now.

In other words, he’s awesome.

And he’s also a character in half of the skits that my kids did in class last week when they had to take characters from different books we’d read this year and have them meet in a skit.

Which brings me to one of the other important things I learned this year: Google is the root of all evil in our society today.


Because when we were watching the videos of the skits in class, one group had Stanley Kowalski standing in the street yelling. Except instead of yelling “Stella,” he was yelling “Sara” and instead of standing in front of Elysian Fields in New Orleans, he was standing in front of MY house.

I hate you Google. I really do.  Stop giving out my address to my students.

You’re a serious asswich sometimes.

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