Saturday, June 4, 2011


When I was in the 10th grade, my history teacher drew a quick sketch of Europe on the board that looked nothing like Europe. It looked like a penis. It is with half-hearted conviction that I assume there MUST exist a group of 16-year-olds in the world who could have skipped over this blatant anatomical reference and continued on their merry Eurolearning way. But these clean minds were not among us. And thus the giggling commenced. Like a stadium slow clap, two or three chuckles turned into seven, which turned into an entire room of moderately stifled (read: obnoxiously blatant) laughter.

Eight years later, this sophomoric display comes up at least once a year at gatherings of my high school friends.

Lull in conversation.

Kevin: "Oh man guys, 'member that time with the board and Ms. H and the penis?"

Everyone else: "Bahahahahahaha."

Cue continuous laughter and repetition of the phrase "good times," which eventually ebbs into sighs and staring off into space yearning for a time when there was food in the fridge and a washer/dryer in the house.

In careful retrospect, it seems that the humor was only half due to the game of Penis Pictionary at play on the whiteboard. The rest of the hilarity was in laughing at (not with) our teacher for her delightfully prude mistake - watching as she tried to figure out if she had something on her face or sweat stains in her armpits or toilet paper on her shoe or a penis on the board. Cruel, I know. But there's no sugarcoating teenage manipulations.

All of this is to suggest that grasping at innuendo in the classroom is no 21st century phenomenon. It's age old, I'm sure. (I'm now picturing a young Ben Franklin snickering at an off-kilter wig or a carelessly exposed ankle). All of that said, there has been no greater catalyst, nay propulsion, of the tendency to find sex in everything than "that's what she said." "She" has had a very very busy last couple of years. And sadly, "she" gets no break in the classroom.

"She" apparently loves hard problems. Long problems. "She" loves to mispronounce the number six. "She" loves 23*3 and 98-29 and (in case you're still not following), 60+9. "She" loves games played with balls (most word problems borrowed from any math sources involve AT LEAST three word problems that involve ball-play). "She" loves when the floor is wet or when the wind is blowing. She loves bananas and coconuts and cucumbers and hot dogs. At this point, I could go on, but I've now shoved your brain into the gutter and I would like to help you retrieve it.

My wonderful roommate is also teacher. And most days when we come home, after we've collapsed on the couch and put on our PJs at 5:30pm, we just trade stories about new words we're not allowed to use. This year, she read the Dickens classic "Hard Times" with her 10th graders. I'm pretty sure she almost decided to teach the book in sign language so that no one ever had to say the title. Her students, bless their dirty dirty minds, were relentless. I think it took an extra week to get through the book just due to all the "she"-based demerits she had to give. Problematic to say the least.

I yearn for the days when all teachers had to fear was an accidental euro-penis drawing or a little spinach in the teeth. I'm considering an "urban dictionary"-like invention called "Teacher Speak" or "All the words to cut out of your vocabulary before you ever step into the Hormone Zone." I feel that I'm just beginning to master the conversion to "challenging" problems instead of "hard" ones, 23*4 instead of *3 and curling, rowing and hockey in word problems instead of anything played with a ball.

As for stifling my own laughter when a student goes to the gutter? Better luck next year, Pace. Also - I am truly sorry if anyone was offended by the lewd references in this post. Blame "her," not me.

1 comment:

  1. I think I just about wet my pants. So true, so true.