The Teachers’ Lounge – Memorable Moments 2010, Pt. II

Ned Bitters

[Editor’s Note: Joel Murphy is busy plotting Jimmy Fallon’s demise, so today we bring you part two of high school teacher and former HoboTrashcan columnist Ned Bitters’ favorite moments in the classroom this year. If you missed part one, you can find it here.]

I caught this snippet of a conversation while walking through the halls between classes. Senior boy said to a cute girl, “C’mon girl, give me your phone number.” Girl replied, “No, you ain’t gettin’ my number. You always in trouble. It’s not like you gonna be able to come over.” The boy persisted with a line that, amazingly, failed to procure the desired phone number: “C’mon shortie, I get off house arrest next week!”

Saw a kid with a t-shirt that said “Celebrate Diversity!” Isn’t it great that a high school kid would go out on a limb and wear a shirt with that message? Doesn’t it take a lot of guts to risk derision from his peers? Oh, the shirt had some art on it. No, not a black kid, a white kid, an Asian kid all holding hands in front of United Nations. The picture was of about 15 different kinds of pistols.

In our state, performing some sort of community service is a graduation requirement. Kids have four years to get this done. It’s no big deal. And if a kid does not want to actually perform some useful service to his community, he can take the pathetically easy route of doing a prescribed written project, which the school’s community service coordinator will grant rubber stamp approval to without even reading. In other words, it’s a piece of cake.

Still, every May the coordinator starts sending out frenzied emails listing the 40 or so seniors who still have not met this requirement, urging us to urge them to get this graduation requirement out of the way. I saw one of the kids from the list, a senior I like a lot. He’s one of those very mature kids who figured out how to coast through school by doing almost no work, probably because his ass is always in the halls. I call him The Mayor. Most teachers can’t stand him. He’s one of my favorites. (Side note: He’s black, I’m white. Every time I’d go into the bagel store where he worked, he’d yell down to the girl at the register, “Hey, this guy … family discount.” The girl would invariably give him a quizzical look, to which he’d reply, “He’s my uncle.”)

I said to him, “So, uh, Darrin, you think you might want to, you know, take care of that community service thing any time soon, what with graduation about four weeks from now? Shit, all you gotta do is that bullshit project and it’s done.” He thinks for a second, furrows his brow, then lights up and says, “Oh yeah, that! Shit, I got people workin’ on that for me as we speak.” A week later his name was off the list. I saw him again and asked him what his project was about. He had no idea.

It’s the second week of October. School started in August. I hear this exchange between two kids who have been in my class since day one. First girl: “I don’t know, you better ask Mr. Bitters.”

Second Girl: “Mr. Bitters? Who’s that?”

Yep, I had the girl in class for six weeks and she had no idea who I was.

In my eighth period knucklehead class we were reading a book written by a former female slave. Of course, it was filled with the horrors you would expect to find in a book about slavery. Whippings … rape … forced separation of family members … hunger. Even I, the man with no limits, just couldn’t find a single thing to crack wise about while we read page after page of this woman’s heartbreaking life story. Perhaps I was actually moved by something for once, but more likely it was the fact that most kids were actually paying attention and trying to read. I felt almost like a bona fide grown up teacher, handling sensitive material in the proper fashion.

Almost. In the middle of one chapter, this poor woman describes the pressure to have sex from another slave, her white master and another white man 35 years her senior. How did I handle the excruciating period of helplessness and despair this badly abused slave was describing?

I stopped reading and said, “Damn. This woman must have been one hot smokin’ piece of womanhood. She had every guy for 20 miles after her ass.” Thankfully, the juniors in this class were similarly immature. They woke from their trances and all chimed in with speculation about this woman. “Oh man, you know she had a sweet one goin’ on down there!” “She was probably more flexible than this rubber band.” “I bet that phat ass looked good bobbin’ up and down when she was chopping cotton!” On and on it went for about 90 seconds.

A teachable moment was at hand. I don’t lecture much, but this was an opportunity ripe for a stern sermon on how wrong these comments were. However, I was incapable of seizing the moment, as I was doubled over laughing to the point I fell off my stool. I tried to return to the book three times but was unable to do so due to my inability to stop laughing … and picturing how hot that sweet Sallie probably was.

And that’s about it for this year. No need to talk about the kid who asked me to watch the door so he could go have a cigarette. (I laughed and said okay, thinking he was joking. Three minutes later he came in smelling like an ashtray and thanked me with great sincerity.)

Or the time the principal and the girls basketball coach almost got into a fist fight at a home game when the principal had the unmitigated gall to suggest that the coach needed to get his roughneck girls in line.

Or the girl who showed up the first day, got in a fight before second period, then explained that the only reason she came back to school was “to beat that girl’s ass one more time.” She never came back the rest of the year.

Or the kid in my class who asked me if it would be proper to use the following pick-up line the new sub for the French teacher who walked out in the middle of a class and never returned: “Hey, my dick is dead! Can I bury it in your ass?” It was another teachable moment for Mr. Bitters. But I was too busy laughing to seize it.

Ned Bitters teaches high school and dreams of one day seeing one of his former students on stage at a strip club. You can contact him at

  1. Thor June 17, 2010
  2. Sasparilla Gretsch June 21, 2010

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