The Teachers’ Lounge – Memorable Moments 2011, Pt. I

Ned Bitters

Another school year is coming to a close, which means I have another collection of insanely inappropriate, crude and stupid comments to share. Because I am insanely inappropriate, crude and stupid. Volume I of this year’s wrap-up is a collection limited only to things that came out of my mouth. The fact that I have never been fired, let alone reprimanded, speaks volumes about the state of our public high schools. These are all verbatim, because I take careful notes right after the moment passes.

Building Student Esteem in Just 60 Seconds!
We have a course called “Walking for Wellness.” The curriculum is real brainbuster. The kids walk all period. That’s all there is. If the weather is nice, they walk outside. If it’s not, they walk inside. In mid-May, senior a girl was telling me about her graduation status and told me she had failed “Walking for Wellness” for the year. A caring teacher (meaning “not me”) would have offered some words of encouragement or solace. Instead, I took the opportunity to deride her for a good sixty seconds with comments such as “You FAILED walking class? Christopher Fucking Reeves could have passed walking class. All you do is walk. Let me guess … you got a D in Sitting Class. What’s your status in Advanced Breathing class?” This was made all the more fun by the fact that three of her friends who were with us in the room added a chorus of abusive laughter.

Having Your Students’ Backs … and Their Moms’, Too
I was talking with a few kids near the end of class one day, and one told us that his mother had actually punched him in his face four times in his life. I suppose this was an opportunity for a caring teacher to make sure he was not living in an abusive household. I could pull him aside and discuss the situation further or perhaps refer him to the guidance counselor or the pupil personnel worker, which we are legally required to do if we suspect abuse. I, on the other hand, asked him, “Did you punch her back?”

The boy said, “Hell no!”

I said, “Well, I’ll slap her ass extra hard when I’m with her tonight.” Hilarity ensued and I saved a trip to the guidance office.

I See Your Smartass Comment and Raise You One Annihilating Comeback
In the middle of class one day, as students worked silently on some kind of busywork I would throw away ungraded as soon as they left, I reached into my bookbag and pulled out a bottle of Advil. As I shook out two pills (can’t remember if it was a vodka or scotch hangover), the senior class’s biggest smartass quipped, “Yo, Bitters … is that your Vi-aaaaaaagra?”

Before the no-longer-working class could burst into laughter at my expense, I lectured this boy about the need for tact, class and … yeah, right, like I’m that kind of teacher. No, I calmly replied, “No, your mom keeps those locked in her nightstand for me. In fact, you’ll hear me shaking one of them out of the bottle around nine tonight.”

Tables turned. Your turn, douchebag. What’s that? You’ve got nothing to say? Or can’t I hear you over the rest of the class laughing?

Open Mouth, Insert Foot … Twice
A girl in my honors class went to a neighboring school’s prom instead of ours. She came in the Monday after and showed me a prom picture of her and her date. I mustered up all the fake enthusiasm I could and went into full rave mode, saying, “Oh wow! Look at you two! You guys look so good. You look so pretty and I love your date’s tux. Those turquoise shoes are so cool. I gotta tell you, he is one handsome young man.”

She looked at me aghast and yelled, “Mr. Bitters! That’s my girlfriend!” Yep. The handsome young man was, in fact, a girl, a full-blown dykey dyke. How did I wiggle out of this contretemps and save face? I said, “Well, she sure makes one good looking guy!”

Mentoring with Wisdom 101
A boy who sits near my desk was talking about how rip roaring drunk he was going to get before prom. He asked me if I thought the chaperones would notice and what would happen if he got caught. I informed him that police would be on hand looking for drunk students and that he could possibly be arrested. This caused him great consternation, as he was more intent on getting hammered than he was on getting laid after prom. He asked if chewing a lot of gum might mask the alcohol smell. He asked about drinking vodka because of its odorlessness. I finally offered him some very sage, very mature and very teacher-like advice, which was, “Why don’t you just forget about drinking and just smoke a ton of weed and gets really high instead?” It speaks to how pathetic I am that he was not at all shocked by this suggestion. We then went over the pros and cons of this option and decided it was the right way to go.

24 Years in and I’m Still a Teacher Who Really Gets to Know His Students
In the fall, one of my student’s father’s fatally shot the girl’s mother, then killed himself. He did this on a Friday morning before the girl and her brother left for school. She was the one who ran upstairs to find them. (No, I am not going to make one wisecrack about that incident. Even I have limits.) She was out of school for only two weeks.

Upon her first day back, I was outside my door waiting for her to come to class. I had thought long and hard about what I might say to her. I didn’t want to be maudlin, or super sweet and sappy, or act like nothing had happened. I finally decided upon just giving her a very cheery “Hello!” and “Welcome back!” saving my sincere condolences for a later time. She finally came around the corner and got to my door. I put on my cheesiest smile and said, “Hey! There she is! Welcome back! I’m so glad to see you again!” Her reaction? Bewilderment. She looked at me like she didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.

I figured she was in some bizarre state of denial or was ashamed, so I let it go and she passed into my room. Later, during lunch, I saw her headed toward the front doors of the school, as she is a senior who leaves school early every day. I went up to her and this time, because it was just the two of us, got very serious and somber and expressed my sincere condolences on her loss. Or at least I tried to. I got about 16 words in before she stomped her foot and said, “Mr. Bitters! Stop! I’m Sharina, not Nateeka!” Yep, I had the wrong fat black girl. Both times. So, not only did I offend Sharina, who, by the way, I had also had in tenth grade, so I knew her pretty well, but I let Nateeka, scarred, bereaved, distraught (and very big) Nateeka, come to my class without any acknowledgment of the tragedy and trauma that befell her.

I Bet She’ll Think Twice Before Emailing Me Again
Woman just last week emailed me the following: “What happened to his grade? It went down!”
The first line of my response? “Seems to me you already answered your own question.”

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 teacherslounge@hobotrashcan.com.

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