Another school year has ended, which means it’s time for the final installments of “Funniest Moments” or, as it should be called, “Buy Chinese Stocks.” Because if the students and teachers at our standard issue public high school are indicative of the rest of this country, we are doomed.
Lest you think I exaggerate or embellish, I assure you the stories are accurate and the quotes verbatim. I write them down immediately and stash them under my desk calendar. You know, instead of actually teaching. (See: Stocks, Chinese.)
I’d Love to See the Problems She’d Have if She Taught Sex Ed
I was relocated to another teacher’s room one day due to state testing. This teacher, a 60ish woman whom central casting would immediately swoop up if they were looking for “miserable, non-teaching crank who hates kids and sits behind her desk all day while the kids do mindless busywork,” was working hard on something or other. It was probably for her church, as I’ve never seen her actually care about anything education related. She was moving her index finger slowly down the page of a book, brow furrowed and lips pursed. I figured I’d try to help her with whatever mindbender was taxing her already in-the-red-zone brain.
As I walked over to her, she started to describe her plight. “I’m trying to figure out how to spell ‘excerpt’ but I can’t find it in this dictionary.” I looked at the dictionary. The first word on the left-hand page was “evince.” This means that she had been on the wrong page for the last 90 seconds. I didn’t know how to tell her that “x” comes before “v,” hence the word “excerpt” was on some previous page.
Now, her not being versed in the concept of alphabetical order might not seem that bad, but maybe I should include the fact that she was typing a document at the time, which means Spellcheck was readily available. You might be thinking, “C’mon, she’s an older lady who probably missed out on the whole computer revolution. Giver her a break. What is she, some sort of science or art teacher?”
Um, no. She teaches keyboarding and other basic computer classes. All. Day. Long.
Building Student Self-Esteem, Volume 347
I had this boy in my fourth period I just loved. He was 19 going on 30 in both maturity and looks. He even had a few specks of prematurely gray hair in his tightly cut afro. He sat near my desk and we’d bullshit and talk a little shit to each other all the time.
One day we discussing weed, and he said, “I know you probably still get high, Bitt. In fact, you remind me of that one old country singer … you know, the guy with the long hair who always smokes dope? You kinda look like him. What’s his name again?”
I say, “Willie Nelson?”
He yells, “Yeah, him! You look like him!”
To which I reply, “Well, fuck you, Redd fucking Foxx.” Old-looking bitch thinks I’m going to just let a comment like that go.
Building Student Self-Esteem, Failed Version
A loud and extremely dumb girl in that same class was forever applying some sort of makeup or foundation to her face. She already had the most beautiful cocoa dark skin, so I don’t know why she felt the need to keep applying shit to it. Oh wait, yes I do. She is dumb as shit. And obnoxious. Not in a mean way, but in a loud way that advertises how oblivious she is about how slow she is. (More on her in the “Overheard” segment next time.)
One day after ten minutes of caking that gunk onto her face, she yelled, “Oh no, I got chocolate on my paper!”
Trying to be a complete dickhead, I said with a sneer, “Maybe it’s your FACE on the paper!”
However, my sarcastic missile misfired. She lifted up the paper, sniffed it and said, “Oh yeah, that’s what it is. Thank you.” I had tried to make her feel bad and instead helped her solve the brown smudge mystery. Damn near ruined my day.
I’d Have Shown Them the Original Airplane Movie Next, But I’m Not Allowed to Show Super Scary and Very Realistic Disaster Movies
This same girl is in the special class I teach in which seniors who still haven’t passed the state English test complete projects that take the place of passing the test. The final three students finished their last project with five days of school left, so I offered to put in a DVD. They opted for High School High, the 90s parody of those stupid teacher movies where whitey goes to the awful black school and makes everything better. Keep in mind that these kids are not special ed but they’re still pretty slow. I’m talking molasses in the Yukon slow.
I put in the movie and go about my business and wait for the laughter. And I wait. And wait. Nothing. I look at these kids and they are riveted to the screen. Their faces are so serious you’d have thought they were watching a Holocaust documentary. Every once in a while I’d hear, “Oh my god, that school is so bad!” or “Why they so mean to that man?” or “How come they let them kids get away with that?” They had no grasp of satire. They thought this was some sort of drama. And that’s understandable, what with the gravitas that Jon Lovitz brings to every role.
Two periods later, Makeup Girl comes to my English class. After being uncharacteristically quiet for ten minutes, she turns around and asks me with the utmost concern, “Mr. Bitters, you think that man’s gonna be able to turn that school around and make it better?” She was so serious and so worried about the kids in that school. I wanted to laugh but I see she’s seriously concerned.
So I assure her, “Yes, Deondra, I think he’s going to make everything okay.”
She turned around and said, “I hope so.”
On Her Other Arm Was a Tattoo of Swamp People … Cuz That Was Her Favorite Show for Six Months Last Year
In that same class I had a girl who was probably the slowest of any kid I had this year. One day I happened to look at hear inner forearm and saw the following tattoo: “Mikayla, 3/21/11 – 9/16/11.” Trying to connect to this student I barely knew, I asked, in my most maudlin voice, “So, what’s with the tribute tattoo on your arm? Did you have a relative who passed away as an infant?”
She said, “No! That was my first girlfriend. We went out for almost five months.” So in case you’re not following along at home, some custodial adult figure let this girl mar her forearm with a tattoo that is now a lifelong billboard to a five-month high school infatuation.
Now, let me go check my portfolio and see how my Xaipei and Laotsung stocks are doing today.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.