I’m stationed at my before-school cafeteria duty prior to the students’ arrival on the first day of classes this year. The first few buses pull up and begin unloading the great unwashed. No one enters through the cafeteria, so for a while I’m all alone, enjoying the last peaceful minutes before the beginning of the nine-month stressfest that’s about to ensue. Then I hear a student voice behind me. What are the first words I hear out of a student’s mouth this year? How about you take a multiple choice test. Choose one of the following:
A. “I sure hope I get Bitters for English. That dude’s awesome!” (Hint: This one
was true years ago, but alas … not longer.)
B. “I’m going to turn things around and dedicate myself to academics more than
football this year!” (Hint: Ha ha ha …yeah, right.)
C. “I’m so glad to be back at this outstanding beacon of learning and spiritual
growth!” (No kid in our school knows what “beacon” means.)
D. “Oh yeah! First day of school, baby! I’m gonna act up today.” (And we have
Congratulations, savvy reader. You passed the first quiz of the school year.
Stay Classy, School Staff Meetings
Our principal, a guy I just love, showed up the first teacher day not in one of his customary dark, conservative suits but rather in a loud three-piece get-up that was very un-him. He was making the rounds and forcing some chitchat with the staff before we got started. (One of the many reasons I admire the guy is because it’s obvious how painful small-talk is for him. I hate it, too. Yet he tries.) He walked up to a table full of young males, one of whom asked him about his suit. The boss joked that it was his “Anchorman suit,” then proceeded, foolishly, to extend the joke.
Like I said before, small-talk isn’t his forte, and perhaps his mind was wandering or he got nervous or just bored, but he eventually said, “I told my wife that this is my Ron Jeremy suit. I told her, ‘Yep, I’m gonna be Ron Jeremy at work today. Just call me Ron Jeremy.’”
Of course, he meant Ron Burgundy, Will Ferrell’s hilarious creation, not Ron Jeremy, America’s most famous porn actor. But he never caught and corrected his gaffe. The aforementioned young males about suffered hernias when, during the actual meeting, he was talking about the things he does to “keep my wife happy.”
What’s a little brown lie between friends?
Just before my third period students started filing into my room one day, I cut loose a fart whose powers of lethality shamed the poisoned, fatal air of Chernobyl. It was if Evil itself had died in my colon, turned its black, bowels-of-hell self into gaseous form and seeped out of me in a slow, burning final assault on the olfactory system of the world. It lingered and hovered and defied the laws of dissipation.
Kids soon began entering my classroom, and sure enough the kids who sat near my desk immediately started reacting to the unseen but not unsmelt menace. Faces contorted, eyes bugged, nostrils contracted. An onslaught of pained questions and comments followed. “What the fuck stinks? Who farted? Oh my god, who did that? I’m gonna throw up.” It really was that bad. I was still standing behind my desk, having just attempted – with great futility – to eradicate the room of this scorched-earth-level stench by violently flapping two manila folders like some khaki-wearing pterodactyl before the first kid entered the room. By the time kids started arriving, I was sweaty, mortified and O.J.-level guilty.
One of our school’s code words is Honor, which connotes honesty and owning up to one’s misdeeds. Well, fuck that. I said to the nearly retching students near my desk, “The damn custodians didn’t clean my room over the weekend! (This was true, thank god.) Check out the trash can! It still has some of the food you guys threw in there on Friday, all the uneaten pancakes and french toast sticks and banana peels. That must be what it is!” Indignant, I picked up the bag, tied it shut and marched it outside my room, all the while dramatically holding it with outstretched arm as if it contained the incubus.
Remnants of the odor hung around for another 20 minutes, causing much grumbling among the students about our goldbricking custodians.
Okay, I went. Now it’s your turn, Mr. Clever! Hello? You still there?
One of these huge, force-of-nature-type kids came into my classroom during week two and, in an effort to assert some sort of upper hand in the student-teacher dynamic, said very cheerfully, “What’s up, Big Bitt!” You see, I am not a tall man, so this was his way of establishing his physical superiority and, he no doubt hoped, a certain level of intimidation.
I could have responded with, “Excuse me, but in this room it’s MISTER Bitters, young man, from now on and henceforth!” or something corny and teacherish like that, which would have implied that he had, indeed, gotten under my skin and could then spend the rest of year with similar comments. Instead, I simply said to this student, whose last name is Dixon, “What’s up, Little Dick?”
And what do you know, there ended the little nickname game initiated by said student, especially since my reply was heard by about a half dozen of his friends, uber-testosteroned African-American males all, who, had I repeated the boy’s new nickname just one more time, surely would have branded Mr. Dixon “Little Dick” from now until graduation.
I believe the next move is Mr. Dixon’s, but strangely enough, he has yet to make a play. Go figure.
If someone comes up with the “Quiff-Twat Muff” exam, I’m toast
I have been teaching for almost three decades. (Hence the deft handling of the Big Bitt/Little Dick situation.) I should be far beyond giggling over silly, unintended double-entendres. But fuck that. I long ago waved the white flag in the war against immaturity. Anyway, I have to show up at these occasional special education meetings for individual students, meetings attended by the kid, at least one parent and two or three special ed teachers, case workers, what have you. I attend about six of these per school year. And every time someone uses the professional phrase “administer the Woodcock Johnson,”
I have to stifle a laugh and scan the other attendees to see if anyone else is barely containing their juvenile urge to laugh at this heaven-sent triple whammy of cock euphemisms spoken so unironically in front of child, parent and staff. And damned if I’m not always the only one in don’t-even-smile torment every time. Even the kid just sits there breathing through his mouth and trying in vain to follow the conversation about his very own self.
By the way, the Woodcock-Johnson, as if it even matters, is some sort of special ed assessment test. Of you don’t at least smile at that, you’re probably an educator. Or a mature adult.
I’ll pile-drive (snicker … cough … giggle) the learnin’ into ’em
I had the kids working on some kind of grammar exercises on a two-sided handout. As they were battling through side one, I said, “Once you’re done with the front, flip it over and try the back.” The aformentioned Mr. Dixon, a.k.a. “Little Dick,” mumbled, “That’s what she said.” No one in the room reacted to this tired, spent and so 2006 expression. Except for me, of course. I unsuccessfully tried to contain a laugh and then looked at him and gave him the teacher nod of approval.
How did I avoid a similar situation the rest of the day? Well, I …wait, you think I tried to keep another kid from potentially throwing the class into guffawing chaos by saying something with sexual overtones? Have you any idea how bored I get in this job? No, I spent the rest of the day trying out different ways to make this as overtly double-entendre-ish as possible, pathetically toiling to elicit more cheap laughs and crude comments. “When you’re finished working the front, don’t stop! Turn ‘er over and go at the back just has hard. You’re doing great.” Nothing. By 8th period I think I stopped just short of, “When you’re done going all ball-deep missionary on the front, flip it over, grab that paper by the hair and doggy-style the fuck out of the backside!”
And I’m sure these disgustingly mature seniors would have continued to work and learn and insert the right answers onto their papers. [“Insert.” Heh heh … chuckle chuckle … oh man, that’s funny …]
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.