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Never Let Them See You…Laugh?


If it weren’t for students, I wouldn’t teach!

School is fun. I love being an educator. I have often said that if you don’t find something fun or funny in each day of school, then it is time to hang it up. So far, I have always managed to find something to smile or laugh about each day. I wish that I had written down many of the funny things said or done over the years, but I did not, and sadly, I have forgotten a plethora of phenomenally amusing stories.

Here are a few things that I have remembered. I hope that they make you smile as you read them, even though you probably had to be there to get that true guffaw from them:

I used to teach English, and I always had freshmen work on vocabulary. I would give them a word list, and they would have to look up the definition of the word and use it in a sentence. Then they would have to tell me what part of speech they used it as in that sentence.
One day the kids were working independently, and a girl raised her hand and said, “I can’t figure out how to use ‘coerce’ in a sentence.”
I asked, “What is the definition?”
She said, “To force.”
I said, “Okay, how would you use ‘to force’ in a sentence?”
She thought for a moment and then brightened. I just love those light-bulb moments! She wrote feverishly, and I was very proud of my facilitating skills. I nearly broke my arm patting myself on the back. Later I was grading the papers when I came across hers. There it was: “Coerce: verb, to force. I am joining the air coerce.” Okay, now you understand why I was never “Teacher of the Year.”

I also had seniors, and one day early in the year, we were riding the school bus on a field trip. A senior girl and I were chatting, and she said in all seriousness, “You know, I am just tired of school. I don’t know if I can do this anymore.”
I asked her, “What would you do without an education?”
“Well,” she said, “I am thinking about just going to take that test and be done with it so I don’t have to be here anymore. I want to go take, you know, that IUD test.”
“Do you mean the ‘GED’ test?” I queried.
“Yeah,” she said. “Whatever.”
“That is exactly why you need to stay in school, so you will know the difference between birth control and a general ed test!” I said. (I am thinking IUD’s for high school kids would not be such a bad thing, though, so she may have been onto something revolutionary. I still think you need an education for critical thinking and at least some cultural literacy!)

In teaching you have that part of your contract that says, “And other duties as assigned.” That means that you can be asked to cover many things needed for school. One time at the beginning of a school year, a young man was walking on the golf course with the coach. The coach told him, “I won’t be here with you tomorrow. It will be Coach Jones. I have ISS.” (In School Suspension)
The young man looked at him incredulously and asked in all seriousness, “Gosh, Coach, what did YOU do to get in trouble?”

One time on bus duty, a 7th grader was standing beside my good friend Mrs. Shafer. A bus came by and stopped to pick up children, and an older student leaned out of the window and yelled at the 7th grader, “Hey, kid! Suck this!” as he motioned to his nether region.
Mrs. Shafer looked down in shock at the 7th grader and asked, “Did he just say what I think he said?”
The 7th grader looked up and said, “Yeah, Mrs. Shafer, but it’s okay. I’m not gonna do it!”
Thank goodness that 7th grader had more sense than that older boy on the bus!

Another time I was counseling in a K-12 school. This beautiful little girl was in kindergarten. She had blond hair, blue eyes, and dainty features. Honestly, she looked like a little porcelain doll. She was hearing impaired and had speech and special education services. She was also prone to aggressive and sometimes violent outbursts. It was ironic enough for that behavior to come out of such an angelic-looking creature, but the language that accompanied the fits made it even more unbelievable. On one occasion when she was throwing a fit, Mrs. McGowen the speech pathologist and I happened to be the ones trying to calm her down in the principal’s office. She had already swept the desk with her hands and feet and cleared it of everything, and we were restraining her in the way that we were authorized to do. She was still kicking and fighting, and her hearing loss caused her speech to be hard to understand. However, when she yelled that she was going to “F*#@” us up, it was pretty plain what she was saying.
Since that didn’t seem to convey her meaning well enough, she moved from that phrase to “You budwicker, I’m gonna ‘f*#@’ you up!”
My friend Mrs. McGowen was never one to miss a teachable moment. Dia pointed her face so that the child could see her lips and said, “No, Amber. Use your tongue to make your ‘L’ sound. It is ‘l…llll…butt with a t sound and l, LICKER, butt licker.’
Ever the consummate professional, that Dia!

Another time in that same school, Mrs. Scott, a delightful fourth grade teacher who happened to be African American, stopped the principal Mr. Wilkey, a super supportive administrator who happened to be as Caucasian as they come.
Mrs. Scott was frustrated, and she vehemently implored him, “Mr. Wilkey, you have got to do something! Those kids be trippin’ today. They just trippin’! It has got to stop!”
Mr. Wilkey marched into the room to take care of business. He surveyed the classroom, and began pointing to the floor, “You and you and you over there! Put your backpacks under your desk. Get those books out of the aisle. Keep your feet under your desk! You are NOT to trip any people, let alone your teacher anymore! Do you hear me?”
Mrs. Scott wasn’t angry any longer. She couldn’t quit laughing.

When Kevin was teaching junior high history many years ago, he was teaching his class about “Trial by Ordeal.” In ancient history many times a person who was being tried for a crime would be given a dangerous or painful task, and if God intervened or if the person was not hurt, then it signified innocence. They might make you walk across red hot ploughshares, and if you suffered no burns, then you were found innocent. Kevin had used the example from the Bible of the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They refused to bow to the image of King Nebuchadnezzar, and the king had them thrown into a fiery furnace, from which they all emerged unharmed. Well, the class had some good discussion and went on about their lives.
A few days later a young man came up to Kevin and wanted to talk about trial by ordeal again. He said, “Coach, you never finished that story about that fire.”
Kevin said, “I am pretty sure we covered it.”
The kid said, “No, Coach, you never told us what happened to them all. You said the guys were okay, but I want to know what happened to the billy goat. Did the billy goat get out okay, too?”
Ah, Shadrach, Meshach, and a billy goat. I wonder what crimes were committed by that goat? Is that where they came up with “scapegoat”?

Come to think of it, teaching is very similar to a trial by ordeal. I am not sure if anyone is completely guilty or innocent, and no ever comes out completely unscathed, but we are all better for having laughingly endured it!

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