Thursday, September 8, 2011

A "Why I love teaching middle school" Moment: Making Crude Jokes In Front Of Your Teacher Is Not Recommended

(photo @ cuteoverload.com)
Disapproving Rabbit heard what you said.


Any adult with half an ounce of sense is aware that kids will often act and speak very differently around their friends than they will when grown ups are around. While their basic personalities, traits, and sense of morals remain (mostly) the same, they will often keep a lid on some of their more crude actions and words when older folks are in the same room. This is doubly true around any sort of authority figure.

The most priceless example of this that I have ever seen involved two 8th grade percussionists I once had named John and Christian. Not only were they both great kids, but they took percussion (and the fact that they were really good at it) very seriously...which is why one day when some of the cords on our suspended bass drum stand snapped, they completely flipped out.



It's loose! Shoot it....SHOOT IT!!!



John and Christian came to me and expressed their concern along with their desire to administer violent physical retribution to whomever was responsible for the damage. I then informed the young men that the bass drum stand cords had snapped during 7th grade band class, but it was not due to negligence.

The cords supporting the bass drum had slowly worn away from years of being used by every band class during the school day. Any instrument that is repeatedly struck with a blunt object by 11-14 year olds on a daily basis will eventually show signs of wear and tear.


Bass drums at military academies can qualify for one of these.



"And that is why we have a small percussion fee for repairs," I explained to them. "It's not just a way to charge your families for more money; it's because we have equipment that needs to be repaired due it being used by everyone everyday."

Then John, who normally was an incredibly sharp kid, inexplicably and deliberately asked for a clarification of my last statement.

"So Mr N, you're saying that the percussion equipment gets used by everyone everyday?"

"Yes," I replied as the boys began to walk out of my office.

As the two percussionists walked away, they did not realize that I had gotten up out of my chair in the office to get something in the band room. With me well within earshot, John turned to his friend and said:

"Hey Christian, our percussion equipment gets used by everyone, everyday...just like your mom."


OH SNAP!


At this point, I practiced the fine art of suppressing my laughter, put on my serious face, and sternly called for John to stop and come back over towards me. As he turned around, his expression of unbridled shock and fear was unlike anything that I had ever seen.

Now don't get me wrong; I consider myself a fairly strict teacher when a situation warrants it. But to understand why John was looking at me as though he were about to be beheaded, there are a few things that you should know about him.

For starters, John was an all honors, straight A student. He was the star point guard of the basketball team and a stand out player on the football team, as well. His disciplinary record was non existent because he never got in trouble or ever acted up in class. He was one of the most respectful and polite 8th grade boys that has possibly ever existed.


Pictured: A magnified sample of John's blood cells.


While much of John's exemplary behavior was the result of him being a great kid, a lot of it also had to do with his incredible parents. His mother was a very well liked and respected assistant principal at the high school. His father was a well known reverend and pastor of a church in the area.

As you can probably imagine, any sort of misbehavior, especially crude jokes, were not likely to be tolerated at John's house. But maybe something like this could slide at home; John's parents were strict, but they were also very kind and reasonable people that you could tell were part of a very happy home.

A call home from a teacher explaining that John had made a sexually demeaning comment about another student's mother, however, would most certainly lead to him receiving some sort of punishment.


                                                                    roadtoepic
"You can leave only to use the bathroom or go to school"



As John slowly began his death march towards me, Christian, John's friend and fellow brother in the percussive arts, came with him and begged for mercy on his behalf.

"Mr N, it's okay," he began. "I know that John was kidding. We joke like that..."

"John," I interjected "that was hilarious. As someone who has definitely made his share of 'mom jokes' towards friends during my lifetime, I appreciated the ability that you demonstrated setting up your own joke and then knocking it out of the park."



I once hit a grand slam with "Your momma's so stupid,
she went to an orthodontist to get a blue tooth.



"On the other hand, you're very lucky I know that you and Christian are good friends. If I had been another teacher that did not know that, than what you said could have been perceived as being incredibly offensive and mean."

"There's a time and place for mom jokes. Within earshot of your band director, while in the band room, is definitely not one of them. Since I know that you know better, we'll chalk this one up as a learning one time mistake/learning experience."

A wave of relief washed over John's face as he and Christian walked away. I felt satisfied that I had handled the situation in a way that made sure John understood not to repeat the behavior, but still acknowledged that he was a really good kid that just had a temporary lack of good judgement.

For those of you that think that I shouldn't have said anything, I'm going to guess that you have never successfully held control over a classroom of middle school students. Once kids realize that basic rules and expectations (like not making crude jokes in class) will not be enforced, order begins to break down quickly.



It can become a bit like this.



For those of you that think that I should have come down harder on the John, remember that this was a kid who constantly strove to do that right thing and to be successful. I had taught him for nearly three years, during which he worked his butt off for me and always did whatever was asked of him. In my opinion, John had earned a pass for this one; especially since he was joking around with his friend in a way that every guy (and probably a lot of girls) have done for years.

And if you still think that I was not strict enough in this situation, then that's fine. But I know one lady that may be responsible for the stick that is currently lodged up your butt.


Pictured: Your mom.


Please feel free to leave a comment below. If you'd like to sing my praises or tell me how terrible I am more personally, I can also be found on Twitter.

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