I must confess that being a middle school teacher is one of the most entertaining jobs. In my classroom, it is a combination of Comedy Central, The Learning Channel (TLC), MTV, and, yes, sometimes even Lifetime. We always say “what happens in Room 313 stays in Room 313” and I have to give snaps to my students for providing me so many inspirational moments … they are a living, breathing force within my writing.
Some of our more humorous moments have emerged out of my attempt to challenge my students’ vocabulary. I swear middle schoolers come to me overusing nouns like “stuff” or “things” … and don’t even get me started on their adjectives! Not everything is “good,” “fine,” “hot,” or “awesome.” So, one of my challenges for them is to learn more descriptive words and to try using them in class discussions. When I won’t settle for mediocre verbage, I remind them that I want “Verbs That Rock” or “Awesome Adjectives.” I applaud their efforts, but the results can often end up like this …
(True conversation to the best of my memory)
MRS. D: How would you guys describe the main character’s behavior in that scene? And let’s try to use “Awesome Adjectives” this time … [raises eyebrows sternly at the class]
STUDENT #1: Well, he was kind of unpredictable.
STUDENT #2: Agitated?
STUDENT #3: I thought he was annoyed and flustered by the situation.
MRS. D: Excellent! What else?
IMRAN: I thought he acted erotic.
MRS. D: Did you just say erotic, Imran?
IMRAN: Yeah, erotic.
MRS. D: [trying to maintain composure while a few of the students hide their giggles] Do you know what erotic even means?
IMRAN: Yeah, it was one of our vocab words–
MRS. D: [interrupting with a shake of her head] Uh, no. No, it was not. It certainly was not a vocab word.
IMRAN: Uh-huh! It means acting all crazy-like. [waves hands and wiggles around to demonstrate]
STUDENT #1: I think he means erratic?
IMRAN: Oh. Yeah, that’s the word. [the class laughs uproariously]
MRS. D: [laughing now, too, but trying to remain the mature adult] Um, yeah, those mean two totally different things, Imran. But nice attempt. [She ignores the few sexually mature students who are still giggling and whispering.] OK, so now that we have that straight … what other adjectives can you think of to describe — [interrupted by Imran’s suddenly raised hand] Yes, Imran?
IMRAN: So, what does erotic mean?
MRS. D: [sighs and gives the class a warning look] Nobody answer that, please.
OK, so if I remember right, I think I tried to explain it with suggestive clues that ended up becoming a joke for quite awhile. At the end of the year, that conversation made our list of favorite funny moments in Mrs. D’s class. Another LOL situation involving vocabulary that still stands out in my memory occurred the next year – it, too, made the list the following year.
STUDENT #1: Mrs. D, what does “groggy” mean?
[Several students jump in at once with explanations just as Mrs. D opens her mouth with her usual reply of “Go get a dictionary.” The words never make it out because Jack jumps in]
JACK: [in a serious, helpful tone] OK, it’s when you neuter a dog.
MRS. D: [trying to hold in her laughter] What?
[class giggles at the word “neuter” and everyone waits for Jack’s explanation]
JACK: [repeats himself, not seeing why everyone is laughing] It has to do with a dog getting neutered, that’s all I know.
MRS. D: [laughing outright now] It so does not. Where did you come up with that definition?
JACK: Mrs. D, I’m serious! When my dog got neutered, the vet told us that he was groggy now.
[Mrs. D lays her head on the desk and laughs so hard that she cries. It takes a good five minutes to regain composure.]
JACK: [still not getting it] What is so funny? I’m just trying to help … gosh!
Again, I do love my students and I think that laughing with them really connects us in so many ways. I try not to laugh AT them, but that does happen on occasion. Both of those boys are in high school now and I do miss them. 🙂
And, alas, I must away … I’m feeling groggy from my Benadryl. Hopefully, the lack of sleep will not affect my erratic blood pressure … [giggles]