Rule of thumb when teaching — go for the ‘dirty’ if you can. It works

I’ve wasted some time in my life. You know, spun the old wheels but gained not traction; had carnal knowledge of the canine (didn’t want to put in the more basic statement for the sake of propriety and the tiny tots); and just generally pissed around.

I think we all have.

But, I think the biggest waste of time and effort was the one known as my ‘education’ year, the one in which I did my teacher training. It came after my degree and it was the most banal enterprise I’ve ever been forced to undergo for the sake of a stupid protocol.

It was stupid, brain-damaging, intellectually insulting, and logically flawed. It was logically-flawed because you don’t train somebody to be a teacher. A person either is one or isn’t and no amount of training is going to bring about the ability. I’ve known individuals with grade school educations that would have made brilliant teachers. I’ve known people with doctorates that were shitty ones.

Otherwise the session was many months of hanging out with some pretty neat people, consuming quantities of beer and discovering the wonders that lay beneath the cute lingerie of at least one pending-teacher classmate.

Oh, and one bit of advice that came from my sponsor teacher at my final stint as that perennial victim of students everywhere, being a student teacher. That bit of advice was essentially this: “Go for the dirty.” He didn’t say it in so many words, but what he meant was this:

You want a bit of information to stay in a student’s mind, don’t be shy. By the time they’re seniors they have pretty bawdy minds. So, if anything you say can be taken two ways, as a possible double-entendre, opt for the naughty. In other words, you’re telling them that you ‘get it’, and that makes you cool and unhyprocritical, at the same time, they’ll remember the fact in future because they’ll remember the dirty reference.

And it was true.

By the dirty, I don’t mean flagrantly profane or vulgar, just ‘naughty’ or ‘suggestive’, if you will. No need to be Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher.

In other words to be a far cry from a high school English teacher I had who would fulminate in high dudgeon when randy lads in class would collapse in mirth over lines like:

“No time to watch when woods we pass how squirrels hide their nuts in grass,” from WH Davies Leisure, or “Sleeping in snatches,” from Eliot’s Journey of the Magi. Of course we just howled and he’d shake his head at our childishness. Yet not so oddly, and though I’ve forgotten many others, I remember those lines and the poems they pertain to.

Infantile, to be sure. But HS kids are on the cusp between infant and adult, so indulge them and make the thing a key to learning. It works. And it makes for a more enjoyable and honest class.

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10 responses to “Rule of thumb when teaching — go for the ‘dirty’ if you can. It works

  1. Sleeping in snatches.

    That had me giggling hysterically. It totally woke up my inner 12 year old boy.

  2. I’m with Jazz on the giggle train. I’m trying to concentrate on work but images of what sleeping in snatches might look like interfere. I guess there is a twelve year old boy in all of us.

    • I have images of sleeping in snatches but I’m not about to go there except in my mind. It really is funny, not to mention the squirrels hiding their nuts in grass.

  3. Quantities of bear?
    I had a wonderful college teacher of Texas History. Yeah, I know, Yuck, Who cares? But she told us lots of salacious misdeeds that were done by these men. It made the class far more enjoyable.
    In my senior year of high school, I dated the student teacher of my government class and my sociology class (same guy) for about two months. I suppose that would be frowned upon today as I was not yet 18.

  4. Oops. Fixed ‘bear’. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. Yes, I used the same process about historical figures when I taught history. Well, about the other, we had a student teacher who got a girl pregnant, so it happens. I had a liaison with a former student a few years after she finished school, but I’ll confess I had a crush on her when she was a senior. We had a lovely time at that later date. And, in fact, she’s still a friend.

  5. Then owls and bats
    Cowls and twats
    Monks and nuns in a cloister’s moods
    Adjourn to the oak-stump pantry…..

    The rest of Browning seemed somewhat dull after that…

  6. “But, I think the biggest waste of time and effort was the one known as my ‘education’ year, the one in which I did my teacher training. It came after my degree and it was the most banal enterprise I’ve ever been forced to undergo for the sake of a stupid protocol.”

    I could’ve written that. As for going for the dirty, I remember my first year of teaching I was engaged to be married. I recall being in the library with my Grade 12s one day and one of my students, who knew I was marrying “Mr. Dick” asking what his first name was. Without missing a beat I said “Harry”. They never forgot it.

    • Andrea, you are such a person after my own heart — and my own sense of humor. Glad you weren’t my teacher because I’d never have been able to concentrate.

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