Heads Up: As you may have guessed from the title, this post contains a bit of profanity — and it’s the big one. I said it — a few times…in front of kids. These definitely were not the finest moments in my career as a teacher. I’m not really proud of what I did, but it definitely makes for a Travel Oops story.
Many teachers, at one time or another, have considered the potentially heavy consequences of dropping the “F-bomb” in class. On the other hand, you also consider the liberation of uttering the ultimate.
Teachers on the ledge may have an interior monologue that goes something like this: “What will actually break me? How will the kids react? How many parents will call? Will I be fired? Will my colleagues dismiss me or applaud my actions? Will it be as satisfying as I imagine?”
Then there may be the question: “How will I say it?” Will it be a general question: “What the fuck?” Or a simple declaration: “This is fucked up.” What about a really risky statement with the F-word that is directed more toward the students? For example: “Don’t fuck with me anymore.” “Who the fuck do you think you are?” “Shut the fuck up.” Or perhaps, simply, “Fuck off.”
I answered these very questions for myself, twice, when I was an exchange teacher for one year in Australia. In my own defense, the other teachers at the school where I taught referred to the kids as “feral.” Actually, by the end of the year, I really enjoyed my students and had a great relationship with most of them. Earlier in the year was another story, however. The tension had been steadily building. I don’t really think there was any way of avoiding the action.
The perfect storm for the deployment of the F-bomb, I’ve discovered, is usually due to being extremely exhausted, teaching an afternoon class, along with experiencing a complete lack of cooperation and respect. Of course, throw in a relentless series of stupid questions or retorts and the reaction is rapid.
The first time
“Miss, why did I get points off for not putting my name on my paper?” asked Zack, a bright kid who vacillated between being a good participant in class and a pain in the butt.
“Because, you didn’t follow directions,” I answered while passing back the rest of the few assignments that had been turned in.
“What do you mean?” he asked. “I followed directions.”
“No, actually, you didn’t.” This was turning into a pain-in-the-butt day with Zack. “Putting your name on your paper is technically part of standard procedure,” I continued.
“But, you took off five points.” Pain in the butt.
“Yes, I did.” The rest of the class, distracted by their own interests no more, looked at Zack to see his reaction.
“But, you saw me working on it; you knew it was mine,” Zack’s voice was becoming increasingly whinier. I turned back to face him.
“That’s not the point, Zack. You always need to put your name on your papers.”
“You knew it was mine, Miss.”
“I saw him, Miss; that’s his assignment,” said Andrew, Zack’s faithful sidekick, who was usually somewhat respectful. However, he had joined in the growing debate.
“Andrew, this is not about you.” I felt the blood travel to my face and my voice became a bit shaky.
“Look, Zack, I’m sick of getting papers that have no names on them.” Disengage…take him out in the hall to reprimand.
“Well, you could just ask.” Zack was not going to drop the subject.
“Didn’t you hear me? I’m sick of marking papers with no names on them!” I looked over at both Zack and Andrew, challenging either one of them to say another word.
“Five bloody points…I can’t even believe it. This is so not fair.” Zack crumpled his assignment up and threw it across the room. Five, four, three, two, one…..
“ZACK, JUST PUT YOUR FUCKING NAME ON THE PAPER!” Blood, mine, definitely pumping.
Next, silence….pure and beautiful silence. All kids immediately stared at me and then turned their heads toward each other.
Jessica, a new student from London, looked up at me and with her posh British accent said, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard a teacher say that before.”
Super. A first from the American teacher. “Well, now you have. Get your spelling booklets out RIGHT NOW and work on them SILENTLY!” I went over to my desk, trying not to be too obvious as I collapsed in my chair.
Strangely, it was kind of a bonding experience. After I regrouped and class drew to a close, I looked at everyone and said (sincerely), “I’m sorry, guys, about my lack of professionalism today. Zack, I’m sorry that I responded to you this way.” The next thing he said surprised me.
“It’s okay, Miss, I was being a bit of a wanker.” He actually looked somewhat remorseful.
“That was so funny, Miss,” said Andrew. “And don’t worry, we say ‘fuck’ all the time.”
“Yes, I’ve noticed that.” Hearing the kids swear was such a common activity that I didn’t even reprimand anyone for it anymore. And one Year 8 had told me, just a few weeks prior to my profane contribution: “You are such a fucking bitch.”
However, time to consider my consequences. I felt bad, but, really, what was the school going to do? They couldn’t fire me. I told the principal, and he just shook his head wearily. The Year 9’s seemed quite supportive of my swearing, so maybe they wouldn’t tell their parents.
Possibly Jess would mention it. Again, not to worry. The British, generally speaking, look down on Americans and think we’re pretty uncouth anyway. I’m guessing their response would be something like, “Poppycock. But it’s not surprising. Americans have butchered and minced our Queen’s English, turning it into rubbish. Why wouldn’t they curse and carry on in class? Oh, bloody hell.”
The second time
As I predicted, I didn’t hear from any of the parents of my Year 9’s. Perhaps that is what emboldened me to drop the F-bomb once again – that and another perfect storm. This time it was with Year 8’s. It was one of those days when you begin class, and the students are so distracted and restless that they can’t settle.
So, you do the standard teacher stance, standing ramrod straight with your arms crossed across your chest, looking back and forth at students until they get the hint that you’re pissed off and want them to be quiet. We were well into the third term. I knew what to expect and so did the students, so there was dysfunctional control maintained in my classes.
I stood in the front of the class for nearly ten minutes. Kids were getting out their mobiles, passing notes back and forth, ripping paper into tiny bits, laughing and arguing…It was a free-for-all. Five, four, three, two, one…Under my breath, I muttered, “This is fucking ridiculous.”
Two distracted kids in the front row, whose drama radar kicked in, stopped, turned their heads, faced me and asked, “What did you just say, Miss?”
I looked straight at them and said, “You want to know what I said? Really?” My voice took on a bit of a hysterical tinge. “Well, I WILL TELL you. In fact, I’ll tell the WHOLE class.” The volume steadily rose along with the burning sensation in my face. I may have even sounded maniacal. “Okay, guys, this is what I said. I said: THIS IS FUCKING RIDICULOUS!!!” Maniacal, definitely.
“Because you know what?” I continued. “It is. It’s ridiculous that it takes 10 minutes for you guys to settle down. It’s ridiculous that you guys can’t shut up for a minute and let me talk. It’s ridiculous that you don’t take your education seriously. So yes, this is fucking ridiculous!”
I could feel myself letting go. Dropping the “F-bomb” was like howling at the moon, or finally getting a good cry. I needed to say it and just get it out. “Oh, and, by the way, fucking is an adverb!” We had just finished a grammar unit on adverbs and the kids couldn’t move much beyond “quickly”, “slowly” and “very.” Maybe they would remember this adverb. Teachable moment, indeed. And, by the way, it was satisfying.
Steph, you had me in fucking stitches from start to finish. I was laughing so much that the friend that is staying with me asked what I was reading so I read your post to her too! I adored the part when Zack admitted to being a bit of a wanker! HA! I love kids like that! He actually sounds like an ok kiddo. My son once told his headmaster to fuck off, and he practised ‘bondage’ on some girls in his class by tying them up with ropes. The final straw was the video he made with his mates, brimming with obscenities and lewdness (but I thought technically rather brilliant after having taken a sneaky peep at it) which he posted on youtube. Needless to say at the tender age of 12 he was expelled from his school. He’s now 16 and his new school report reads ‘Theo is charming, a delight to teach……’ I nearly spat out my coffee when I read it!
Great post Steph and thanks for making us laugh 🙂
Mission Accomplished!! If I can make you and my friend Amy laugh, then I feel really good. I truly respect your humour and I’m psyched that you found the post funny. 🙂 I laugh about it regularly. I actually really liked Zack — although he could definitely be a wanker. He, like Theo, is a good kid. You have to earn the respect of kids like Zack and I think after I swore at him, he looked at me a little more favorably.
The story about your son is hilarious, too (maybe not at the time?) I think he needs to write some stories — or perhaps make more films.
Thanks again, Lottie — seriously, if I make you laugh, that makes me smile. 🙂
This is gold – and even more so given that I know these characters, too! I’m so glad you wrote up this story – gave me a good laugh for the day 😀
I’m so glad to hear, my friend. I know you can relate to this (maybe not the actual swearing part — leave that to your Yank mate.) Any time I can make you laugh, that makes my day. I can’t wait until you start blogging again. Thanks for the comment — your opinion means heaps! 🙂
Geez, they look so cute and harmless in their checkered uniform skirts and stripey shirts and preppy sweaters (jumpers? Never quite figured out what constituted a sweater vs. a jumper)!
Funny post! I don’t blame you one bit for swearing. Sometimes ya’ just gotta’ shake things up a bit!
You’re right, Shelley, they look sweet and innocent in their jumpers (which are sweaters or zip up fleece) They are actually good kids, but they can raise hell when they want. Thanks so much for your comment. I’m glad you thought the post was funny.
Brilliant, I love hearing your teaching stories. I must ask my girls if they have had a teacher say it. They don’t go to a school full of “feral” kids, but it is a public school, so who knows.
Leanne — thanks for your comment! I’m glad you like the teaching stories — to me, they are some of my most memorable and funnyt moments. Yes, ask your girls about their teachers and whether they’ve had explosions. I think one reason I could get away with it was because I’m a Yank. One of the first questions the students ever asked me was “Do, you have a gun, Miss?” They seemed to think that people in the US are a bit unhinged. I even told the principal if anyone complained, he could say he didn’t have much control over the crazy American teacher.
Thanks again for the fabulous compliment! 🙂
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I’ve only just found all your blogs now, Steph… And am reading through loving them all 🙂
I clearly remember in year 3 (20 years-ish ago!!!!) when our class had a substitute/ relief teacher take our class and we all had waaaay too much energy. By the afternoon the teacher’s hair had almost turned grey when she (Mrs. Walladge, yes, this is how well I can remember) took us all into the withdrawral room- a room where there is a tv and a whiteboard etc and is SOUNDPROOF and hissed venemously “you are all BASTARDS!”. She said some other things that I can’t remember (only the awesome moment of illicit profanity) and then she left and another teacher took us out to play sport for the rest of the arvo. Made quite an impression 🙂
Thanks so much for reading, Kaylene! It always means heaps when friends (especially Aussies) read the blog. I know you can relate to a lot of these posts! 🙂
I lOVE this story about Mrs. Walladge — how funny! I’m sure she made and impression. I can relate although hopefully I wouldn’t have said that to year 3s.
Thanks again for stopping by Kaylene and I hope all is well for you! Cheers!
Great fun, Steph. I did an exchange to Bendigo in 2011. I did not drop any word bombs but I remember a few days when I wanted the class to end. Pray for a fire alarm, anything…Thankfully the periods only lasted 50 minutes, unlike the 75 minute ones in my home school. I also taught in a private Catholic school in Australia, so that might account for a slightly easier time of it.
I sooooo can relate to desperately wanting the fire alarm to ring. However, it did ring one day since we had some derelicts enter the school and punch out the principal while they looked to settle a score with a year 12 student. The alarm rang, and since I was out in a “temporary” building, I wasn’t sure what to do. The teacher who had a class next to me didn’t know what to do either, so we took all kids outside when we realized that no one else was out there we herded everyone back in the temporary. I was glad I wasn’t the only teacher who didn’t know what to do (especially since the teacher next door was actually the fire marshall!) Fortunately, no one else was hurt, and we had a good laugh over the “evacuation” incident. Thanks so much for the comment! Cheers.