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Jason Haap is a frequent contributor to Winnsboro Library claims that he has never passed gas in public, handed in anything late, nor watched the morally-corrupting MTV network for anything other than research in how to better serve wayward teens.
One of the most tiring aspects of teaching can be the generative work involved in creating rules and procedures. Administrative meetings and classroom contact time frequently degenerate into nit-picking nag sessions, and instead of engaging intellectual discourse with colleagues or investigating a Wallace Stevens poem with students, we often find our minds muddled with policy invention, behavior modification, and bodily function control. In an attempt to alleviate stress, I offer these rules and procedures as Teacher Tips – as ways to contend with minor problems before they grow.
Often, teachers become outraged when watching teenagers dance like on MTV. The sight of adolescent female posteriors vibrating enthusiastically against teen male groin areas makes many fearful of inappropriate erections, even ejaculations. I spoke with many teachers about the specifics of inappropriate dancing, and it really seems that groin area friction is a major concern. In an attempt to consider all possibilities, I compiled the following guidelines. They are useful for adult chaperones who need clear instructions when monitoring the dance floor.
Sometimes, people laugh at these lists as if I am joking. Believe me – I intend no irony here. These are some tested Teacher Tips, some rules and procedures to help ease the confrontations and idiosyncrasies of our professional lives.
And what idiosyncratic confrontation is worse than foul smelling flatulence when it comes to ruining a classroom’s ability to be serious? Opening the window will outrage the cold-sensitive people in the rest of the room. Because a fart can damage learning, it is important to have appropriate procedures. Mine is as follows:
1. Ask who farted.
2. If none of the students are willing to reveal the identity of the gas passer, I explain that they must not be interested in making sure it never happens again. As such, they must heretofore accept the malodor with no complaints. Complaining could result in demerits for disrupting class.
3. If the student reveals the farter’s identity, I take that person into the hallway. I explain that if s/he ever needs to fart, s/he should hold it and live with the discomfort. I say that if it ever happens again s/he will receive a demerit for disrupting class.
This policy typically limits bad farting in each class to only one time per year. It also teaches marketplace appropriate fart-holding skills because I know future employers will not stand for flatulence.
My final suggestion is what I call The Reality Remote. This imaginary device allows us to pause, rewind, and playback moments of reality. I have found it especially useful when dealing with senselessly outraged sophomores. I remember one day when Justin walked in about seven seconds late to fourth bell. I knew I couldn’t let the class see me allow such behavior because then everyone might come to class seven seconds late. Eventually, all that lost time might add up. We could fall behind.
So I asked Justin if he had a tardy note. When he didn’t, I graciously offered him the choice between a detention and a demerit. Justin decided to get very angry with me because he was late. He came close to having a tantrum, and that would have meant additional demerits. Fearing the potential ugliness of demerits and a tantrum, I pulled out The Reality Remote. I pressed pause, and with time on hold I explained to the class how students shouldn’t get angry at teachers when we haven’t done anything wrong. Our class discussed the nature and tone of apologies, then I hit rewind. Being able to cue back to the moment of Justin’s late entrance allowed us to play out the scene in a more appropriate manner.
Some people have told me that The Real World does not have Reality Remotes, that students need to learn how to behave appropriately in real time, not upon the review of an imaginary tape. They say employers will not have this kind of flexibility. This may be true. The Real World does not allow for being seven seconds late, nor does it permit farting, nor groin area friction and erections. Yet occasionally I dream about some brave new world – a place where the children can dance, pass gas, and let seven seconds slide by, unnoticed.