Posts Tagged ‘Classroom Humor’

paddleNote: The names  in the following story have been changed to protect the parties involved. Except mine of course. I’m pretty sure the statute of limitations has passed by now.

If the story I’m about to recount had taken place in 2006 or even 1996 everyone involved would have probably been fired. But this was a different time, a different place. This was 1985, and the place was Greenfield, Ohio. Read on …

It was mid-morning and I was teaching Reading at the time. Teaching Reading was great because they basically let me write my own curriculum, which is either downright horrifying or spectacularly exciting, depending on your viewpoint and opinion of me as a professional educator. Let’s just say I created some unorthodox lessons plans, such as deciphering the lyrics to Don McLean’s “American Pie”, or “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “I Am the Walrus” by my beloved Beatles. Hey, there’s nothing more fun than explaining what John Lennon meant when he wrote “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together” or “Yellow mother custard, dripping from a dead dog’s eye” to a bunch of impressionable 13-year olds.

Good times.

Anyway, I was in the middle of class when I heard the principal’s voice over my intercom: “Mr. Shoemaker, you’re needed in the high school office immediately.” I responded, “Sure, let me get someone to cover my class and I’ll . . .”  At that point I was interrupted. “Never mind that, just get over here right away.”

Uh-oh.

I immediately walked/jogged to the office, mind racing as I went. What the hell had I done? Was it taking the kids to the roof for that lesson last week (don’t ask)? Was it discussing evolution? Was it letting  that kid walk over to the Kahlua Cream to grab me a milkshake the other afternoon? Since I usually did 2-3 things a week that could be considered controversial, the possibilities were endless. Alas, when I arrived at the office my fears were allayed.

I walked in the door, and in the corner stood Joe, a high school kid who had been in a lot of trouble, mostly involving physical altercations. Joe was sort of in a crouched position, looking around wildly, waiting to pounce on the first person brave enough to approach him. Watching him was my principal and the high school football coach, who had also apparently been called in as an enforcer along with yours truly. At this point my principal looks at me, grinning, and says,”Mr. Shoemaker, Joe here took a swing at Mrs. Blipnoid (not her real name) and he’s refusing to take his whoopin’.”

Keep in mind these were the days when paddling, or corporal punishment as it was called, was commonplace. Joe then demanded to speak to his father, but my principal had other ideas. He said, “Tell you what. I’ll call Charlie myself.”

My principal knew every single person in town, I kid you not. He then proceeded to call Joe’s dad, explains the situation, listens, and hangs up the phone. He then looks at Joe, grins maniacally and says, “Looks like the whoopin’s a go, Joe.”

At that point Joe knows the deal and decides to go for broke. He leaps over the desk and makes a break for the door, except I was in front of the door. Before he runs me over the football coach steps over and sort of blindsides the kid (using perfect form tackle I might add) and takes him down in one fell swoop. As this is happening the principal clears everything off his desk with one sweep of his giant paddle. The football coach and I then body slam Joe facedown on the desk. The principal actually proceeds to paddle Joe by raising the board over his head, swinging straight down, while using both hands. If I recall it was 4-whacks give or take a whack.  We then let Joe up, he apologized, shook our hands, and went back to class. No suspension, in-school restriction, Saturday school, nothing.

Problem solved.

If it happened today we’d all be on 60-Minutes trying to explain ourselves. Back then? Just another day at Greenfield McClain.

Hey, I told you it was a different time.

As many of you know I taught Physical Education for a few years. For the dodgeball1record, I was never a certified PE teacher. I ended up there because I’d been an Athletic Director for 9-years and switched over to PE due to problems with a new boss, but that’s a blog for another day (and what a blog it will be). I’m actually certified to teach grades 1-8 and had a minor in History. Anyway, my few years in the gym were interesting ones to put it mildly.

I was constantly getting these ridiculous emails from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. They had all these strongly worded recommendations (backed by studies!) that stated I should avoid “games of competition.” Wait. What? See, they didn’t want any winners and losers, and by not wanting winners and losers they meant not wanting losers. You know, because if you lose a game of Chinese Freeze Tag your feelings might get hurt, your self-esteem will plummet and you’ll end up living in a cardboard box on the mean streets of Humboldt, Ohio.

And as you know, in real life there’s no competition so why learn to deal with it when you’re young? That doesn’t make any sense, except in the sense that it makes absolutely perfect sense. With this in mind I get a visit from my principal one day. I don’t think her heart was really in it but she felt required to tell me that the game of dodgeball was being phased out in schools across the country and I should probably think about doing the same. The fun-haters at the forefront of the anti-dodgeball movement would like you to believe that it puts too much pressure on the psyche of our youth, that it somehow damages a student’s self-esteem to engage in such a “violent” sport, that getting knocked out in a game is harmful to a child’s well-being and, indeed, their fragile egos.

To this I say poppycock, balderdash, and whatever other cool name for bullshit I can think of. Do you really think kids want to engage in non-competitive activities like dancing, aerobics, and Tae Bo? Boy, that sounds fun, no? Woohoo! We’re gonna learn the salsa today kids!

Good Lord.

Kids hate that crap. On the other hand, any sport that involves throwing stuff at each other is a big hit. Pun intended. That’s why dodgeball is so beloved and why we used to play it so often. And by the way, none of this “no head shots” malarkey. In our world not only were head shots allowed, they were encouraged.

Kids love games where there’s an element of danger involved. That’s why we climbed trees when we were little, right? Because the danger of falling made it fun? And why did we ride our bikes down big hills? Because it was scary! No risk no reward, amirite?

I am.

And so, I have a little secret for all the psycho-babbling eggheads who want to destroy the single greatest game ever invented. Life is competitive. It’s sometimes hard. You get hit. You get back up. You figure out how to stay alive and advance. Sometimes you have to be aggressive and have a killer instinct to be successful.

Just like in dodgeball.

dodgeball-313429_960_720Things got so bad a few years ago that I had to change the name of the game we played in my classes. Since we were strongly recommended not to play dodgeball, we played a game called Avoid the Sphere. The rules were, uh, strikingly similar to dodgeball . . . OK, they were exactly the same. Anyway, technically it wasn’t dodgeball. Actual conversation between our principal and one of my 3rd graders:

Principal: “What did you guys play in gym today? Was that dodgeball?”

Jackson: “No, maam. We don’t play dodgeball. We played Avoid the Sphere.”

Attaboy Jackson.

As in life, dodgeball players fall into several distinct groups. As you read these, try and picture people you know in life and what group they’d fit into. Here they are:

The Attackers

  • The Attackers are the aggressive go-getters, the players who are always on the move. They’re hard to hit, hate to lose, and are always on the offensive. I love The Attackers. Think they’ll be successful? You betcha.

The Slackers

  • The Slackers are the ones who drift to the back, don’t really try to get out of the way, basically just hope they get put out early so they can go stand on the sidelines and watch the game, and life, pass them by. The Slackers ask to go to the bathroom a lot.

The Sneaks

  • These are the guys who like to sneak around the side and nail you in the back. They’ll lay low, creep slowly up without drawing attention to themselves, and before you know it you’re drilled right in back of the head. Know anybody like that in your life? That’s what I thought. This technique usually works early on in the game but as the numbers dwindle the laws of nature take over and one of The Attackers takes them out in a violent manner. That’s always satisfying to watch.

The Plotters

  • Ah, The Plotters. Always scheming and planning, always looking to make alliances, only to turn on their friends in the end for their own advancement in the game. As The O’Jays said it best, they’ll smile in your face, but all the time they want to take your place. Once again, The Plotters are a reflection of the real world.

The Invisibles

  • The Invisibles are exactly what you think they are. I’ve seen a player run right by an Invisible and go after someone else without evening noticing. Invisibles remind me of an animal that stands still to avoid being eaten. Once they move or start running they’re dead meat. Just as in your life or workplace, you have to watch out for The Invisibles.

The Cheaters

  • And finally, The Cheaters. The Cheaters will flat out ignore getting hit if you’re not watching. They’ll swear on their mother’s life that a ball that blasted them in the temple missed them completely. Cheaters will do anything to win and would rather climb a tree and lie than stay on the ground and tell the truth. Cheaters can ruin it for everybody, tearing the very fabric of the world’s greatest game.

1I’m retired now, but I’m keeping dodgeball alive by once again running our school-wide tourney every year in early May. The tournament is complete with painted faces, team t-shirts, an announcer who does introductions, the works. We have team names like the Headshots and The Knockouts. The gym gets so loud you can’t hear a blistering shot to the earhole. The kids, teachers (and yes, the principal) love it. We’re fighting the good fight. Dodgeball may be dying in schools across America but we’re keeping it alive here in southern Ohio.

You know, to eliminate Dodgeball would be a disaster for school kids everywhere. Hell, it should be an Olympic sport. Dodgeball teaches life lessons every single day you play it.

So here’s to Dodgeball, Avoid the Sphere, or whatever you want to call it.

It’s a microcosm of life.

headshot

Back when I taught 6th Grade I had a kid named Joe who was, shall we say, a little on the edge. werdHe’d been in trouble so many times his mail was delivered to the principal’s office. I knew about all this at the beginning of the year but, as I did with all my kids, I was going to let him start with a clean slate. The first couple of weeks were uneventful, but Joe never said a word. I decided the best plan would be to just give him time and try to draw him out slowly. Sure enough, one day we were talking about careers and I was asking my kids if they had any idea what they wanted to do for a living someday. The topic then turned to animals, so I asked the class if anyone would like to work with animals in the future. Among the 4 or 5 students who raised their hand was Joe. Ah, I thought – breakthrough. I worked my way slowly over to him. I asked one of the kids how they wanted to work with animals, and she said she wanted to be a veterinarian. Another said he wanted to run a daycare for dogs. And then I turned to Joe. The conversation went like this:

Me: “Joe, how would you like to work with animals?”

Joe: “I want to work in a slaughterhouse.”

That, my friends, was Joe’s idea of “working with animals.”

A couple of years ago, I was teaching Phys Ed and a 2nd Grader walked over to me. Here’s the conversation:

Max: “Mr. Shoe, do you mind if I sit out for a little bit?”

Me: “Why? Are you sick?”

Max: “Nah, I’m not sick, I just haven’t felt very good since the incident.”

Me: “The incident? What incident?”

Max: “I fell out of a tree stand.”

Huh? He then proceeded to turn around and show me a knot on his head the size of a coconut.

Me: “HOLY . . . have you been to the doctor?”

Max: “Nah, dad says it’s probably just a concussion.”

Me: “Max, go to the nurse.”

They raise ‘em tough down here in Ross County.

And finally, this nugget. I was a High School Athletic Director at the time, and I was making the rounds passing out some paperwork to my coaches.  One of my volleyball coaches taught 3rd Grade, and I have to say she was, well, a bit of a prude. In fact, she was really uptight about some of the very things in life that yours truly indulges in regularly.  Keep this in mind as you read the conversation that took place between me and a little kid as I walked into her room:

Kid: “HEY! I saw you in the liquor store!”

Me, startled: “Huh? What? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Kid: “Yeah, it was you. It was on Thursday in Greenfield. You were at the liquor store.”

At this point I remember that I was in fact in Greenfield on Thursday, and was, in fact, at the liquor store.

Me, thinking fast: “Oh yeah, a buddy of mine owns the place so I was stopping in to say hello.”

I’ve no idea why I felt compelled to lie to the kid but he had me on the ropes. Alright, I admit it.  I panicked. Anyway, the kid wasn’t convinced…

Kid, skeptically: “Huh.”

At that point I’d given the papers to the teacher and was on my way out. Hey, I’d covered my ass and was good to go. But as the door was about to shut behind me I heard this:

“That’s funny. I thought I saw him buying a fifth of Grey Goose Vodka.”

Damn kid was probably flunking 3rd Grade but he remembered every detail of my trip to Joe’s Party Shop.

Originally published on September 3rd, 2012.

I’d like to preface this by saying this year’s 5th Grade class has some of the most intelligent, insightful students I’ve ever had. That said . . .

We’ve been discussing Christopher Columbus the past few days, and today I was showing a short video about his initial voyage to the “New World.” It included a re-creation of the trip. During one of my classes (a few minutes into the movie) a kid raised his hand. I paused the video and asked if he had a question. Here’s the conversation that transpired between him, myself and another kid:

Me: “Yes, Oliver?” (name changed to protect the ignorant innocent).

Oliver: “Now, was this filmed during the actual voyage?”

I was trying to come up with an answer that wasn’t insulting when another kid piped up with this gem:

“NO way! If it was it would be in black and white.”

He was dead serious.

Sigh.

Don’t worry. I’ll get ’em straightened out.