Magic Words That Can Make You Disappear
Yesterday I managed to make a ridiculous post about the dangers of using humor in the classroom. I managed to leave out one of the dangers that daily annoys every teacher of middle schoolers who has ever been even remotely dedicated to the notion that you must at least try to follow the school rules if you wish to remain employed and outside of the prison system. That tiger trap is the important societal rule against certain magic words. You know the ones. Those words that, if you dare to say them out loud in the classroom as a student, make you instantly disappear… and learn hard words like the word “consequences”, and “eternal detention”, and “Would you like fries with that?” And if you are a teacher, those words lead to other hard words like “special school board meeting” and “disciplinary action”, and though they take longer to work their magic, eventually also “Would you like fries with that?”
These magic words are a serious danger and roadblock to teaching young minds because they so easily begin flowing out of young mouths. When you become a teacher infamous for using humor in the classroom, those young minds who don’t really have the big word of “inhibitions” wired into their circuitry yet will think license to laugh in the classroom is the same as license for dropping the magic F-word, or the magic S-word, or the combo-magic M-F-word. And those words invariably make somebody disappear completely… sometimes even permanently.
Being a Texas teacher, I have experience with the ridiculously harsh notion of Zero Tolerance Policies. Yes, in Texas we give the death penalty for swearing at the teacher. Well, maybe only a trip to court in front of an unfriendly judge who will levy a fifty dollar fine for the sin and then forbid the parents to pay it, making the child choose between paying it himself or spending a night in jail. So it is definitely in the students’ best interests if the teacher navigates around magic words in the laughing classroom environment.
You do this primarily through modeling. I never use even remotely offensive words in conversations with students. I sometimes even correct myself out loud for using interjections when I am mad like “Oofahdoo!” or “Fabulous French Frick-a-see-see!” because, as I point out to them, we all know what magic words they are filling in for. Context can often say for us the word we are not supposed to say. I have also been known to fake getting mad at them for saying “Criminnittly!” or “Hang-dang it!” in imitation of me because the teacher getting mad over the use of certain words is an absolute guarantee that the word will come out of the student the next time he or she needs to express inappropriate sentiment in the classroom. A teacher’s job, then, becomes the putting of lipstick on the pig. Because we are burdened with rules that absolutely prevent the use of George Carlin words in the classroom, and when the powers that be see the lipstick on the pig, they will think “Marilyn Monroe”, and their absolutes will be satisfied. Of course, I am begging you… please don’t tell them that it is really still a pig.