Rear Window: Teaching Teenagers

Every secondary educator has plethoric stories of adolescent ridiculousness, but I’m relatively new to this game and find myself consistently impressed with the level of… what the fuck is even going on? that seems to emanate from my students’ thoughts and expressions.

For instance:

Today, I sent a boy out of my class (which I very, very rarely do) and, when I stepped out shortly after to talk to him about the “reason” for his exile, this is the conversation that uncoiled:

Me: Why did you get sent out?

Child: uhhhhm… I was kinda off-task…

Me: But why specifically did you get sent out?

Child: (whose face is beginning to glow like my ego 41% of the time) uhhmmm I was being kinda inappropriate…

Me: But what specifically were you doing when I sent you out?

Child: (makes a move to start rubbing his butt)


Child: ohh… (his head is actually on fire with humiliation at this point)… I was… rubbing my butt.

Me: (struggling with the entire force of my being not to disintegrate into uproarious laughter) And is that something we need to do in class?

Me: Or at all?

Child: …nooooo. Sorry.

Me: Don’t apologize. Just… go back inside and don’t… rub your butt for the rest of the day.

Perhaps your knee-jerk reaction is to judge my interrogation as too harsh. If that’s your inclination, you have likely never interacted with a teenager. Specifically, a teenage boy. And especially this teenage boy, who has been asked to, “Please stop flexing,” in class (mine and his previous teachers’) on multiple occasions.

Don’t misunderstand; the kid is endearing as hell… when he isn’t rubbing his butt or flexing at a classmate.

But can’t that logic be applied to basically all teenagers?

Within the same class period, but on a different day, the following debacle unfolded while the kiddos were reading Things Fall Apart aloud:

Child: (reading from the novel) “When the rain finally came, it was in large, solid drops of frozen water which the people called…” (child pauses, turns florescent fuschia) “…’the nuts'” (child’s voice raises three octaves as he chokes on stifled giggles) “…of the water of heaven.’ They were hard…” (child is actually suffocating) “and painful on the body as they fell, yet young people ran about happily…” (child’s eyes expand to the point of bursting and his voice ascends an impossible octave higher as he squeaks out in an insane shriek) “…PICKING UP THE COLD NUTS AND THROWING THEM IN THEIR MOUTHS TO MELT.”

Me: (Managing the superhuman feat of maintaining composure as the 28 sophomores in front of me suffocate with laughter) Why are we laughing right now?

Children: (Continue to die)

Me: (Smiling like a Mr. Rogers ventriloquist) Is it because the narrative just talked about people putting nuts in their mouths?

Children: (Exploding into supernovae of adolescent awkwardness)

Me: Why is it that ‘nuts’ are so funny? Is it because it’s a euphemism for ‘testicles’?

Children: (Have all turned into diamonds from the pressure of their suppressed, humiliated laughter)

Me: What do you think? Why do we call testicles ‘nuts’?

One child raises her hand, thumb and forefinger about an inch apart, and ventures an earnest: Because they’re about the same size?

Other Children: (Now suddenly, humiliatingly silent)

Me: Interesting idea! But you know what? I think it has more to do with fruit and seeds. Because in nature, what function do nuts serve?

Same brave, or naive child: It’s where the seeds are?

Me: Yeah, I think so! And, aren’t testicles where the ‘seeds’ that grow people are?

Children: (Are all actually corpses at this point)

Me: Isn’t that fascinating?! We call testicles ‘nuts’ because nuts, like testicles, contain the seeds that grow into new plants… and people!

Children: (rest in peace)

But it’s not all fun and games and butts and testicle jokes. It’s an incredible amount of work for both me and my students. There are essays to write and revise; skills to practice and hone; tests and quizzes to assess progress.

Which is why I try to keep it light by doing cool, hip things… like incorporating Ke$ha into my rhetorical device quizzes. I’ll sign off with the result of that “cool, hip” decision:


One thought on “Rear Window: Teaching Teenagers

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