Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tales Out Of School, Part One

As some of you may know, I worked, for a time, as an English teacher at an alternative school/program for at-risk adolescents. These were teens who had trouble with a variety of things from drugs and alcohol to self esteem issues, attitude problems, skipping school, flunking out of school, whatever. One kid was sent because of "The Party" she threw at her parents' house when her parents were out of town. I take it it was a very destructive party. Another was court ordered to our program because he stole cars. Ironically, he was not the student who then tried to steal my car. But, as always, when kids are involved in anything, you get some truly hi-larious stories out of it. Here are some of mine:

When I first started at the school, we used thematic units that changed every month. The first unit was ancient times, then medieval time and so on and so forth right up on through modern times. It was easy for me to find literature to fit each unit and when we hit medieval times, I was especially excited because well, because I'm pretty obsessed with the middle ages. I don't know if you know that about me, but I am.

Anyway, due to time restraints, I was having a class read a translation of Sir Gawain And the Green Knight. We would read it aloud in class because I quickly learned that assigning reading as homework was a waste of time because no one would do it or understand it if they did. So we read aloud. Every night, I would come home and prepare the next section, reading each line over carefully in order to be fully prepared for anything that might come up. Anyway, one day, the class was moving along at a fairly good clip and we actually managed to get ahead and started to read a section I had not fully vetted. One student was read and I was following along and happened to read a little further ahead and saw the line containing the phrases "gay cock" and "erect Arthur." In my head I was saying many not nice words. I contemplated running away before they got to that line, or banging my head against the table until my brains leaked out but I didn't. I sat. I waited. The student reading reached the line I was dreading and stopped.

"Gay cock?" he said, barely getting it out as he was in the midst of a fit of giggles. Much like the rest of the class.

"Erect Arthur?" was next. Followed by more giggles.

So I turned it into a lesson on the evolution of the English language. A gay cock is a happy rooster, kids, and Erect Arthur just means he's standing up straight. And a fagot (yep, that one followed.) is a bundle of sticks.

Needless to say, I never taught Sir Gawain and the Green Knight again.

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