Category Archives: pop culture reference

Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure.

Somehow, my class started talking about Pottermore while I was taking attendance. They were comparing houses and traits and so on.

One girl asked, “Hey, Ms. H, have you taken the quiz? What house are you in?”

I said, “It should be pretty easy to guess which house I’m in.”

Another girl spoke up with authority: “She’s Ravenclaw.”

The first girl asked, “How did you know that?”

“Because she said it was obvious,” she responded plainly.


There are limits.

Girl 1: Ew! These Cheez-Its are gross!
Girl 2, pointing her finger: Don’t you ever disrespect Cheez-Its again.
Girl 1: They’re whole grain.
Girl 2: Oh. OK. That’s fine then.

Bleeding vs Blackface

I had students writing out a quick list of all the things they know about racial tension in America in the mid-1900s. You know, the Civil Rights Era. They worked in small groups on posters that we then hung up for discussion.

I’m walking around, doing the good teacher thing, checking on groups and whatnot. I go over to one group, read some of the stuff on their poster, then point to something they wrote about three from the bottom. “Menstrual shows?” I ask.

“Yeah,” this boy responds. “They were really popular for a long time. It was where white people painted their faces black and put on these plays where they made fun of Black people and stuff. They really just helped make a bunch of Black stereotypes.”

“Oh! Minstrel shows!” I said.

“Yeah, menstrual shows,” he replied.

I just left it.

And you know what? That poster’s been hanging in my room now for two days. No one. Has said. A thing.

Risky Business

My students engage in risky behaviors all the time.

They drink and do drugs. They throw huge, multi-day long parties or “camping trips” as minors. And then they talk about it all at school like it’s no big deal.

They have unprotected sex. And show up pregnant or talking about pregnant girl friends, or they brag about their sex-capades and “smashing” like it’s no big deal.

They go skydiving, cliff jumping, and off-trail mountain biking in forbidden areas.

They tie skateboards to the back of pick-up trucks, light things on fire, pierce and tattoo themselves in the kitchen, and post naked pictures on the internet.

They stay up all night for multiple nights in a row and fuel their tired hours during the day with multiple giant cans of energy drinks.

And yet…

They do not risk speaking in class. They do not answer questions aloud. They do not let anyone else see that they are trying. They would much rather respond with a quiet shake of the head and “I don’t know” than venture a guess, even if it’s something that I literally just gave them the answer to or if I know they wrote about on an assignment the day before.

Why do they do this? Why are they so comfortable doing damage to their bodies, but so uncomfortable answering a direct question?

I get it. I mean, I sort of get it. I get that they don’t want to be seen as dumb and I get that they’ve learned how to fail because teachers (and parents and siblings and society at large) have made them feel like failures and their backgrounds are not set up to provide them with the information they need to feel comfortable answering questions and so on. But good golly. The kid who pierced her own tongue when she was bored one weekend – a thought that sends shivers down my fear-of-face-paralysis spine – won’t tell me one damn thing she remembers from any part of the novel we’ve spent ten days on in class.

We talk a lot about the differences between the kids who “can’t do” and the kids that “won’t do” in terms of turning in work, but I think we need to change the timbre of that conversation. My kids will turn in work, mostly, but they won’t do other, simple things required of a student. My kids won’t venture. They won’t try. And that’s something I don’t know what to do with.


It’s not often that I laugh at something a student says – that anyone says – in a way that catches me off guard. My husband gets exasperated with me because I can sit through an entire two-hour stand-up comedy routine without even barely smiling. It’s not that I’m anti-fun or anything, just that I’m generally pretty reserved like that. I do laugh, easily, even. But, I don’t know, I guess I just measure my responses. Especially at school. So often kids say or do things to get a response and I just don’t give it to them.

However, I have this girl who says things all the time without trying to be funny that are just funny. And I laugh at what she says all the time in spite of myself – because what she’s saying is just barely on the tip toe edge of being crass. It’s the level of crass that when other kids say stuff at that level I’m able to look at them with a little glare and remind them that they’re in school. But her delivery is so natural, so candid, and so unassumingly witty, that, well, I don’t mean to, but honest giggles come out of me.

The other day, I overhear this sort-of-exchange between her and a boy in class. She’s actually just sort of quietly talking to herself at the beginning, but he jumps in.

Girl: God, sometimes it sucks being a good student. I have enough cleavage; I should just ditch all this and invest in my porn career.
[A boy two rows over throws himself on the desk to offer a high five.]
Girl, suddenly disgusted: Ugh! I’m not going to high five you for that! I’m not saying that so I can get your support! I have all the support I need from my online fans – guys like @bigdick242. Get out of my face.

And the same day, this between her and another girl.

Another Girl: Oh my god, I love Insane Clown Posse.
Girl: Yeah, I used to listen to ICP in eighth grade. It made me depressed as hell and definitely contributed to some bad choices. I regret those years.
Another Girl: What years?
Girl: Eighth grade.
Another Girl: Eighth grade is only one year.
Girl: No, I told you, I liked ICP then. It was more than one year.

America, the home of the Holocaust.

I asked students – eleventh graders – to make a list of the biggest, most impactful historical American events, people, or places. I’m expecting the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Rosa Parks, MLK Jr., Jackie Robinson, Elvis Presley, Henry Ford and the advent of assembly lines, Detroit, Motown, westward expansion, fast food industry, Brown vs. Board, Roe v. Wade, Loving vs. Virginia, Christopher Columbus, slavery, feminism, Ms. magazine, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the Chrysler building, the Sears tower, Mt. Rushmore, Mt. Saint Helens, the Grand Canyon, Theodore Roosevelt creating the National Parks system, the New Deal, NASA and the first man to walk on the moon, the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Special Olympics, Barack Obama becoming the first Black president…


One kid said “feminism stuff.” One kid mentioned Rosa Parks.

The rest of them? Literally the rest of them said either WWII or, more specifically, the Holocaust.

The only people listed (with the exception of the aforementioned Rosa Parks) – I shit you not – were Anne Frank, Albert Einstein, and Adolf Hitler. All of them German.

I leave you with this final thought: ??????????

Sometimes, it’s the little connections that count.

Me: Do any of you watch Game of Thrones?
A girl half raises her hand.
Me: Hodor!
She half smiles.
Me: Did you cry?
She gives a single nod.
Me: I was crying. Just a little bit.
Girl: I cried so much.

But…I AM a mom.

Girl 1: [looks in a mirror] Oh my God, I look like a mom.
Me: Woah! I take offense to that statement. I take a lot of offense to that statement.
Girl 2: Why? You don’t look like a mom.
Me: But I am a mom. So by definition, I look like a mom.
Girl 2: No, you look like Angelina Jolie.
Girl 1: Yeah, she does look like Angelina Jolie!
Girl 3: Who’s Angelina Jolie?
Girl 1: Oh my God, you don’t know who anyone is!
Girl 2: Haven’t you ever seen Mr. and Mrs. Smith?
Girl 3: Yeah.
Girl 2: Angelina Jolie is the wife in that movie.
Girl 3: Oh, yeah, that chick is hot as hell.
Girl 2: That’s Ms. H!
Me: I’m just going to pretend like I’m not being sexually harassed in class.
Girl 2: At least it’s nice sexual harassment.
Girl 1: Yeah, we’re telling you you’re hot. Not that you look like a mom.

I hate quotes.

I hate quotes. I think I’ve talked about it on here at some point before, but just in case I haven’t, let me say it again: I. Hate. Quotes. I think quotes are ruining humanity.

Allow me to give you an example.

I’m a seventh grader and I’m writing a paper about stars for science class and my teacher said I have to use MLA format and I know that means I need to cite stuff which means I need to read stuff which means I need to look stuff up but I don’t really understand what’s going on in the first place because all I know is that I have to have quotes in my paper about stars so I’ll go to Google and look up “quotes about stars” and oh this looks good: “If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years how man would marvel and stare” (Ralph Waldo Emerson). Yup, that’ll fit perfectly into my introduction. Probably Ralph Waldo Emerson was a scientist in some obscure lab I haven’t heard of yet because I’m only 12 and don’t know a lot of things yet. Oh, yeah, I need a citation: Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Brainy Quote. Web. 28 May 2014. Done!

Oh. My. God! This drives me absolutely fucking nuts! So much so that I will stop reading the paper at that point, give it back to the student and tell them to fix that shit and try again.

Then, just today, I saw on Facebook a comment from a person – an adult – that she’s upset about Maya Angelou’s death and that Angelou’s quotes will resonate with her always.

Maya Angelou should not be remembered forever for her QUOTES!

You want to experience some of Maya Angelou’s brilliance? Read one of her goddamn books! Browse a poem or two! Hell, watch one of her interviews with Oprah. But don’t rely on Pinterest images of her words – spliced and out of context – on a pretty background to influence your life and your opinions of her as an artist and a human being.


I’m done ranting for now.

RIP Ralph Waldo Emerson and Maya Angelou. I thank you both for your contributions to the world.

Shakira is old

Boy: Shakira’s pretty young. I thought she was, like, 30 or something, but she doesn’t look like she could be nearly that old.
Me: Just because someone is 30 doesn’t mean they’re old.
Boy: Oh. Well, no, that’s not what I meant.
Me: Uh huh. I just looked it up. Shakira’s 37.
The whole class: What?!? She is?!?