Zeus is the best god

Every day I present a person from mythology.  Mythology is chock full of rape, incest, adultery, cannibalism, mutilation, betrayal,… you get the idea.  After awhile I started to think,

“ How can  I teach this stuff to kids? “  and then I would listen to a rap song.  Straightened my thinking right out.

Zeus has a lot of women, goddesses, nymphs, mortals, willing or unwilling. He is the MAN,to the hormone filled skins of teenage boys.  I assigned presentations on the Greek gods. A big red haired freckled boy got up.

“Zeus is the BEST god.”

He thought for a moment. His catholic upbringing kicked in.

“Except for Jesus.”

The apology

I used to teach French to kindergarten through 4th grade. None of them knew my name, I was just The French Lady. This was my teaching technique:

“You guys won’t remember anything I teach you. ”

“Oh yeah? We will so!”

“Nope, you won’t. I’ll prove it to you.  If you remember these four words, you get a point. If you forget them, I get a point.”      Then I made the scoreboard.

me you guys scoreThis generally put them into a feeding frenzy. If any classmate had dared to forget a word they would have lynched him.  Every point I got took up the whole board. I made their  points  tiny dots on the board. If they started to win, I would say,

“You know, I really hate kids.”

“Oh yeah? Then why are you here teaching kids? You don’t hate us. You LOVE us!”

I first heard my dad say this to my daughter when she was four years old, and I was appalled.

“Why should I give you lunch? I don’t even like you.”    She didn’t even bother to look up from her book.

” Yes you do Pop Pop. You love  me lots and lots.”

So I tried it.  The kids don’t believe me either.

One day a first grade class got very rowdy.( I’m sure I had nothing to do with that at all)  The teacher was mortified and made every child make me a card with an apology.  One card said this:

im sorry but thas all

Thas  it.  Thas all I’m getting.

Ten years later a student stayed after class to talk to me and mentioned where she had gone to grammar school. It was where I taught ten years ago. And then it hit me. “Did you have really blonde hair and a ponytail?”

It was her.  And I still had the card.  Which I of course brought to class and told this story to her mortification every chance I got.


murder in the classroom

One day I looked down at my desk and saw that someone had written “The Conquistadors are coming,” probably from the one Spanish class that used the room.  So I wrote, “The gladiators are coming.”   My secret friend wrote back  “The conquistadors will kick gladiator butt.”  Our correspondence went on for days, till the desk top was black with pencil, at which point Burke, the teacher, noticed and made me clean it off. I was heartbroken. A budding relationship nipped in the, well, bud.  I never knew who my pencil pal was. I still wonder  if I will be at cocktail party someday and meet some local person, we’ll start talking about high school  and we will discover that each is the mystery student from long ago.  I still try and guilt Burke about making me clean the desk, but she has that Teflon quality about certain things, and the guilt ain’t sticking.

Her room didn’t have a pencil sharpener. Normally I wouldn’t have noticed, since I rarely did any work in school and hence did not need a pencil, so I may have needed the sharpened point to poke someone.


Why didn’t this room have one?  She told me it fell out the window. I looked at the window. It was an old school building with very wide wooden sills. The sill must have been a good eighteen inches wide.

“So, the pencil sharpener unscrewed its four screws, hopped over, what, a foot or so, pushed up the window, and then leapt to its death?”

I leaned out the window. “Then the body should  be in the bushes.”  I went outside later. No dead pencil sharpener in the  junipers.  Every day I brought this up. Had she hidden the body of the pencil sharpener?  Was the pencil sharpener suicidal?  When she was out of the room, I wrote a list of suspects on the board. Burke generally headed the list. Finally she cracked. I walked in class and the other kids ran up to me. “Burke wants to see you right away.”   A hush fell over the room.  Was I in  trouble? What did I do?  Well, I always did something, just usually no one found out about it.  She  walked up to me and looked at me sternly.  “Come here.”  She put her hands over my eyes and marched me to the  window.  She had requisitioned me a new pencil sharpener.

“You know that I know that you only did this to divert suspicion away from you and the foul crime you committed against his predecessor.”

I think back and try to remember why I liked this class. One, she put up with my babble. Two, she thought we were all human beings.  She said she liked teaching because,

“I never know what interesting people will show up in my class from  year to year,”

and I distinctly recall thinking,

“Wow.  She thinks we’re  people.


Very often a second or third year student has come up to me and told me earnestly that they are no longer cheating in my class.Then they beam at me,  waiting for praise. I can imagine this behavior in the workplace. “Boss, I’ve decided not to short the register anymore.”    When I recall their grades from their cheating days they are almost always  C grades. My recommendation: If you aren’t smart enough to study, at least be smart enough to cheat off someone who knows more than you do.

Discovering someone cheating is sometimes so entertaining  that it’s a shame to call them on it. Particularly when it is rather clear that none of the cheaters actually read or were cognizant of what they wrote.  Sample translation:  ” then on the third sailor the road to the island was great and brave and many.”   I have had up to six identical translations of this sort, but the best was when someone  had scrawled some unintelligible letters.

Illegible scrawl

Like this, but more illegible

and then I had a second one :

illegible scrawl 2

yep, identical to illegible scrawl 1

and then a little later I found:

illegible scrawl identical to first twoI found a total of four. Not only were they not words, they weren’t even letters.

I put the papers in a file, marked it “CHEATERS FILE”  and put it on the overhead projector. “If you cheated, come down and talk to me about it. If you don’t, then I’ll hand it my own way.”

Eighteen students came to my desk.

Two boys came to my desk and said, ” Can we see what you have there? We aren’t sure whether we cheated.”

“Either you did all the work, and handed it to someone else to copy, or someone else did all the work, and you copied it verbatim. That’s how you tell.”

The boys conferred with one another.  ” Okay, we’ll be right back.”   They talked for awhile in whispers. ” Well, we just aren’t sure if we cheated on this one.”

I once wrote in fine print on a test that the answers were posted on the ceiling.  Lots of students never read the instructions, much less in fine print. Then I did tape the answers on the ceiling, but in print too fine to be read from the ground. I also wrote that the answers were taped under the desk.  When they looked under the desk they found a paper that said we have to stop meeting like this. The best part was noticing that at least two thirds of the class had not read the fine print.