Thirty seconds

I quit teaching this morning for exactly thirty seconds.

My reason for doing so was entirely legitimate.  A colleague with whom I share a course had just edited our next unit exam (to be given tomorrow) then promptly deleted it.  In a classic teacher freak-out, he had barreled into my room during his plan to see if he’d sent me a copy.

He hadn’t.

It took me, however, a full thirty seconds to confirm that he hadn’t.  A half minute.  An eight-thousandth of an hour.  One tiny sliver of time in which I was looking intently at the computer screen and not at my class.

Thirty seconds is all it takes to get a rousing round of the nipple game going.

Nipple…” I thought I heard whispered softly as I typed my colleague’s name into the search function on gmail.  But then, the kids were chatting while I was distracted, so I was probably imagining things.

“No results found,”  Gmail said.  My colleague sighed.

Nipple.”  This time it was a husky whisper.  Maybe just some rogue boy thinking he was being funny.

Spanish IV Unit 1 test” I tried a new search for my frazzled coworker.


Nipple!”  stated matter-of-factly.  Three nipples and you’ve got a modified penis game on your hands.

For those of you who may have been too well-behaved in school to play the penis game (or for those of you who lived in some straight laced world where genitalia jokes and education never mixed,) it goes a little something like this:  1.  Be in a public place.  2.  Say the word penis at the decibel volume of your choice.  3.  Dare your friends to say penis at a louder decibel volume than yours.  4.  Repeat indefinitely.

May the loudest penis win.

Still bending over the computer, I counted a two second pause (the last two of my thirty seconds of distraction) and waited for my cue.


I spun around and caught the culprit, nipple in mouth.

I also discovered that in the last half-minute, three students had managed to change seats, one had flipped around backwards to put his legs in his row mate’s face and the entire center section of my class was deeply engaged in judging the nipple competition’s quality.

“Seriously?  I turn around for thirty seconds and you’ve replaced the penis game with nipples?”

Penis and nipples.  Two words most students would prefer never to hear their teacher utter.  A couple of students cringed.  The perpetrators, however, just grinned.

“Actually, Teach,” said one.  We were talking about Naples.  And it just kind of became “nipples.”

“Right.  Naples became nipples.  Which explains why “nipples” then had to be repeated multiple times at increasing volume.”  Running count of how many times the word “nipples” had now been used (in English) in my Spanish classroom?  Nearing ten, I figured.

“Do me a favor, will you?”  I asked my scattered group of nipple-mouthers.  “Stop acting like fourteen year old boys.”

“But, Teach, we are fourteen year old boys!”

“Ah,”  I said.  “Well then.  The next boob reference during class means you’re staying after to clean my desks.  Now, who can write the answer to number 1 on the board?”

“Me!”  Predictably, the nipple instigator leapt up.

“Go ahead,” I nodded.

“Yo hablo con mi mama,” He wrote on the whiteboard.

“See you after school, Tim.”

“What? Wait!  Why?!”

I strolled over to the board.

Mamá,” I added an accent mark.  “Mother.”

Mama,”  I erased it back to the form he had written.  “Breast.  Or, in the case of animals, teat.  Which, if you weren’t aware, is a…”

“Nipple…” he realized the trap.


Watch it, kiddo.

The teacher always wins.

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17 Responses to Thirty seconds

  1. Jo Tylek says:

    Yikes. I understand and appreciate your story, but as a veteran teacher I’m not sure I would have dignified their behavior by engaging with it. I would have sent them out of the room to send a loud clear message that we don’t give “ear” nor use any valuable time for such disrespect. I did it everyday so that my class would not have to entertain any time to it, and eventually they learned that if they wanted to stay in the classroom that such behavior would have to stop. But different strokes for different folks. I’m not the authority on such matters, and your approach might have worked well. Just saying’.
    On the other hand, a very interesting, informative and entertaining piece.

    • singingpigs says:

      Indeed. I truly believe teachers have to teach to their strengths, and mine is humor. By not even indicating that their annoying little games get to me, they don’t escalate into behavior issues and a situation is diffused in seconds. I haven’t kicked a kid out of my class in years, but I’ve very much kicked their butts to do better. Plus, I’ve found by not blinking, they learn to trust me and then come to me when they need real life help. And, frankly, I found it funny. Life’s too short not to giggle at bathroom humor. But like you said, different strokes…

  2. A.J. Carroll says:

    LOVE the adult revenge!!! But hey, my early teen years were spent in a very small town in Arkansas…didn’t know about the “Penis” game…I wonder, is it too late to play at 42? hum….

  3. Grading lit papers — totally needed the laugh! LOVE IT! Keep it coming

  4. That’s great! I’m glad you weren’t my teacher in high school. Although, I might have finished if you were. hah!

  5. cricketmuse says:

    It’s easy to get caught up with their adolescent hijinks. We have to set the tone and once we’ve let irreverence and inappropriate creep in it’s difficult to get the lid back on. I’ve learned not to mention certain words, phrases, or body parts when teaching freshmen English. It’s nearly a riot when we comes across lines like “I feel so gay” in old-time poetry. Why do they insist on acting their age?
    Blue Skies,

    • singingpigs says:

      I have to admit, I love adolescent hijinks. There is, in my world, also a fine line between setting the tone and killing fun. I like to think I mostly walk that line beautifully. But maybe not. Still, I do always dread teaching about lake Titicaca. That’s a two-fer.

      • cricketmuse says:

        Whew-that is a double trouble. Never came across that one yet. I have a tough enough time with Bob Ewell’s colorful description of what he claimed he saw between Mayella and Tom.

  6. Very enjoyable read especially enjoyed the young fella trying to slip one past you on the blackboard.

  7. Colin Bridgewater says:

    A few years ago when I was teaching seventh grade English, we read Arthur Ransome’s classic English children’s novel Swallows and Amazons. The book revolves around the adventures of the Walker children, and when they are on their sailing boat, each of the children has a title. One of the Walker children is called Titty, and she is the able seaman. There is no alternative but to let seventh graders get their giggles out when they read that in the first 10 pages.

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