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.
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.