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In this day and age of political correctness, you’ve really got to pay attention to what you say so you don’t offend someone. Well, in middle school even the most innocent of words can suddenly turn a class of students into a real uproar - falling out of chairs, knee-slapping, uproarious laughter.

Imagine trying to teach Hamlet. and discuss the “heinous” acts of murder. I’m sure you can figure out what that sounds like! And what about The Iliad. Yes, we did learn the stories and read small sections of the actual text).  Achilles’ “booty” is just too much for them to read. The darn book has to refer to it multiple times.  And each and every time, there is laughter.

Even when teaching a simple grammar concept like the difference between lay and lie, you can easily fall into their trap.  Knowing the difference is hard for some adults as well (especially when you start using the past tense or one of the progressive tenses) but the kids were finally getting the difference (you lie down not lay down).  Not thinking clearly, I told them that even inanimate objects could lie, like “I left the hoe lying in the garden. ”The HO????”  Okay, even I had to laugh.

That’s not as bad though as what the principal said over the PA system one morning. The middle school kids had their lockers in the center hallway of the building.  Boys would bring bouncy balls to school and start throwing them in the hallway.  The principal announced over the PA, “Boys, no playing with your balls in the hallway!” They were laughing about it all day (and so were the teachers)!

And how about if you don’t know what a certain word means, but you can’t let on. Now, the head of school really knew how to handle himself when this happened to him one morning. Three boys had been sent to his office for disciplining because they had been giving each other “wedgies” at recess.  Okay, I know some of you are snickering at this.  The only problem though was he didn’t know what a wedgie was. I guess he was born under a rock.  So, he asked them if they thought wedgies were funny. “Oh no, Mr. Wyman!”  Then, he asked if they gave them to each other, would they also give him one? Imagine the horror on those boys’ faces! All these years later I still can’t think about it without laughing.


It’s like a minefield out there, folks.


So tread lightly when talking to this age group (or any of your immature friends.) Jeez … some people never grow up.

Image: Clay monoprint by Meredith Wakefield

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