Thursday, April 11, 2013

The P-Word (or, Awkward)

In an effort to become more teacher-like, I have been volunteering in a local school to supplement my student teaching. Well, I can occasionally pull-off "teacher-like", using the most broad definition, of course, but the more time I have in-service the better my job search will be, I hope. Basically, I'm selfishly volunteering to further my own career. It's all good.

Anyway, I've been spending quite a bit of time in this one classroom in which the teacher is nearing her retirement. She's a nice lady who seems to have survived teaching with a fair degree of grace, except for one minor thing.

On it's own, this minor thing may not be a problem for her, but when you pair her "minor thing" with my "little problem" (see previous, we have sheer terror in the classroom. You see, her problem appears to be a weakness for sharing...inappropriately. Which also means she is no match for my little problem in which people feel compelled to share.

The first time I was in her classroom, all was well. The next time, not so bad...perhaps, in retrospect, a few untoward comments that suggested some struggles with mental health, but nothing significant. But by the third time (and, honestly, knowing what I know now, I'm a little surprised she held out so long) trouble was brewing.

I trotted in that morning happily flipping my volunteer photo (!) ID around my neck. I was greeted like a rock star (which is, frankly, the whole reason I even bother). And, then, I sat down and got to work with my normal duties.

The kids all got back to what they were doing when, moments later, the teacher quietly popped up behind me. I jumped and turned around only to come face-to-face with something that looked like this....

Is that a cactus in your pocket....?
Not what I was expecting, but ok. I can flex with the best. She started to explain.

HER: Look! This is a cactus from my garden. It blew over in the wind last night so I thought I'd take the chance to show the kids before I replant it.

ME: Oh! Cool! Weird cactus. Arizona has some crazy plants!

HER: I know. I love this one....

Then she leaned in close.....

HER: ....I call this "my big man".

ME: (Looking at her quizzically.)

HER: It looks like a big, hairy penis!

ME: (BLUSH!!!!!)

Now I'm a modest individual who has a hard time slipping the "p-word" in to her daily vocabulary (although I have given it the ole college try on a few occasions). But out of the mouth of a fourth-grade pillar of the community was just about more than my teensy little brain could handle. It exploded. I was, once again, speechless....and BRIGHT RED! I absolutely did not know how to respond. I must have look like an instant lobotomy patient.

She merrily turned and went back to teaching something about something and the day went on. I think. At least, that's what the EMTs told me after they treated me for near-fatal mortification.

I was so disappointed. We all know that teachers are the bastions of our society. They don't swear. (Ever!) They don't drink. (Much.) They don't share inappropriate stories. (In public.) And they certainly don't say...the "p-word". (Unless they are a science teacher. In which case, a rare exception can be made. But, frankly, those science teachers can be a little shady and I'm not terribly comfortable with bending the rules for them a whole lot.) My whole perspective on all the lovely little-old-lady teachers that I'd had in my life was tanking. Dramatically.

And, worse still, if it's not the teachers, then I have to ask, is it me? Why do people say these things to me? My face must be on a "If You See This Woman Humiliate Her" list on the internet somewhere as a joke. It must be. I simply can't bear the thought that people just think I'm as crazy as they are.

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