My wife picks me up from work every day. Yesterday, on the way home, I was telling her about an unfortunate consequence of one of my examples in class.
I gave one of my classes a Voice Lesson (If any teachers read this blog, I highly recommend this book for close reading/literary analysis practice — it’s here on Amazon.) which gives them a quotation and asks them a series of questions about it, and then has them imitate it in some way. Today’s quotation was:
Whenever he was so fortunate as to have him near him a hare that had been kept too long, or a meat pie made with rancid butter, he gorged himself with such violence that his veins swelled, and the moisture broke out on his forehead.
– Thomas Babington Macaulay, “Samuel Johnson”
The students then had to write an original sentence describing someone with disgusting eating habits, using at least three vivid details. Now, I answer all of these myself; but I don’t want to point the finger at anyone else and call them disgusting. So I described my own disgusting eating habits.
You see, when I was in high school, I ate, as many teens do, really appalling amounts of junk food. I picked three of the worst examples, and — even though I never combined these in real life — I put them all into one sentence. The three eating habits were: once I brought a can of Betty Crocker frosting to school for lunch, which I ate with a tiny spoon intended for stirring espresso; I used to eat beef jerky that came in an eight-foot rope form (With the unimaginative product name of “8-Foot Beef Rope.” Picture a coiled Slim Jim. And yes: I did try to make a lariat out of it. Didn’t work.); and as I was not picky about my throat-searing, stomach-churning soda consumption, I used to drink Caffeine-Free Diet Coke at room temperature, from two-liter bottles.
I told my students about this. And two of them, in a classic example of Why Mr. Humphrey Doesn’t Talk About The Stupid Crap That He Did In His Youth, decided that they would eat the same thing, and do it within a time limit — half an hour was what they were bandying about during class. This, apparently, was to be called The Humphrey Challenge.
I told this to Toni as she was driving me home. I said to her what I said to them: I do not want my name associated with this. I do not endorse these eating habits, particularly not all at once. This is not the thing I want named after me.
Toni said, her tone completely deadpan: “Everyone’s gotta have a legacy.”
I don’t think she even noticed the death glare I gave her for the following thirty seconds. If she did, it didn’t have any effect.
And then today: today on the way home I told her about the question I got today, which certainly ranks at the top of the list of Most Awkward Questions I’ve ever been asked by a high school student. One of my freshmen, who admittedly lives a very sheltered life — she made “Eeewww!” noises and faces throughout Romeo and Juliet, and left the room whenever Mercutio started making pornographic jokes — came in to my room today before the class started, and in a conversational tone she asked — in all sincerity — “Mr. Humphrey, what’s a boner?”
My first thought was, “How do I answer this?” My second thought was, “Don’t answer this.” I went with option two, telling the young lady she didn’t want to know. She was suspicious she was being played, but several other students — who are less innocent — agreed with me.
So Toni and I were talking about this, and she asked, “So that isn’t part of your curriculum, then?”
I said, “No, we don’t have a boner standard.” Though I admit I haven’t read all of the Common Core.
Giggling furiously, she managed to get out, “How about a rubric?”
Death stare one day, peals of laughter the next. She always keeps me guessing, and usually laughing.