Adventures in Teaching: The Underwear Encounter
I think it was my second year teaching at our local high school. For some unexplained reason, the really hard-to-handle students were often given to the teachers who were on the lowest rung of the metaphorical totem pole, and I was definitely scraping the bottom. I had the least seniority in the English Department.
This “class from hell,” as I fondly referred to them, was fourth period, which made things even worse. You see, this period was split by lunch. By the time I got this rowdy group settled down and working, they were getting ready to go to lunch. After lunch, they returned to my classroom, and I had to repeat the process.
Supposedly, the class rosters were done by computer, but a friend of mine who was one of the administrators looked at my fourth period roll one day and informed me that there’s no way a computer could have put this group of students together in the same class. These reprobates had to have been hand picked, and I know now exactly who did it.
Allow me to tell you about a few of these kids. Three of them had stolen the head football coach’s truck the previous year. One was 20 years old and still in the 10th grade. Several were known drug dealers who came to school only to make deals. Two had been expelled the previous semester for fighting – at school. Another had threatened a teacher. One is now sitting on death row for several murders.
Such was the makeup of my class. Among all these current and future criminals was one sweet, shy, not-too-bright young man named Sean. I always felt sorry for him. I think he was actually afraid of his classmates. He never talked in class, not even to other students. He never asked any questions, either.
At the beginning of the school year, we had added a new rule to the dress code. It required students to wear proper undergarments to school. This rule was made to hopefully solve the problem of large girls with huge bazooms not wearing bras. Sean, however, was having trouble interpreting the new rule.
One day when the lunch bell rang, Sean remained in class. After everyone else had bolted from the room to get a good place in the lunch line, Sean stayed behind, obviously wanting to speak with me in private. He approached my desk with his head down, shuffling his feet.
“What’s up Sean? Aren’t you going to lunch?” I asked.
“Yes’m, but I gots to ax you a question,” he replied.
“Well, that’s what I’m here for. How can I help you?”
“Ummm…I needs to know ‘bout that underwear rule. How often is you gonna check our draws? And what you gonna look for? Is you gonna see if they clean, or if they have holes in ‘em, or is you just gonna look to see if we’s wearin’ draws?”
You’ve heard of people biting their tongues? I literally had to bite mine – hard – to keep from erupting in laughter. This poor little fellow actually believed that all the teachers were going to be underwear Nazis and regularly check out the students’ panties and briefs!
After I somewhat regained my composure and swallowed a substantial amount of blood from my mangled tongue, I explained the reasoning behind the dress code amendment. He beamed a huge smile of relief. In fact, I think that was the first time I had seen him smile.
After that encounter, Sean began to relax in class. He started seeking after-school help, and he no longer acted intimidated in class. He wasn’t afraid of his classmates, after all. He was worried about his teachers checking his underwear!
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