Monthly Archives: September 2019

Sunday’s For Teachers: A Well-Placed Curse Word

Have you ever dropped a curse word in your classroom?

If so, was it on accident?  On purpose?  Both?  Does age of the student matter?  Are you completely against exposing your students to any media with curse words?

These are questions that we don’t discuss much on our quest to becoming better educators.  We hit up the hottest trends on Twitter.  We seek out the newest SEL PD.  But we don’t often discuss how we feel about cursing in the classroom.

Yesterday, I Tweeted this: “Teachers, flex your creative minds this weekend.  Play.  Do something different.  Explore.  Find inspiration in the slicking [sic] of a tomato.  Life is too short to keep doing mundane shit.  Break your cages and see if your lesson planning becomes a bit more inspired.”

Within a couple of hours, about ten followers jumped off of the @comics_teacher train and unfollowed me.  I ain’t mad: to each his/her/they own.  And this is a normal thing…the loss of followers after a curse word; it’s happened to me in the past, and reflecting with a few teacher friends last night, it’s normal.  Teachers lose followers based on personal likes, retweets, and even nonpartisan political posts.

And since a great deal of my followers are teachers, I can understand if the occasional swear word might make a few waves.  After all, teachers are saints.  We never curse or do anything even remotely human.

But it got me thinking.  How do you all feel about cursing in the classroom?

As a new administrator, you might think that my thoughts might have changed on the subject, but that have not.

I taught with an amazing teacher for a number of years who is now a high-level administrator at a local high school.  When he taught, he had a rule that his kids could swear in class (no F-bombs) if it was to make a point when no other words would do because, and I’m quoting the teacher here, “Some stuff is just bullshit.”

Some of you reading this are cringing right now.  But have you ever used that word in a classroom of upperclass students when something was simply “bullshit”?  It can be a powerful tool.

Now, I am certainly not encouraging you to go out tomorrow morning and call your weekend “bullshit” because your “damn” kids wouldn’t shut the “ass-hell” up.  On the contrary, I’m encouraging you to not swear, BUT you should know that for some teachers, a well-timed rated PG-13 swear word can be a remarkable thing.

There have been times when I’ve been discussing a heated, passionate subject (with seniors) and a PG-13 word dropped from me or them.  If it’s organic and meaningful, the kids don’t flinch.  Guess what?  They are human.  You are human.  Being real is human.  And honest, human interaction can build community.

You: So…Eric, are you swearing, like, all the time?

Me: …ummm, no.

You: So…when?

Me: I can’t say, but it’s rare.

You: And F-Bombs?

Me: No, I don’t use those.

You: But you get one in a PG-13 movie as long as it’s not a verb.

Me: I know.  I’m still not using it in front of students.

You: Can I?

Me: I wouldn’t.

This post won out in a Twitter poll about what people wanted me to discuss this week.  The other topic was the Danielson Rubric/Framework.  But here’s a tie-in for now since the Danielson discussion is coming next week: don’t think that because a teacher does something different than you that they are wrong.

We are all unique.  You might have mad success reading Shakespeare out of a book by assigning roles to your kids; I don’t think Shakespeare wrote his plays to be read by anyone but actors…they are meant to be watched.  BUT if we both find success, who cares what we do?  As long as kids are learning and growing.

I remember the first time I heard a teacher swear in the classroom: my senior year, first period AP Lit.  Mr. Bill was drinking coffee with is feet up, reading the newspaper when he spilled on himself, looked down, and said, “Shit…”

We laughed.

It was a terrible class: he basically played records of classic plays all semester and had us read along with little instruction, but that’s one of the moments in my K-12 career that I remember seeing a teacher as a human being.  A human being that helped me get a lousy 3 on the AP test.

The purpose here is just to get you thinking.  Agree with me; disagree with me.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is that you understand two things: there is no one way to eat a Reese’s, and there are out of the box ways to build community in your classroom…many of them requiring you to be a human.

Come back next Sunday as I get into an issue with the Danielson Rubric for teacher evaluation.

Happy teaching!


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