Today’s words to ponder:
9year old boy: (looks up from his book, over my shoulder at a teacher walking towards us) “Oh, there goes “Bubble Butt” (nonchalantly, as though he’s thinking aloud)
Me: “What? What are you talking about? “(I don’t see the teacher approaching.)
Boy: (pointing to teacher) “Oh, her. That’s the teacher we all call Bubble Butt, ‘Cuz… well… I… don’t think I need to explain it (he pauses) … if you know what I mean…” And without moving his head, he moves his eyes and so they point straight at her meaty buttocks tucked tightly into what look like Jeggings or very tight jeans. He then scours my face to check if it’s ok to giggle at his own wittiness.
Where to even begin with this comment? Oh my, have times surely changed since I was in lower school. It would be so far from my realm of thinking to dare to say something like this to a teacher, not to mention the inevitable consequences that would follow. Yes, I did attend a Catholic School run by Franciscan brothers and nuns. Let’s just let that fact speak for itself. I also know that my friends who attended the nonreligious schools would never dare say such a comment aloud to their teachers either.
Not that we didn’t think such things; we certainly did, but to have the audacity to repeat these types of mischievous thoughts to our teacher was simply out of the question. It was absurd. I shudder to think what might have happened if our top nicknames leaked out. Top of our list was Boogey McAllister , named for her shameless nose picking while we read aloud, round robin style. I guess she thought she’d never be caught red-handed because we were meant to have our eyes focused on the texts. And her sister “Boogey Red” named simply for her carrot red colored hair. A close third was “Bartholomew Breath” whose breath smelled like a dead rodent rotting in her gums. And, she’d lean over your shoulder to explain something even when everyone avoided asking any questions for fear that she’d do her lean in. Plaque-induced Gingivitis doesn’t even begin to cover it. Whew…
Back in my primary school years, I was taught that children were to be ‘seen and not heard’, and to ‘speak only when spoken to’. Behaving the way adults expected you to behave was “a given”; something never to be questioned. Trusting and being at ease with sharing private thoughts with teachers was nonexistent. The teacher-student relationship was clearly defined. Teachers were the authority figures with all the answers. Students listened to what teachers said and learned everything from them. Questioning a teacher’s authority was out of the question, as was striking up any sort of casual discussions with them; most of all, discussions related to private jokes between students about teachers!
I can’t even imagine the harsh punishment that would follow the Bubble Butt comment in the school I attended which was called by its medieval name, a grammar school. Much lesser infractions resulted in being sent to Detention Hall after school dismissal whereby students would sit in a room patrolled by a scary nun with beady eyes glaring up over her Scotch taped eyeglasses at a roomful of delinquents. They were held there for various terrible deeds such as chewing gum, wearing the wrong color socks or folding up uniform skirts to a disgracefully short length, slightly above the knees. Students would be forced to stay there until they completed writing hundreds of lines of the same statements such as, “I promise to never speak without raising my hand.” Or “I promise to wear the right color socks’. Or “I promise to never fold my uniform up at the waist again.” Not that I ever spent time in the Detention Hall or that I’ve got any personal experience with writing such phrases. Of course, I’ve been told these stories by, ahem, friends.
I’m very pleased that times have changed quite dramatically since the late 1970’s/early 1980’s. I’m so glad that my students feel secure enough within themselves to share private conversations and jokes with me. Perhaps calling this teacher Bubble Butt borders on inappropriate, but not in the spirit in which this boy shared his secret. I got no sense that he and his friends were being mean-spirited or disrespectful. After our brief discussion about how name name-calling can be hurtful, this boy completely understood how it could be seen by others as inappropriate rather than his intention of being playful.
An open and respectful exchange of ideas between us was all it took to get this message across. We all know that it’s not possible to discontinue secret language and jokes between young children, but I’m confident that honest and respectful dialogue between teachers and students about appropriate boundaries and respect help to keep these comments in their proper place. God only knows the variety of names they may have created for me in two decades!