Posts Tagged ‘funny teacher story’

Silent Murmurs: A Funny Teacher Story

September 7, 2012

Not my Uncle

Teaching junior high school is a lot like World War Iyou’re not allowed to leave your bunker and the students just keep coming at you in waves.

My uncle who taught Spanish and Social Studies at LAUSD schools in the San Fernando Valley for thirty years experienced many awkward moments in the classroom, but one episode stands out above all the others.

There are times when a teacher senses a silent buzz of commotion in the classroom: Maybe there was a fight in the hallway; maybe the teacher’s shirt is inside out; maybe someone is holding up dirty pictures every time you turn your back.

Once when my uncle was conducting a lesson, it was obvious that the entire class was on the verge of a giant giggle.  My uncle was sure that something was going on, but he couldn’t figure out what it was.  He tried all the tricks: swiveling his head back towards the class immediately after turning to the chalkboard, walking up and down the aisles, eyeballing potential troublemakers.  But the class remained eerily silent until the bell had rung and many smiling students had been dismissed.

My uncle thought, “Phew, glad that’s over, whatever it was.”  Then my uncle looked down and discovered the source of the commotion: Sticking out perpendicular from the middle of his zipper was a long, black pubic hair.

by Richard W. Bray

The Three Types of Irony and an Amusing Teacher Story

December 4, 2010

Coincidence is NOT irony

As George Carlin and others have pointed out, sportscasters, particularly baseball announcers, have an irony problem. Many of them simply don’t understand what the word means. Usually they mistake coincidence for situational irony. For example, an announcer might say,

“It’s ironic that Stubby McGillicutty broke the single season RBI record in Anaheim where Angel great Jackie Fullcup, whose record McGillicutty broke, spent his entire career.”


The Three Types of Irony

1) Verbal IronySaying what you DON’T mean

Definition: A speaker means something different than, often the opposite of, what she says.


“I can’t wait to start writing these forty-seven reports.”

“My walk home was only twenty-three blocks.”

(Note: The terms sarcasm and irony are often used interchangeably, but there is a semantic difference. Sarcasm is meant to insult or cause harm. So strictly speaking, “Great, I forgot my umbrella” is ironic, whereas “You call this a cup of coffee?” is sarcastic.)

2) Situational IronyThe gods are laughing at me by giving me ten thousand spoons when I just need a knife.*

Definition: When the outcome of actions or events is different than the desired or expected result


If Dave died because he was allergic to the antibiotics that were supposed to save him, he is not merely a victim of bad luck. There is an oddly perverse poetry in Dave’s plight. Such a phenomenon as situational irony would only occur to a species which has a concept of fairness and a tendency to automatically anthropomorphize Fate.

The Psychic Friends Network went bankrupt due to “unforeseen circumstances.”

(George Carlin’s marvelous book Brain Droppings has some wonderful examples of situational irony, particularly the one about the Kurd who survives a brutal attack by Saddam Hussein at the end of the First Gulf War and escapes over the mountains only to be crushed by an airdropped box of humanitarian aid. If you want to teach Carlin on situational irony, however, be prepared to explain about the Kurds and the first Gulf War and to tell them who Darryl Stingley was.)

3) Dramatic IronyThe reader or audience knows something fictional characters don’t

Definition: When we say something is ironic we almost never mean dramatic irony. Dramatic irony occurs when the reader or audience has important knowledge which is withheld from a character or characters in a story, a movie, or a play.

The most obvious example of this is when the young lady in the slasher flick doesn’t realize that the guy in the hockey mask with the meat cleaver is hiding behind the hot tub—but we do.

Perhaps a more erudite example would be that the audience knows who Oedipus Rex’s parents really are.

* From the song Ironic by Alanis Morissette which can be a good teaching tool because it contains some hits and several misses. (Rain on your wedding day is simply a case of bad luck unless you are having an outdoor wedding in Southern California in June and all your bridesmaids are wearing paper dresses.) The song has been much-derided by English teachers because it contains one example of verbal irony, four examples of situational irony, six examples of bad luck, two examples of stupidity and one example of coincidence.


State whether the following are examples of verbal irony, situational irony, dramatic irony or not ironic in any way.

1. “Oh, great! It’s raining and I forgot my umbrella.”

2. I failed the test because I did not study.

3. Dave’s blood pressure medication gave him a heart attack.

4. Batman doesn’t know that the Joker is waiting for him, but the audience does.

5. Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly SLO are both located in California.

6. The box of airdropped humanitarian aid landed on the refugee and killed him.

7. I missed the job interview because I overslept.

8. “Thank you for this ticket, Officer. You just made my day.”

9. Three celebrities died in three separate plane crashes yesterday.

10. “I heard that sun block causes cancer.”

An Amusing Teacher Story (which is in no way ironic)

I made a class of college freshman read Welcome to the Monkey House, a collection of short stories by Kurt Vonnegut. At the end of the quarter we watched some videos of stories from the book which were introduced by the author. Before class a student came up to me and asked how the man in the video could be Vonnegut when it says on the book jacket that he is “our finest black-humorist.” I explained that there are people who practice dark humor and there are also African-American humorists.

Richard W. Bray

A Strategy for Remembering the Difference between Primes and Composites and an Amusing Teacher Story (by Sig)

November 3, 2010

A Strategy for Remembering the Difference
between Primes and Composites

Subject: Prime and Composite numbers

Objective: To ensure that students who understand the concept of prime and composite numbers do not mix up the terms.

Whenever I taught prime and composite numbers I noticed that some students who understood the concept mixed up the terms. This misunderstanding caused them to miss all the problems when tested.

I came up with the mnemonic device that numbers are like people. Prime numbers are Picky People who only have one friend while composite numbers are folks who enjoy Company.

Reinforcement: I had the students do a skit in order to increase retention of the concept.

Evaluation: I made up a worksheet so each student could draw prime and composite numbers with their factor friends.

It was a fun lesson that made a nice bulletin board.

An Amusing Teacher Story

Here’s what happened one day when we were reading Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, our core literature novel:

In case you didn’t know, the characters in the story are personified mice and rats. It is a riveting story with several dramatic plot twists.

One morning as we were reading the novel aloud, a mouse—a REAL one—ran across the classroom in full view of the students. This was a very unusual occurrence in our suburban setting. The students were surprised and curious.

“Is that Mrs. NIMH?” they asked.

I smiled and calmly took the class outside to continue reading this wonderful book.

I couldn’t have planned it any better.

Resources for a Lesson Plan on Redundancy and An Amusing Teacher Story

March 30, 2010

George Carlin

Resources for a Lesson Plan on Redundancy

Use the list of redundancies from George Carlin’s wonderful book Braindroppings and The Redundant Little Short Story to teach a lesson on redundancies. Carlin’s list includes examples such as PIN number, safe haven, closed fist and linger on. (However, I would quibble with Carlin on the terms time clock and security guard. There’s a difference between a clock and a time clock just as there is a difference between a guard and a security guard.)

The Redundant Little Short Story

The two twins Ted and Ned lived in a teeny tiny little bungalow in the city of Chicago. The silly clown Fred Toolshed was Ted and Ned’s closest best friend. Fred lived in a small cottage near the University of UCLA. One day Ted, Ned, and Fred decided to go on a long journey in search of a famous celebrity or a royal queen. Ted said, “Fred, you would have to be a crazy maniac to travel through snowy blizzards and blustery tornadoes.”

“Ted,” said Ned, “only a stupid ignoramus or a cheap miser would pass up an opportunity to meet big giants, brilliant geniuses and dead mummies.”

So Ted, Ned and Fred had many exciting adventures in search of renowned luminaries and distinguished dignitaries. They also ate frozen popsicles with a young infant named Bed Wetter and an elderly octogenarian named Jed Sledder. The five of them met all kinds of living organisms, including a smelly skunk, a sleepy insomniac, a tiny microorganism, and a tall giraffe.

An Amusing Teacher Story

Sadly, due to the ill-conceived efforts of our current Education Secretary and his two immediate predecessors, frightened school administrators across the country are doing their best to eradicate all traces of art and humanity from the teaching profession (because, you know, teaching should only be about raising test scores).

But this sick, sad trend really has nothing to do with “accountability.” It’s just about power. (Accountability is a nice-sounding word, but in practice it means that schools are micromanaged by bureaucrats in Washington DC instead of being directly accountable to local school boards)

Back in the days before the federal government (a seven-percent stakeholder in education) made it so difficult for teachers to make even the smallest efforts to enrich the lives of their students, I used to show the kids gems like Donald O’Connor singing Make ‘em Laugh or the Nicholas Brother doing their thing in the movie Stormy Weather at the end of the day as we were preparing to go home.

Now, I’ve always been rather sympathetic to Freddy in My Fair Lady because I too find Audrey Hepburn to be irresistibly enchanting. So one day I was trying to explain why Freddy was so smitten with Eliza Doolittle before showing them the song On the Street Where You Live. I said that he had decided to sit in front of this woman’s house for days on end because he was in love with her but she was not in love with him.

One of my girls said, “I get it. He’s a stalker.”

I’m afraid she was right. (Kids really make you think sometimes.)

By Richard W. Bray

Some Thoughts on the Efficacy of DARE-Type Programs and a Funny Teacher Story

March 14, 2010

Some Thoughts on the Efficacy of DARE-Type Programs

My existential perspective would suggest that it is heroic to try to enlist support across our institutions to attempt to reduce violence and drug abuse whether or not school-based programs to mitigate the ills that effect our society are actually effective (a hotly debated topic). But all good-doers who attempt to discover the perfect pedagogy to fix whatever ails us would do well to remember that the instructional day is finite and teachers already have a lot on their plate (particularly in an age when knuckleheaded politicians would have us fire teachers and administrators based upon student test scores.) This all brings me to a discussion about DARE (Drug Awareness and Resistance Education) and it also gives me an opportunity to relate one of my favorite teacher stories.

Many people have argued about the efficacy and appropriateness of programs like DARE because there is little evidence that it changes student behavior. But seeking quantifiable changes in societal behavior is asking a lot of any curriculum. And even if DARE did cause, say, one out of a hundred kids to say no to drugs, or if it were to decrease in any way the harmful effects of substance abuse in our society, how could we possibly measure such success in light of so many other confounding variables?

Like all human behavior, substance abuse involves a multiplicity of causal relationships which are difficult to gauge, and some things are easier to measure than others. Let’s look at efforts to reduce traffic fatalities, for example. It is obvious that enacting mandatory seatbelt laws and reducing speed limits will result in demonstrably fewer traffic fatalities. But how do we measure the effects of educational programs which operate on the margins of these statistics, such as traffic school and public service announcements? Just because it would be difficult for a statistician to isolate the slender portion of a decline in traffic fatalities attributable to such efforts, we would be foolish to abandon such efforts. That’s how I feel about DARE. What harm could it do? (There are those who argue that DARE actually teaches kids how to be more effective drugs users, but I find this claim dubious. There was, however, one time when Officer S____ did a lesson on the dangers of Whiteout, which was certainly news to me. I immediately put all my Whiteout away.)

Funny Teacher Story

Say what you want about DARE, it supplied me with one of my best teacher stories. One of the first things that Officer S____ always tells the kids is that it’s okay to relate stories about people they know, but they should not use real names.

So if officer S____ is talking about, say, methamphetamines, it is not appropriate for a student to say, “My uncle has a meth lab out in San Bernardino.”

Instead, the student should say, “Someone I know has a crank factory in his garage.”

So one day when Officer S____ was describing the perils of drunk driving, a student (we’ll call him David) rose his hand.

“My dad drives when he’s drunk all the time.” said David.

Officer S____ quickly cut him off. “You mean, someone you know drinks and drives on occasion”

David responded in a very condescending tone, “Well yeah, I know him. He’s my dad!”

by Richard W. Bray