These can be found in Melinda Ehrlich’s
Take Off Your Hat and Spit Out Your Gum –
A Teacher’s Memoir
Twisted But Funny
When I asked students to take out their textbooks one day, Savitrie did not have hers on her desk. I walked over to inquire. “Don’t worry, I have my book,” she insisted although its whereabouts was a mystery to me. “It’s at the bottom of my book bag.”
“Well, what’s it doing there?” Now I was getting annoyed.
“I brought it like you said to, but I didn’t know that we’d have to take it out.”
I taught Mary Shelley’s unabridged edition of Frankenstein and students complained
that even though they tried to read it they couldn’t understand it. I answered, “That’s why
I’m here,” to which a student retorted, “And if we did understand it, where would you
Bloopers and Wisecracks
“Incessant means sex between family members.”
This one occurred early on in my career, but it never fails to bring a smile whenever I
share it: In the 1970s I asked my class, “Who knows the meaning of ‘adequate?’ ”
and a kid called out, “Ain’t that a prison upstate?”
My students were asked to write a sentence incorporating each vocabulary word studied that week. Using the word “repress,” a kid wrote: “I had to repress my jeans before I went out.”
Using the word “insight,” another student wrote: “The doors were locked so I couldn’t get insight the school.”
On a form, students were asked to fill in boxes with the following information: “Student’s
name,” and next to “Parent’s Name,” it asked for “Relationship to Student.” One girl
filled in “Good.”
Vanessa writes: Life without TV would be like being in school without a teacher.
Part of a news story written by a journalism student: “He got down on all four knees
and crawled into the burning apartment.”
“She sold her body on the streets. And corners.”
“I got good shoulders on my head.”
Me: Does anyone have change of a five?
Student: Five what?
Maxwell girl: Freddie Prinze was a homo!
Classmate: How do you know?
1st girl: I’m telling you – I read it in the “Star.”
Definition given for midwife on an exam: a mistress – not the wife, but the one in the
The ultimate compliment: All my teachers suck but you suck the least.
I was defining ‘Platonic relationship’ for a lively group. When I explained that this
type of relationship between a man and woman is based on friendship and no sex,
William pondered it for a few seconds and then said, “Sex! I don’t know why but I really
like that word!”
From a persuasive paper at Richmond Hill on the topic: Why We Need a Cheerleading
Squad: “Cheerleaders make schools more exciting and make each sex want to come.”
Obviously looking for a laugh, a boy queried in class: “What is the definition of sex?”
Before I had a chance to react, another boy called out, “Something you don’t get!”
Found on a desk:
On a small scrap of paper, this was left behind on a desk in one of my classes:
Bike Chain $12
Spike collar $35
Spike wrist $12
Wallet chain $23
TOTAL = $82
At least the math was correct.
Written on another desk, I found “Maria & Angel” with a heart around it. An additional arrow pointed to the heart and in a completely different handwriting was written, “Bullshit he’s mines!”
“My cousin married her high school sweetheart, but then they got divorced because he didn’t get financial aid.”
Post 9/11 Pearls of Wisdom:
Dwayne: I told my mother we shoulda stayed in Trinidad. But no, we moved here.
M.E: Dwayne, do you plan to return to Trinidad?
Dwayne: Hell, yeah! (pause) Yo! Did you hear about that guy who ‘surfed’ from the 94th floor and survived?
M.E. That’s impossible – it may be what is known as an ‘urban legend.’
Dwayne: No, for real, he survived!!
M.E. (skeptically) I’d like to meet that guy. If it’s true, he’ll definitely become a new national hero!
Dwayne: Yeah, like those three guys with their heads on the mountain. What’s that mountain called?
M.E.: Mt. Rushmore and it’s four guys.
Dwayne: Hey, I don’t know. I’m from Trinidad.
A young man in class was lamenting: “My summer was great up to September. First
Aliya and now the World Trade Center. It’s everything at once!”
Teaching Arthur Miller’s The Crucible entailed going over a long list of vocabulary words. While reading about John Proctor’s lechery, I asked, “Does anyone know what a lecher is?”
Karla’s hand went up and when called on, she responded, “Yeah, isn’t that a hardware store?”
“No, the hardware store you’re thinking about is Lechter’s, not ‘lechers’,” I said.
“Well in my house, we call it ‘Lechers,’” she insisted. Teaching is so much fun.
- Act II Sean 2
- “In ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ the mockingbird is an armless creature.”
- “I was so sad when my uncle pasted away.”
- In an essay, a student unwittingly writes a brilliant play on words: “Holden saw a violent war movie at Radio City which involved Rockettes and missiles.”
- “I need a math touter,” writes Ronald, to which I commented on his paper, “You could use an English TUTOR too!”
- I once put up an 8×10 glossy of the family wedding photo from The Godfather and I told my students that it was my wedding picture. One of the girls in class looked carefully at Talia Shire as the bride and cooed, “Ooh, Miss Ehrlich, you look so young at your wedding!” Another girl commented, “Oh, I like your dress!” So gullible.
- During an exam on the screenplay and the film, West Side Story, a boy called me over to clarify a point for his essay: “So were the Jets and Sharks in college or high school?”
- I loved my years at Maxwell “Vacational” (as I was so fond of calling it) where lasting friendships were forged and enough great teaching moments were made to fill this book. Where else could I be totally immersed in a literature lesson with a captive audience, seemingly hungry for knowledge, and when I ask, “Are there any questions?” a young lady calls out, “Yeah, anybody got a tweezer?”