As I work on my manuscript I thought y’all might like a sneak peek. My book is at least partially about how the lessons I learned in teacher school were completely un-useful my first year of teaching. Check back next Tuesday for another lesson I learned the hard way.
How to talk about your butt
Da-a-a-amn, Miss Norman ain’t got no a-a-a-ss! The cry came from the back corner of the room. A thought that escaped out a of a surprised mouth the second I turned my back to the class to write on the white board with a green expo marker.
It was only the third day of school, but I recognized the voice as belonging to Neko. I stood at the board in the dress that I had so carefully selected for the first week of school. A brown wrap dress with three-quarter length sleeves, I loved the way this dress looked; just pretty enough to make me feel good, still distinctly professional. I pretended to continue writing until the blush running up my cheeks subsided and I could face the class as though I had not heard the exclamation from the back of the room.
Neko didn’t mean anything by it; he had simply never seen a woman with a backside as flat as mine. While inappropriate, the statement was accurate. Ms. Norman ain’t got no ass. It may have been the most obvious issue, but this was the least of my problems.
This was not the last time my butt would come up. I tried to follow the instructions of my teaching professors, ignore the comments and re-direct the conversation, but the students didn’t seem to understand that the shape of my backside was something I was unwilling to discuss. Now I know, I know it is because they liked me, they respected me, they were trying to protect me. Kids were talking about my flat-for-even-a-white-girl booty behind said butt and they were trying to let me know.
I abandoned the ignore-it technique mid-way through first semester when the girls in my fifth period attempted to stage an intervention. They wanted to make sure I knew about my problem and they wanted to help.
The girls approached my desk with solemn faces, “Ms. Norman, do you know what Apple Bottom jeans are?” I started laughing, that song had been playing non-stop in the hallways for the entire year Apple-bottom jeans and the boots-with-the-fur. Of course I knew what apple bottom jeans were, and I knew that they were designed to do just what they advertised, make your back-side look like a luscious red apple.
I explained to the girls, as gently as possible, that while I appreciated their help, and offer to buy me a pair of pants, this is just what white-girl butt looks like. My butt is just flat, and that is okay. They left my room with their heads shaking. How could I live my whole life-like that?
I learned that year to attack the discussions head-on, to ignore the blush as it crept up my cheeks. The kids were going to talk about whatever it was they were talking about. They may as well have accurate information.
My Head Start kids wanted me to lead them in singing that song during circle time! The year before that it was “Ridin’ Dirty”
My guess is your teacher education didn’t cover that either!
In my rather white, good-girl Baptist shocked voice I lectured that “riding dirty means you have drugs in your car! Drugs are bad and we don’t sing about them!” But I kinda liked the apple bottomed jeans one:)
I am impressed you knew what riding dirty meant!
When I was doing my student teaching, one of my kindergarten students asked me if I used a special soap to get my skin so white. Another student piped up and asked me what the blue lines on my arm were. That year was very educational for myself and my students!
True story: My adult literacy students had to write sentences using vocabulary words. This was a beginning class, so they had to write 2 or 3 sentences per student. Naturally everybody was asking me how to spell some word they wanted to use. I had this dialogue with one young
Her: “How do you spell ass?”
Me: “I beg your pardon.”
Her: “How to you spell ass?”
Me: “You mean like your rear end?”
Her: “No. I mean like ASS a question!”
Now that is funny!
Oops. Dialogue with one young woman.
My daughter is a middle school math teacher and I love the stories she has to tell. I do think to ignore someone does not promote good relationships. I think an appropriate response for some things would be to discuss them or explain why it is not appropriate to do so. I would think if we really want to reach people not many things would fall into “we can’t talk about that”.
Great story too!!
HAHAHA. Oh dear. This is too funny!
Mmm. How about, “people come in all different shapes, don’t they?”
See! They could have taught me that line in teacher school!
They certainly should have!!
I love this!!
Wow! You’re all grace. That’s amazing and I’m sorry all at the same time. How sweet that those girls tried to help you…
They were the best, and the worst, all at the same time every single day.
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I spent a couple of years Substitute teaching and when the secondary assignments were gone
i occasionally got too teach elementary students. I especially love Kgardners. One day I was the Music Teacher pushing my music cart from classroom to classroom. The K kids had just finished dancing on the rug and were lined up at the drinking fountain (K classrooms have alll amenities in the classroom) when this little girl says to me, “Mr. France why don’t you have no hair on your head?” The boy behind her gave her a look of astonishment and said, “You don’t ask someone why they don’t have no hair on their head.” I couldn’t say anything because I was laughing to hard, a response that the K kids seemed to accept as appropriate..
I’m loving these posts. During my first year of teaching I came to appreciate my no-filter freshman as my personal style evaluation team. They told me what they liked, and didn’t like, about whatever it is I was wearing. Some people pay lots of money to get such comprehensive honest feedback like that on their wardrobe choices.
Seriously, If you want to know what people REALLY think of you, Freshmen can’t be beat!
One year, I was teaching a behavior disordered class. One of the kids said he hated my ass. I looked back at butt and said I didn’t like it either and had I been given the choice, this is not the on I would have selected. I know what he really meant, but the fact I responded to it literally flustered him so much, he didn’t say anything else and I went on teaching. I also had a girl call me a stupid bitch…..I calmly told her not to call me stupid ever again. She asked about the “bitch” portion of her comment. I told her I’m 6 ft and weigh 200lbs…..that would make me a big one. Never heard the words stupid or bitch from her again. You have handle things so that everyone involved can have their dignity.
My experience is similar, but opposite.
“Dang miss, you have a big booty for a white woman!” I just smile and say I know and take it as their version of a compliment. I’m not fat by any means, but I was blessed with a round bottom that many girls at my school strive for. I can totally relate.