If It Weren’t So Funny, I’d Have to Cry

Cindy Kay Plumly


            My first year teaching was in the ninth-grade academy at Valdosta High School.  I was teaching my first-period biology class.  I remember the morning so clearly because I had prepared an incredibly invigorating lecture on atoms.  I was going through the lecture, and, of course, getting no response or feedback from the students (even when I asked for it).  About halfway through the class, one of my male students raised his hand.  He had this really excited look on his face.  I was thrilled!!  Finally, a question.  Someone was in tune with the lecture.  “Devon, what is your question?” I said excitedly. 


            “Why do snakes have two penises?” he asked.


            This has to be what a balloon feels like that is losing air.  I felt myself deflating.  Instead of making a big deal out of the question, I decided to answer it.  “Snakes have what is called a hemi-penis.  Kind of like a forked tongue.  Animals are designed so that their reproductive parts only fit together with another animal of similar species.  Female snakes have a vaginal area that will fit the hemi-penis.”


            Devon seemed pleased with the answer.  No one else said a word.  I continued on with my captivating lecture.


            Afternoon classes took a different direction as we got on the topic of bacterial infection.  I explained how there are many diseases that we as humans can pick up from other animals.  At the time, one of the diseases that was in the news was Mad Cow Disease.  I went into my spiel about contaminated meat and how packing plants have come under close scrutiny so that infected cattle are not used.  I noticed one of my young men, Michael, was looking a bit confused.  He had his eyebrows drawing down in that “I have a question” position.  “What’s wrong, Michael?  What’s your question?” 


            “What pisses them off?” he asked.  I was completely lost with the question, so I asked him to repeat it.  He thought I just didn’t hear him, so he re-stated the same question – just louder.


            “WHAT PISSES THEM OFF???” he said in a loud voice.


            “Michael, I’m sorry, but I really don’t understand the question.”  He let out that huff you get from students when they are exasperated with your ignorance.


            “Cows seem so nice – what does it take to make one mad?” he asked in all seriousness.  I then explained about the brain damage that the animal suffers and how it starts to act “crazy.”  The rest of the class thought it was hilarious.  Michael turned a few shades of red, and we moved on.


            Just this past semester, I had a really boisterous sixth-period class.  One young man in particular, Harold, was always saying or doing something to get himself in trouble.  This young man was about 6’ 8”.  He looked scary but was really one of the sweetest teenagers you could ever meet.


            On this one day, I noticed that Harold was in his usual corner “laying down the law” to a group of young ladies who were in awe of him.  You have to understand that Harold loved the ladies and had his own little harem that he spent most of his time with.  I crept up on Harold from behind to get an idea of what he was talking about.  Of course it was inappropriate.  Harold was talking about young men and women having sex and how the young men need to remember to “wrap it up.” Well, of course I had to step in.  “Harold!!  What are you doing talking about that?? And by the way, rather than ‘wrapping it up,’ the safest and smartest thing to do is practice abstinence.”


            “I WILL NOT!!!!” he proclaimed, sounding a bit offended.


            “What do you mean, ‘you will not? Why??’”


            “Because I don’t know what that word means!!” he said emphatically. 


            I just rolled my eyes and walked away.  Harold sat there looking rather smug because his reasoning could never be flawed. 


            Never a dull moment, ladies and gentlemen.  These are our future leaders.  If it weren’t so doggone funny, I’d have to cry.