I love a good curse word. I curse frequently. Ask my friends and family, and they will tell you that I fit into the cliche of being able to make a sailor blush whenever I get the chance.
There are times, however, when a curse word or two slip out of my mouth and I become embarrassed that they left my lips. It’s a rare occasion because I tend to be very deliberate with my words, cursing especially. Today, at work, was the rare exception when I was humiliated by the use of a “bad word”. I should add that I teach high school English and one of my classes is Oral Communications (for you old schoolers that’s the new and improved term for Speech Class). It’s not a class I am particularly fond of teaching. This is the 2nd time in my career I’ve taught it, and that’s only because they desperately needed to fill one more class with a qualified teacher. I think the only reason I have speech as an endorsement on my license is that I freaked out in college and wanted a job so badly that I took public speaking to meet a requirement and then filled it in on my graduation form.
Today, I was teaching demonstration speeches, and we were focusing on “attention getters”. I thought it would be fun to find demonstration speeches on YouTube and show clips to students as a way to get their attention. I found Steve Jobs introducing Macintosh computer to the world in 1984, and added in Billy Mays selling OxiClean for fun. I led with the guy selling the towel “ShamWow!” In my defense, I spent an hour last night on my computer searching for clips like these, watching them to make sure they were school appropriate, and also taking notes on how I found these links, and even emailed the links to my school account.
None of that hard work mattered today, however. I turned on the speakers, set up the video, and saw my “ShamWow!” link, or what I thought was my link. Students didn’t tell me that I chose the one that parodied the infomercial. I didn’t realize it because it was merely the actual infomercial with a voice-over. Imagine my surprise and humiliation when, after dimming the lights and anticipating the fun class period, I heard the voice over guy say in exaggerated eagerness: “Holy Shit! That thing really works!”
I was so flustered that I turned off the video instead of the audio. So, it kept going. Fortunately the voice-over work was shoddy, so I couldn’t make out any more cursing. Finally, I came to my senses, shook my head, and leaned towards the audio/video cabinet and pushed off the power button. I turned towards my students who were all now very silent and serious. I look over at the door and see a teacher with a clipboard standing there. It turns out today was the day for data collection on teaching methods / skill levels. I have no idea if he witnessed the disaster, but I pretended that everything was normal, as did my students. I began to improvise and said things like, “Now we’re going to watch the video again, and I want you to listen to the type of attention getter he uses, and tell me what his purpose is for this demonstration.” The teacher wrote something on his clipboard and slid out the door as stealthily as he had walked in.
My students swore to me that he didn’t hear anything improper, but I was still embarrassed. I put my head on my podium and let out a breath or two before looking up at them with puppy dog eyes and apologizing. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I wrote a girl up in this class for cursing right in front of me?
To their credit, they laughed about it and a few said they were going to write about this moment as their facebook status. I’m sure this incident will be a conversation at a few dinner tables or via text messages tonight. Thank God social networking wasn’t like it is today when I first began teaching high school. I was instructing a senior course titled Advanced Writing Skills, and we were in the computer lab that day. I was trying to put together a few cables between my computer and the TV so I could show them a PowerPoint on the day’s lesson. I was crouching down, and when I stood up quickly, I didn’t realize I was too close to the desk. I hit the crown of my head on the corner of my desk.
Tears came to my eyes and a pulsing, throbbing sensation sent out pain signals in my brain and on my head. I swear even my hair follicles hurt. I became nauseous and dizzy. I lost track of time and where I was. In all my pain and agony, I placed my hand on my head and said the first thing that came to my mind: “Fuuuuuuuucccccccckkkkkkkkk!!!!!!!!!!!”
My students stopped typing, and I was brought back to the present when a few sweet girls asked, “Are you alright?”
Dazed, like a deer in headlights, I shook my head “no” and cringed a few times. In a flash, I realized what I had said. All students’ eyes were on me now, and one boy’s jaw was slightly open -I don’t know if he was impressed or offended. I shook my head again, and in my embarrassment I rushed an apology and said, “Oh holy shit, I’m sorry. I just cursed in front of you!”
A few students giggled, and I realized my error. Trying to correct myself, but angry that I had dropped my guard and released my drunken college girl potty mouth, I said, “Aw damn’t! I did it again. Shit. Sorry.” I put my hands to my face and laughed and cried at the same time. Once I had gained composure, and students had overcome their shock, I begged them to not tell their parents. Seeing how I was 23 at the time and they were all 18, they stuck by me and showed me great solidarity. I believed that for the longest time until one day the school nurse, whose daughter was a student in that class, teased me and said, “I hear you can make a sailor blush, Megan.” Oh. . .mother of pearl.