Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Students say the darndest things.

From a very reputable source...

(student walks into a classroom which has a picture of Che Guevera on the wall)

Student: Who's that guy?
Teacher: That's Che Guevara. He was big in the Cuban revolution.
Student: Wow, he looks a lot like my lawyer.
Teacher: Uh... you have a lawyer?
Student: [shrugs] Yeah. A lot of people want to sue me.

Seriously, folks. You want a profession where every day is pregnant with the promise of something this funny? Join us.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Teachers say the darndest things.

I work with a fantastic group of people. Our department has really come together in the past couple of years — there's a good mix of younger and older, guys and girls, funny and (usually-)straight-laced. What that means is that, at any time, something crazy can be said by pretty much anyone. Here are a few snippets.

Gender key:
guys = J (me), R, D, C
gals = W, A, F, P, V, G

* * * * *
(this morning, in the department office)

W: I'm texting A [currently on leave but comes in to supply-teach often] and telling her [jokingly] she's a bitch.
J: Oh hey, while you're texting A, can you ask her if she can come in for me when I'm away on the 4th?
W: Sure, no problem.

(later that day)

W: I texted A and said that you wanted to have sex with her on the 4th.
J: Dammit! That's the last time I ask you to pass on a message.
W: What can I say, I have a mischievious streak a mile wide.

* * * * *
(after last class ended, in my classroom)

J (to student I don't teach but who knows kids that I do teach): So did you do the frog dissection last semester?
Student: Yeah, I did. We goofed around a bit, though.
J: Oh? Why'd you do that?
Student: I don't know. But R [his teacher] told me to stop messing around or he'd kick my ass.

* * * * *
(this morning on the way to work, after picking up D at the subway station)

D: Did you hear about that teacher in California who was fired because she did a porn flick, years before she became a teacher?
J: I did! Wow, guess you're a little more nervous now, eh?
D: Nah, there's a double-standard for men and women. W, on the other hand, she's gotta be on pins-and-needles over this.

* * * * *
(before school last week, in the department office, several people around)

F, to me: I swear, I have two talents in this world. One is baking, and the other... I don't even really know what the other one is.
W (while writing, not even looking up): ...BJ's?

* * * * *
(today during lunch, in the department office)

C: Have you ever seen those balls that hang down from the trailer hitches of pickup trucks?
J: Yeah, they're called "Truck Nutz". They're ridiculous.
V: Oh yeah, those. I fully expect my husband to have a set of 'em on his truck anytime now. I think the blue ones are funny.
* * * * *
(this morning, department office)

J: I dunno, man. I'm a little nervous about doing this dissection today. I've never done one with a class before.
C: Well, yeah, I can see that. It's really not so bad.
(G walks into office; C doesn't see her)
C: It's alright to be nervous your first time. You know, like losing your virginity.
G: Wow, I really walked into that at the wrong time.

* * * * *

We also have a quote-wall up on a somewhat-obscured part of the department office, in case students come in. Some of the saltier ones that come to mind:

P: "It's like Viagra for your pie."
R: "Literacy's our bitch. We're riding her hard and putting her away wet."
C (to W and A): "I'm like the sexier version of both of you."
P (after bringing in some fancy mixed nuts): "These aren't just your ordinary nuts here."

What can I say, it's a good group.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sometimes, you get to see them again.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: One of the weirdest things about my job as a teacher is that, after we do our work and hopefully cram some ideas into kids' heads, chances are we never see them again (at least in any meaningful kind of way). Only rarely do you get to see the fruits of your labour, years afterward.

Today was one such experience.

Several years ago, in this post (the first part) I told you about a girl I taught who cut me off, mid-sentence, to ask me if I was wearing coloured contacts; when I said I wasn't, she expressed astonishment at how blue my eyes were. (I ain't gonna lie, they're a pretty good feature.)

During third period today, I zipped out of my grade 10 class — seriously, you could put a cardboard cutout of me up at the front of the room and they'd still do their work — to wheel a few computers down the hall into a storage room. On my way I saw three girls lazily walking down the hall, not really in a hurry to get anywhere; I didn't look too closely to see who they were, so I told them my standard thing, "C'mon now, time to get going back to class." They didn't really respond with much, so I just kept going about my business.

After I'd put the computers away, I was passing back through and one of the girls said, "Hey, don't you recognize me?" (N.B. that's the LAST thing ANY male wants to hear from ANY female, regardless of (a.) where you are, (b.) who she is, and (c.) how little you actually do remember her.) I paused for a minute, and it started to come back... indeed, I'd taught her and both her friends. I couldn't immediately place the name, though. We chatted for a bit, then I went back to the classroom to grab more computers.

As I was getting those other carts, it struck me: that was the blue-eyes girl! When I came back around and saw them again, I said to her, "I taught you grade 10 applied science, in that room down there. You sat in the front row and once asked me if I was wearing coloured contacts." The look on her face was priceless. "Oh yeah! I can't believe you remembered that!" (Not bad, eh? That was in the fall of 2006, by the way, over five years ago.)

The four of us chatted for a bit. Blue-Eyes was going to York and taking political science; one of the others is at UofT for something-or-other, and the third (who I taught the only time I ever taught summer school; I later taught her younger sister) is at Ryerson studying social work, and all of them are just finishing up third year. All three of them were nice teenagers, and they're turning into fine young adults — as far as a five-minute conversation can reveal. (I dunno, though, I'm usually pretty decent at detecting BS.)

At any rate, it was a lovely reunion, and completely by accident. Life's like that sometimes, though.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

On casinos in Ontario.

(Yes, yes, I realize it's been a while.)

Over the long weekend — Opening Day on Thursday in Detroit, then another Tiger game on Saturday — I spent a lot of time hanging out with my family. One of the things on their mind is how the horse track in Sarnia is going to survive after the province pulls the slot machines out, apparently in May.

Once upon a time, before slot machines were allowed at tracks, the purses won by horses were pretty paltry: a few hundred here and there, maybe a grand, maybe more if it was a stakes race. Worth coming out for, but barely. The purses essentially came from the bets that people made, and that alone.

When the province allowed slot machines at racetracks, suddenly the purses jumped up into the thousands. Money was everywhere, and horsemen all around the province rejoiced. My own family got into it: my uncle and cousin have had a few horses over the past few years, and some of them made a bit of money. Some didn't, of course, but that's the way it goes. (Fun fact: if a farmer owns a racehorse, they can still be counted, tax-wise, as "livestock." True story.) Now the province wants to take the slots out of any tracks (or establishments) which aren't provincially owned. This means the sure death of the track in Sarnia, and doubtless others all around Ontario.

There's been talk lately of opening up a casino on the waterfront in Toronto; some say the Ontario Place site would be ideal. It may be, it may not be, I'm not sure. I don't really have an opinion on where it goes; I'm more concerned with how, and why, gambling brings money in.

Let's face it: gambling, whether it be in slot machines, horse races, other sports betting, lotteries, or anything else, is run for one purpose, and that's to make money for whoever's running it. Sure, a few people Roll Up The Rim and win a car, but how many people didn't this spring? You, and me, and a hell of a lot of people. It's far easier to get a dollar from a million people than a million dollars from one person.

It's been said that gambling is a "tax on the poor," and that sentiment couldn't be more correct. Who buys lottery tickets? Not rich people, I assure you. Gambling takes money from poor people, with the promise of maybe, just maybe, this is your lucky day. (It probably isn't, though.) Studies have shown that, if you make rewards randomly-timed, you can get people to obsessively play a game in order to win a prize, even if it's a token and not really worth anything. Just imagine how people would play it if a few million buckaroos was on the line!

Modern democracies use taxation as a way of levelling-out income disparities: income taxes are high on the rich and low on the poor. Republicans call this "communist social engineering," but responsible people call it "how to make a just society." We've done it for decades, and it seems to be working fine.

Governments run things like lotteries to raise revenues. Poor people overwhelmingly buy lottery tickets, and because the deck is stacked against lottery-players — or gamblers of any stripe — by definition, this means that poor people are shovelling money into the system. Which is not what you want.

"Think of how much money a casino will bring in," advocates say. Where does this money come from? The people who need to hold onto it most.

Casino, indeed.