No matter how long you’ve taught, there are certain things teachers are asked that will challenge the stoniest of faces. As far as teachers go, I’m quite relaxed and encourage kids to be themselves, but maintain an appropriate respect. This, I suspect, may be why I find myself being asked the strangest questions and exclamations by teenagers. Working with teens means that there’s never a dull moment, and this is partly due to the things teachers are asked!
1. The Big Questions
Topping the list of the strangest and funniest things teachers are asked comes from my teacher training days back in 2010. When discussing the Domesday book with 12 year olds, one hand shot up from the back desk. With a fearful look in his eye, the little sweetheart asked me with a twinge in his voice, “Miss, is it true that we’re all going to die in 2012?” Being a trainee History teacher, not Mystic Meg, this one was a question I had not anticipated. Suppressing my natural instinct to laugh I replied by saying, “Does it really matter?” to which he replied: “Yes, because I don’t want to die.” That, teamed with doe eyed innocence, made my heart melt. I eventually replied, “I wouldn’t worry about that, we’re survived many alleged 'end of the world' days, and we’re still here, so just enjoy every day.” He seemed happy with that response but I’ll never forget his little face!
2. The Simple Clarifications
Despite having studied American foreign policy for a good 12 weeks, the next question, which should have frustrated me to no end, actually made me laugh hysterically. “Miss, isn’t ‘naval’ another word for belly button?” to which my response had to be a simple, “Not when we’re discussing Pearl Harbour, James, no!” This one still makes me chuckle as I couldn’t help but wonder if he pictured the Japanese blowing up a giant belly button. The mind boggles.
3. The Big Decisions
If this question had come from a 4 year old, I perhaps would have been less horrified but, coming from an adolescent, I couldn’t help but wonder, “How do you dress yourself in the morning?!” The pupils were completing a simple task where they wrote in their classwork books. The young lady had come to the end of the page in her exercise book and asked, “Miss, I’ve reached the end of the page? What should I do now?” … ”Why don’t you try going on to the next page?” … ”Oh yeah! I didn’t think of that.” Breathe and count to 10.
This one had me in tears of laughter. Seeing as I’m Welsh, and this particular pupil being Canadian, I hope that the confusion was due down to the clash of accents, not a judgement on my character. She sat doing her work and had a very sweet ribbon in her hair. I exclaimed, “Oh, I like your bow!” She replied, both horrified and confused, “WHAT?!” Slightly confused myself, I repeated, “I like your bow…” Her faced relaxed and she said, “OH! I thought you said ‘I like your bum’!”
5. The Personal Questions
This happened to a colleague, not myself, thankfully. She was teaching a class of young boys and one of the boys turned to her and asked, “Miss, how old are you? You look really young.” … ”Thank you!” … ”But, if you’re a grown up, why do you still have zits?” Ouch.
6. Life’s Little Puzzles
Intelligence is subjective, as we all have our own strengths and weaknesses. However, the following question by an intelligent girl caused my friend’s jaw to drop: “Miss, why do people have belly buttons? They're one of those weird things that no one needs or knows why they’re there, aren’t they?” Wow.
7. Alternative Logic
Often, funnier than the questions asked are the answers given. Discussing an armed Iranian hostage situation in the 1970s, a pupil once told me that the photo source showed that the event was a “peaceful one,” but my favourite must be the following response in a practice exam paper: “Question: Explain Hitler’s policies towards women. Answer: Hitler rewarded women for having children. The more children they had, the better they were rewarded. Therefore, sex became more popular.”
Many people tend to think that working with teenagers would be their idea of hell, and sometimes, yes, a glass of wine truly is needed in the evening…However, I cannot think of a single profession where laughing is as integral a part as it is in the world of teaching teenagers. Do you have any experiences with teenagers that made you belly laugh? If so, please share!