In the 1999-2000 school year I was teaching junior English. The way the schedule fell, fourth period was a testosterone smart bomb just waiting to explode: twenty boys, nearly all of whom were football players who went on that fall to the state semi-finals, three girls, and me. This was a batch of good kids, smart kids, fun to teach. I suspect on some days our noise level was above acceptable, but they always did their work, and I would like to think learned something along the way. I had discovered the game of Scattergories and on some days when we finished an assignment early or for whatever reason had a little free time, which occasionally happened back then before the alphabet soup of testing became more important than learning. Besides, coming up with the answers is a form of vocabulary building and broadening general knowledge, not to mention creative thinking, so there you have it. I would divide them randomly into four teams, and we would play a few rounds of the game. If you are familiar with Scattergories, you know that you have a list of ten items to name which have to begin with the letter of the alphabet that comes up on the die that is cast before each round. The teams have a minute to think of their answers and then each team tells what they came up with. Original answers are the only ones to get points; any repeats are thrown out. The team with the most point won candy. And of course, as luck would have it, some games were more challenging than others. Like the one where the die cast came up with the letter P, and we were doing list 4: sports, song titles, parts of the body… Oh, well. Good. This won’t be awkward or anything. By the time we had made the first two rounds and got to parts of the body, the hormones were bouncing off the walls; laughter and anticipation filled the room. I think the first team offered up pancreas, but the second team couldn’t come up with pituitary or pelvic bone or pericardium-yeah, right, like they were going to get that sophisticated about it-because what they really wanted to say was the other body part that was on all their minds. And of course, see if they could shock the teacher. Finally Danny R. who never had a shy day in his life, jumps up. Grinning from ear to ear, loving his position as the center of attention, he throws back his shoulders and announces proudly, “That’s okay, Miz Liles, I’ll say it (knowing they were all on pins and needles for someone to say it) I’ll say it–penis!” And there it was. The kids loved it. And let’s face it, it was funny. I was just tickled they didn’t progress to that other body part sometimes identified by a slang word starting with a P. But that’s another story. Tune in next week.
Cactus Are Cool