Santa Claus and Bestiality

DO I TEACH IN A SHOW ON HBO?

Teaching is never what you expect.

I knew to some degree that being a Language Arts teacher, and thus the person who is most likely going to see interesting things. Essays are a minefield. No matter how innocuous the topic, no matter how academic or formal the essay, you’re going to get something you weren’t expecting. Sometimes what you get is going to be heartbreaking., and sometimes it’s going to be horrifying, but it will never, ever be what you expected.

Before I get into the funny or strange stuff, let me throw something down right here for my fellow teachers:

STOP ASSIGNING CHRISTMAS ESSAYS. Don’t ask what they got for Christmas. Probably you could get away with not asking what they did over Christmas Break. Just don’t mention it. Welcome your kids back with open arms and tell them how happy you are to see them. Listen to the ones who want to tell you about all the good stuff they got and all the fun they had. Listen closer to the ones who got nothing, or had a bad time.

For many of our kids school is a safe place where they are recognized and loved. Sadly, it may be the only place where someone values and listens to them.

The reason why I will never assign a Christmas essay is because I read through a stack of them as a student teacher. The one that caught my eye was one from one of our best students. The assignment was a follow-up letter to Santa.

“Dear Santa,

I’m not sure why you didn’t come to my house again this year. I thought I was really good and doing better, but I guess not. I am sorry I wasn’t good this year. I will try to do better.”

Absolutely heartbreaking. Here is a child we’ve sold a pretty lie to, and the hell of it is that lie has an ugly side when you think about it. If Santa brings presents to good kids, then he must not bring things to bad kids.

If you didn’t get a present, then you’re bad.

This is as much the responsibility for parents who tell that lie to their kids as it is ours for perpetuating it, but let’s leave it at home. I shrug and say “All I know is Santa used to leave me letters in my stocking” when the kids ask me if I believe (a much less frequent problem now that I’m teaching 6th grade) but I don’t see it as my role to perpetuate the lie more explicitly.

Just try to keep that in mind when you’re trying to recover from Christmas Break. Some of your kids are glad to be back, more so than we ever will.

Now, for the fun stuff.

You know how I said even the most academic, innocuous essay can have interesting ramifications?

What if I told you I assigned students to partners and told them to pick a topic to have a debate about?

What if I told you two of those partners picked whether or not animals should be in the house?

And, what if I told you, that one of those partners cited bestiality as a reason not to have pets in the house?

It wasn’t just a weird throw-away line, either! No, this student goes on to say that “It’s a disgusting and rare practice, but bestiality does happen all over the world.”

I think someone has spent too much time on the Internet without enough parental guidance! A quick email to the counselor, and it was back to work grading papers.

I’ve had kids tell me they would change the world by having the Purge and killing all the cops. I’ve also had kids tell me they would end racism if they could.

So, fellow teachers, just keep this post in mind when you assign your children the Pandora’s Box. If you open those essays, be prepared for anything.

Jeff Hewitt