One of my first grade students at recess sheepishly tugged at me and led me to the front door wall where someone scribbled our title with a marker. I almost burst out laughing but I kept a straight face and looked straight at the girl who looked like she wore a halo over her head on good behavior.
“Someone wrote a bad word,” she said. I had just taken over that week the sub-teaching of the class; the first teacher who had her heart on the group and the task had to leave to follow her husband. The new graduate young replacement decided that she signed up for the wrong profession. She lasted two weeks. So 23 kids were dispersed to the four other classes until I came along.
“Someone is f—–g messed up,” I began on my assault on cussing in class, all to the chagrin if not feigned horror of those who heard a teacher pronounce the f-word”. “S/he can’t spell, either,” I added. Some members of the class are “hypocrites,” for I heard the f-word and the s-word used not infrequently in the yard when the children played. I told them that I lived in Obama’s Chicago for a decade—the West, South, and North sides, and there were folks out there who could not utter a sentence without using both f-and-s-words every other phrase.
Over the local radio that morning on the drive over to school, a rapper used the word several times in his song. So what was the big deal other than someone gaining points with a teacher for tattle telling on another?
I pointed them back to the first day when we affirmed how everyone was conceived “winners” and “free”, the import leaves everything else a footnote. I’ve written enough about these two biological realities that it really would be redundant to tell it again, but not everyone follow our musing, so here goes one more time.
When Mama and Papa in their private bedroom share affectionate embraces at certain times of the month, Papa gifts Mama a minimum of 200 million sperms that swarm to Mama’s ripen egg. The first sperm arrival do not automatically penetrate the shell; the egg chooses who comes through its thick protective wall and when she does, in the union of a sperm and an egg cell marks the beginning of everyone’s journey into life. At conception, one is thereby a winner and free!
So far so good until one knowledgeable one said, “He is talking of sex.” The three-letter word was all it took to trigger everyone’s images of e-e-e-k displeasure. The giggles ensued, and the moralistic “ooohs” and “aaahs” took over.
When decorum was established, the class quieted down, and without distinguishing the literal meaning and the emotive intent of the utterances, I told the class that the teacher would warn the class if Mr. V were ready to use the f-word. He would be angry, for the class would have crossed the limit of acceptable behavior.
One of the students is a child of a teacher’s aide so I wondered how my “indiscretion” would be reported. It did not go well, not so much that the teacher was a muddy feet ogre as that the children took the occasion as permission-giving for them to be liberal with their use of cuss words. They already took to the use of the middle finger after we named the parts of the hand in our exercise of the parts of our bodies.
An additional context was that Mr. V designed the curriculum so that the Standard Core components were addressed but the manner of teaching was dissimilar from their previous teachers. So it did not take long for my supervisor to ask if I was teaching the prescribed PSS curriculum. (That subject and conversation is for another telling.)
Our concern was the utterance of the f-word and in my assessment meeting with the supervisors, I was informed that my use of the f-word, reported to be frequent, had to stop. I had no defense; I was guilty as charged. (Well, not exactly, but that’s a separate telling.)
Seriously, the f-word is so universally used, even by first graders that daily, someone comes over to report that so-and-so called her so-and-so. My favorite is a young girl called by a male classmate that she was a b-i-t-c-h. So I explained to her about the female dog in heat, and told her that the next time someone calls her that word, just say, “No, thank you, but you are not my type!” Defang and demystify the word so it loses its traditional deprecatory meaning.
The use of the f-word et al, is actually more of an exercise at rebellion rather than the actual derogatory intent of the words when used by adults. The young wags just let loose words that signify displeasure without understanding their literal meanings.
Some of those of Philippine descent, for instance, use Pinoy cuss words, the most famous being that of the “mother as a prostitute”, which the children do not associate with the ladies of the night roaming Plaza de Marianas in the shadows. But they use the phrase as a “putdown” on someone who has gained one’s disapproval.
All these reflection just because of a popularly uttered word misspelled on the wall!