Theres an old joke about the retired teacher who went to her doctor seeking relief from a very worrisome condition. She couldnt quit saying Sssssshhhhh to everyone with whom she came in contact.
Needless to say, this predicament not only made for little pleasant or convivial conversation, it also garnered an abundance of strange looks.
But her troubles are understandable because whether the average teacher has taught for a week, a year, or a lifetime, he or she is well aware of one unique challenge that eventually comes to all who pass through the portals of an educational institution: the talkative class.
This group of students is so loquacious they could put the less-than-capable educator into a theyre-driving-me-crazy, aint-no-money-worth-this, are-you-finished-with-the-want ads-yet type of anxiety in a heartbeat.
Honest to goodness, I personally must admit there have been days when the bobbing about and barking have been so animated before the starting bell rang, Ive often thought I could greatly benefit from having a bucket of fish and a bag of rubber balls to toss.
It might also be relevant to note that the species chatterus continuous most often prefers to roam and graze in large packs. Garrulous groups seldom prefer minimal settings. Small classes are apparently saved for instructors who wouldnt dream of teaching huddled masses which dont garner numerous debate trophies, or else have learned to put a chokehold on the registrar if he tries to stick more than eight warm bodies in Advanced Placement Nail-biting.
No, the majority of those who struggle to impart knowledge to their fellow man repeatedly do so in standing-room-only arenas. This fact of overcrowding alone naturally contributes to the hysteria in a talkative class; kids know theres strength in numbers.
They are, likewise, especially practiced in the art of divide and conquer, and of playing mischievous pranks to contribute to the atmosphere of confusion and jollity they find so desirable. Stapling the teachers Kleenex together, or loading her eraser with chalk bullets, are two tried-and-true favorites of many youngsters. Thus, by separating into four or five smaller cliques, and by sharing distraction duties, individual parties may enjoy what amounts to teen-age verbal back scratching.
Given this basic information on the conditions common to a chattering class, one must then ask the inevitable question: Just what do they find to talk about?
Well, if the truth be told, they may have absolutely nothing to discuss, but they do it anyway.
It does seem fairly safe to say that their main topic of conversation centers on romantic involvements with the opposite sex, both past and present, and should they personally have no such entanglements to review, theyre perfectly satisfied to revel in juicy gossip about the interests of their friends and acquaintances.
Did you hear about Michelle and Stephen? Well, I told Tiffany that I thought Chris should talk to Stephen, but she said Jordan had already let on to Michelle about Lauren. Like, do you believe it?
No, I like, dont.
When the subject of love is exhausted, they also greatly enjoy conversing about cars, trucks, and any other modes of transportation currently on the market, from skateboards to skis. They babble on about their families, their schedules, their music, their clothes, and even their occasional ailments. I dont know what happened, but I hurled all over my Birkenstocks.
And then, if worse comes to worse, they may even talk about what the class is working on, but at their own speed, in their own context.
As once overheard in a sophomore English class: Did you do the homework? Shes fixin to check it.
Hey, man, what was it on? Let me see yours!
Here. It was "The Secret Wife of Walter Kitty or something.
Hey, dude, you just put down "yes, crazy, OK, I dont know, and both.
Or, whispered during an 11th-grade grammar and composition lesson:
Transitive or intransitive? Which ones the guy that wears pantyhose?
But despite everything, a talkative class, with all its accompanying headaches, can sometimes be a blessing in disguise. Theyve almost always got an opinion on everything, and in actuality, a lot of learning can go on.
The harried teacher just has to have a flexible battle plan, a plethora of patience, and a heavy dose of stage presence, in order to channel their constant jabbering into constructive patterns. In the end, they usually learn to calm down and do what they must.
I should know. I probably exasperated a lot of good teachers.
(Mindy Jeffers is a Martinez writer who recently returned to teaching.)
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