90 Seconds to Offend A Student

In 90 seconds, I offended a student.

We were talking about Stephen Toulmin and Carl Rogers, and their impact on how we argue in writing. I made an obscure reference by saying, “Carl Rogers, and the 24th and One-half Century.” Like most of my obscure references, this one was met by blank stares from the eleventh graders.

I paused.

The moment was awkward in that funny sort of way. So I said, “Duck Dodgers, and the 24th and one-half Century?”

Blank stares.

“Well, I have to show you this.” Mostly, I had to show them so they knew I wasn’t completely insane. Quickly, I Googled ‘Duck Dodgers…’ and Google filled in the rest.

I clicked on one of the videos and walked across the room to turn off the lights. In the ten-or-so seconds it took to turn off the lights and for the site to load, students began to “Oooooh” and “Aaaaaah.” Apparently, the link I clicked was for a video on dailymotion.com. Sometimes, videos on DailyMotion become surrounded by images of scantily clad, chest-heavy women.

As I embark on my middle ages, I have learned not to panic in awkward situations. In this case, I quickly used my sense of humor to try and diffuse what was going on. In the fluidity of the classroom, that seemed like the best option, so with my tongue firmly in my cheek, I scrolled down the website, pointed the mouse at a few pictures, and made some sarcastic “Ooooooh,” “Aaaaaah,” and “What are they doing?” remarks. Then I closed the page and apologized to the class, telling them I was really just trying to show Looney Tunes, not boobies.

The whole incident lasted less than two minutes. But that two minutes was enough time for a student to text his/her mother. I know this because the principal met me after class to let me know that a concerned mother had called her about the “incident.”

I acknowledge that I could have closed the window sooner. I chose to scroll and make tongue-in-cheek comments before closing the window. But did I take it too far? Was that extra 30 seconds too much time?

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