"Stand Up Biology" Guest blogger Brian Leiken
By Eleiken on August 29, 2010
Third block biology is a bitch.
The class has improved slightly from the first two weeks, when the freshman capered about like wild spider monkeys as they devoured their sole source of nutrients, small orange bags of red hot chili nachos.
At first they dropped the refuse into the two foot deep lab sinks, treating the wash basins like trash pits.
Now they just stuff waste in the cabinets beneath the counters. I found close to sixty empty nacho bags in one of the back cabinets, complete with candy wrappers, plastic gatorade bottles, and miscellaneous junk food trash worthy of Homer Simpson.
I've never had to follow so many students outside of class wearing my Parrot costume; usually it's an effective deterrent. Embarrass one kid, and the rest fall in line out of fear of the same happening to them.
By the seventh or eighth victim. the class finally catches on that I would follow each and every one of them to their next class, squawking and chirping while flapping my wings, calling out their name at the top of my lungs in a squeaky parrot voice.
I've never had to follow the same kid twice.
Even then we had to call in the Dean and threaten to expel five of them.
And 90% of them had to fail the first half of the course before it dawned on them that they would have to repeat the class again.
So now it's better, if by better they (mostly) remain in their seats and they (mostly) do their work, even if that means copying from a friend. I'll take it.
When I enter the class now, there is a smattering of catcalls, mostly "LEIKEN" followed by two minutes of my making the rounds. Every boy, and some of the girls, want me to acknowledge them with the "ghetto" handshake of pounding hands.
"Mr. Leiken, I've got an important question! Who would win? Iron Man or the Hulk!"
"The Hulk." This is part of our tradition. I've got four boys who are obsessed with super hero match ups. So long as they do their work, I placate them.
Plus I really like talking about superheroes. If my college friends, John, Steven, Vinnie, or even my roommate Christopher were around, I'd be way out of my league, but the kids don't read comics. They only know movies, so among them I'm like a trivia genius.
I grimace. This is going to take a while. "I told you before, Superman. He can fly, and they had a special Marvel vs DC crossover where the two fought and Superman won."
"Okay, who would win, Batman or Superman?"
"Batman." Four boys immediately begin protesting. How the hell can Batman beat Superman? I cut them off. "Batman cheats. He would trick Superman, and failing that use a kryptonite Baterang."
"Okay, who would win? Iron Man or Batman?"
I pause. That is a good question. "I'll tell you.... after you finish this worksheet."
The boys let out a collective awwww.
I make the rounds around the room, talking with students in clumps of two's or three's. Sometimes we can discuss biology; sometimes we go off topic. What can I do? I'm lucky to get them to pay attention for even a few minutes.
"Mister Leiken, Mister Leiken!" one of the girls calls out. "I've been calling your name and you've been like ignoring me for the past five minutes!"
"There is one of me and forty of you. What is it?"
She thrusts the worksheet out in front of her. "I don't understand it!"
I put it down in front of her and have her read the first paragraph. It's about the water cycle. After we read it, I ask her the first question. She answers it.
"Did you even read it?" I ask her.
She actually looks embarrassed.
"Hey, Mr. Leiken! Yo Momma so fat when she gets on a scale, it says to be continued!"
I look at the clock, five minutes until the end of class. I should yell at him, I should give him a stern lecture, I should do a lot of things.
But I can't let that pass. My mother's honor must be satisfied.
"Oh yeah," I snap back, "Yo Momma so ugly that when they put a bag over her head, and she looks in a mirror, it still breaks."
The class cracks up and lets out a giant oooooohhh!
Unlike the kids, I've got fresh material. I think of yo momma jokes on the way home.
Don't ever mess with a writer.
"Yo momma so big," I continue, "they had to put in a double wide garage just to let her in the house!"
The class is laughing hysterically. Another, another, they cry! I give the kid a chance to make a come back. If you don't use original material, the kids will call you on it. You can't repeat an old yo momma joke; that earns you no respect.
My heckler is silent. A chorus of boys in the back begins to chant Cu-ler-o! Cu-ler-o! This basically means "girly man," or "pussy."Who knew that my years of doing "stand up" would someday be useful?
Copyright 2009-10 by Brian Leiken
Biology 9 photo by Sabrena Carter
Hulk photo by Mauro Martins
Man with Michophone photo by Michal Zacharzewski
LA Teacher Blog
Brian Leiken is an L.A. inner-city, special ed teacher and author of Crossed Out, a book about and for his students. Oh yes, he's also my son:)
Crossed Out by Brian Leiken at http://www.lulu.com/
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