This is what happens to me when my students say the following things:


"I can't read my own handwriting."

Bushwah!! You're just scared of reading that crappy response you slopped together before you knew I would make you share it. If you can't read your writing, how am I supposed to?! How can I give you credit for something that is no more worthwhile than a blank piece of paper? The policy is simple: If I can't read it, you have to...aloud. Providing you want to pass this class, you have to make a choice: Read it aloud or write legibly. What's it gonna be, champ?

"I forgot my password."

Really?! You have lived your entire life in the 21st century. Computers are not new to you. They have always been part of your existence, and passwords have always been required to make them work. In fact, you're probably carrying a small computer (called a "smartphone") somewhere on your person right now, and you have to enter some kind of personal code (or fingerprint) to activate it. In order to eat school lunch, you have to enter your school ID number. If you have a bank card, you have to have a PIN (personal identification number) to get to your money. In other words, this whole password business is not new to you. By the time you get to high school, you should have it figured out. To avoid ever having to hear you say you had forgotten your password, I told you on the first day that you would have online accounts for this class and that your passwords were your responsibility. I also suggested that you set all your school-oriented passwords as your school-assigned PIN, which would save you having to remember anything else. I said it loud and wrote it in the instructions in ALL CAPS. I did that because I've noticed that passwords have been a continual problem for certain students over the years. Please don't be one of those students. See how I said please? I'm not yelling...yet....

"What's my login name?"

Are you freakin' kidding me?! Now I'm yelling!


"Can I use the restoom?"

Tsk-tsk! You know what I'm going to say.

"May I use the restroom?"

As soon as the bell rings to end this class, you may.

"May I use the restroom now?"

No. C'mon! You know the drill. Just hand me that little hall pass ticket I gave you at the beginning of the term. I don't even want to know why you need it, but I am happy to let you use the hall pass once per term. Once. Use it wisely. What's that you say? You lost your hall pass ticket? Or you've already used it? Oh, well then, I guess you are outta luck. Yes, I know you have to pee. I inferred that when you asked to use the restroom, but you'll just have to hold it until the bell rings. It won't be long, and I'll bet if you just focus your attention on the assignment, it'll go by quickly. Umm-hmm...well, again, I hate to be such a stickler, but the reason I gave you that hall pass was so that you would have it in an event like this. What's that? This is an "emergency," you say? Well, then why are you standing here talking to me? Remember what I said before about emergencies: You don't need permission to leave the room in the event of a genuine emergency. Just go. Don't risk soiling anything in the classroom! No, don't go get the hall pass! You don't need the hall pass in the event of an emergency. That would be unreasonable on my part. I mean, we all have unexpected things happen, and sometimes emergencies can't be avoided. If someone stops you in the hall and asks for your hall pass, just tell that person it is an emergency as you hurry past on your way to the restroom. We'll work it out later, when the emergency has passed. Trust me. I'll take your side! Although...I've noticed you have a lot of "emergencies" these days. Are you sure you're not just bored or wanting to escape the room before I start calling on people to answer that question I asked you to write about a few minutes ago? Actually, now that I think of it, if this were really an emergency, wouldn't you have exploded by now? Are you just hoping that if you stand and bug me long enough I will forget about the hall pass rule? Well, I'm terribly sorry to disappoint you.

[Before class has started] "Can I take the hall pass?"

No. Why would you need a hall pass when class has not begun? Oh, I see what you are getting at: You left the homework in your locker, and now you want to run and get it, but you probably won't be back until after the bell rings, is that it? Well, that is a risk you'll have to take. Life is full of such choices: Turn in the homework on time or be late to class? Hmm. That is a tough one! Think of it this way: The longer you stand here arguing your case, the less time you will have to make it to your locker and back. Although, I suppose there is one other thing you might do: Give me that hall pass ticket I gave you on the first day of the term. Remember you can use that for any reason, but you only get one per term, so maybe you should ask yourself how important this trip out into the hall is. Oh, there's the bell! And, no, you still can't have the hall pass unless you trade me for the little hall pass ticket.

"[Whisper...(lips moving but no sound)...barely perceptible breeze...(eyes down, voice directed into the desk)]"

I can't HEAR you! Neither can the person sitting next to you! We're in a busy classroom where the hum of background noise is constant, and I am an old man whose eardrums have been irreversibly damaged by 35 years of heavy metal concerts. You need to SPEAK UP! I know, it seems like I am being mean when I raise my voice that way, but I am just trying to model the appropriate volume for being heard in this room. See, I really WANT to hear what you have to say. Your contributions are important to me and to the class, so when you are responding to a question or saying something that others need to hear, don't be afraid to TALK LOUD! (If, however, you are just one of those chatterboxes who never stops talking, now is your last chance. Don't say I didn't warn you.)

"[Talking unabashedly during a reading, podcast, or movie that requires the rest of the class to hear it]"

Yes, we can ALL hear you! If you're sitting in the middle of the room running your mouth to the person next to or behind you while the rest of us are trying to hear Juliet's final anguished words, you are annoying everyone, not just the teacher! You know how they show that reminder in movie theaters about how you should turn off your phone and not talk during the movie? Well, the same rule applies in a classroom where everyone else is trying to focus on and hear something! And, believe us, what you are talking about is trivial, idiotic drivel! Shut up! You are embarrassing yourself even though you aren't smart enough to know it! Thanks!

"[Cough! Cough! Sniffle! Wheeze! Snort...cough...cough...cough...................................Cough!]"

Oh, for the sake of humanity, go to the hospital! When I am reading aloud, even at my usual ungodly volume, but all the class can hear is you strangling on your own phlegm, please do not just remain, gasping and choking, in your desk as though nothing is wrong. Yes, we hear you! We all know you are in distress and that you probably should not have come to school today. Some of us are wondering how many of the billions and billions of infectious germs you have blasted into the air we have inhaled. To avoid all this unwanted attention, please excuse yourself and get treatment! At the very least, get a drink and collect yourself. Go somewhere far from this room, blow your nose, take some deep breaths, maybe call for an ambulance. Yeah, I know what I said about hall passes and emergencies. Trust us: THIS is an emergency.

"Can we leave early?"

No. How do I know that so quickly? Because if you could leave early, I already would have told you to do so, and you'd already be gone. Where's the freakin' fire, anyway, Speedy?! You got nowhere else to be except another class. What's that? You have lunch next? Oh, well, then you better get back in your seat and pray that I excuse you when the bell rings, or you're going to be last in line today. You'll be lucky to get last week's leftovers. But since you seem persistant enough to maintain this conversation, let me explain a couple other things about leaving early. When you get up and start putting your materials away while I (or a classmate) is still presenting something, it's rude. I can hold that against your citizenship grade, but why do I even have to explain that to someone your age? Part of my job as the teacher is to give instructions, one of which is to say when the class is finished and when you are excused. I know that your personal timetable may not always match up with mine, but lunch isn't going anywhere and neither is your next class, so keep your materials on your desk and your butt in the seat until I excuse you.

I've got to throw something away.

Now!? Right in the middle of this captivating presentation?! And, while we're on the subject, what is it you have to throw away right this minute? What exactly is that piece of garbage so toxic that it can't sit on the corner of your desk until the end of the period? For that matter, how come you never bothered to throw away the 12,000 candy wrappers you left under the desk last time? Listen, Mr. Hyperactivity Disorder: Sit down! Why're you walkin' around all the time, anyway? I'll be honest: I'm not that concerned about keeping everyone in their desks just for the sake of doing it, but there is a time when it is appropriate to get up and move around...and this ain't it! Everyone else in here seems to get that, but you keep walkin' back and forth to the garbage can, the pencil sharpener, over to give your buddy in the corner a high five. Yeah, I've noticed, dimwit! I've also noticed you don't even have a pencil here most of the time, so why do you need to walk over to the sharpener?! And, for the record, your buddy in the corner thinks you're a dork, too. There is something going on here that you are supposed to be paying attention to, you disrespectful little weasel. So take your precious, smug little grin back to your desk and sit down! Oh, and while I'm on this subject, to the guy who actually has a pencil he needs to sharpen: It's sharp already! Stop running back and forth between the manual sharpener and the electric sharpener. They're both loud, and we're trying to read this story so that the whole class can hear it. Shh! Show your classmates some respect.

"Can we use our cell phones for this?"

Thank you for asking, but no. I know we live in a world where most teenagers have a more significant relationship with their phone than they do with their family, but do you know how sick and twisted it is that you can't stop looking at it long enough to finish writing a single coherent sentence? You are so fascinated by (and dependent on) it that nothing I can do in this room is going to reach you because you are too busy being "entertained." (You have it so easy! Spoiled brats! The following videos are rated PG-13. If you can't handle that, don't watch 'em >>> Louis CK! Louis CK 2!) It is ironic that this ongoing love affair you have is with a tool of communication, yet you yourself are too illiterate to communicate anything more than the most basic expressions, and even then, they don't involve words so much as slack-jawed stares and grunting noises. Also, do you have any idea what it looks like when you conceal your phone under the desk (between your legs) and then stare down there and giggle like a twit? Think about it.

[Computer lab or timed writing assignment] "Can we listen to music?"
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! This is a writing on demand task, just like what you will have to do on the year-end test. Your future is at stake, and you need the practice! The state testing administrators are not going to let you spend twenty minutes screwing around with Pandora or Spotify or your phone before you start writing! You have to do your best work in a short period of time, and even the fact that you came up here to ask me that is wasting those precious minutes! Embrace the silence! Think! Write! NOW!

[Every time I place a handout or scored assignment on a desk in an otherwise quiet classroom] "Thank you."
[Every time anyone in a room sneezes, no matter how many times] "Bless you!"

Don't thank me! Don't bless me! While I appreciate your desire to be grateful and polite, your Thank you disrupts the quiet of a busy room where writers and thinkers are at work, and there is a good chance this item that I am setting before you is the first of many I will give you as I return all the things that have piled up in the outbox. You needn't feel obligated to verballize your thanks for each of these things separately. If everyone in the room were to thank me aloud every time I set something on a student's desk, the room would no longer be quiet enough to complete the writing and thinking. It's hard to develop a coherent argument in a cage of 40 parrots all loudly mimicking each other! The same logic applies to the blessings for those who sneeze: It's allergy season! Every sneeze does not need to be punctuated by your blessing. The sneezes themselves are disruptive enough, without your chiming in "Bless you!" after every one of them, okay, Elder?! We get it! You are an upright and faithful person, but when you say "Bless you" after every sneeze in an allergic series of ten or more from the same person, you are just showing off. And that is really what both of these issues amount to: your desire to be heard and recognized as good, kind, thoughtful, thankful, gracious, religious, etc. All those can be wonderful qualities, but your need to show them off is foolish pride. I know it sounds mean, but in a quiet classroom where students are working, don't thank me! Don't bless me! Just do a good job on your own assignment. That's all the thanks and blessing I require.

"I grabbed the wrong binder."

Is it really so hard to differentiate them?! Does it take so much time to peek in and see if there is an English assignment in it? No, I get it: You just want a free pass to go back into the hall and goof off for a few minutes after class has begun. Well, too bad. You go get the binder, and I will mark you late. Seems fair, doesn't it?

"I left my binder at home."

Are you freakin' kidding me?! Everything we do in this class is done in that binder: every writing assignment, every handout, every test review, every vocabulary list, every journal, every. freakin'. thing! Without the binder, you may as well stay home, too! But since you didn't, you're just going to have to start from scratch. Yes, I know you have it all finished in your binder. But since your binder is at home and you are here and we have 80 minutes of class time to fill, you're just going to have to do it again. Maybe next time you will remember.... Naah! What am I thinking?

[Shortly before the end of a term and/or with a silent tear running over a reddened cheek] "This is the only class I don't have an A in. Is there anything I can do for extra credit?"

No. Sorry. I was pretty clear about that extra credit offer three weeks ago, and it was due last week, so if you didn't take advantage of it, well, I'm afraid you are out of luck. Also, I notice that you have already turned in your unused hall pass for extra credit, so the A- you currently have is already a step up from the grade you earned. And, for the record, it is an excellent grade and nothing to be ashamed of. Be proud of yourself for doing such fine work all term.

"How do you spell ____________?"

There is no reason to ask that question. Ever. As you know I don't grade spelling on informal writing, notes, and journals. It is more important to get those out of your brain and onto the paper before they disappear. During revision, you will decide which of those ideas are the best and how they can be organized. During editing, you can proofread for spelling errors. But if you are really such a perfectionist that you can't proceed until every word is spelled correctly, there is a shelf full of dictionaries less than 30 feet away. I just think you'd get a lot more writing done if you kept that pencil moving. But I understand that the real reason you are asking is just for a little extra attention and/or to avoid the actual writing for a few more moments. Can you spell Pwned?

Next one goes here.
Updated: 08/16/16