sword swallower

The longer one spends in middle school, the more one’s maturity is arrested. This phenomenon is referred to as “going native.” Going native is the idea that after prolonged exposure to their charges, an adult, namely a teacher, unintentionally falls to the same developmental plane as his or her pupils. I’ve been in middle school for over 15 years, not counting my time on the inside back in the ‘80s. There’s not a lot of hope left for my maturity. I certainly love a good fart joke, but lately I’m having a harder then usual time holding on to the minimal maturity gap I hold over my middle schoolers. I’m on the verge of going full-on native and it all started with mastication.

Last year when I was determining the subject areas necessary for middle school scientific brilliance, I decided that a peek into human anatomy was essential and as they say, it’s easiest to “go with what you know.” Since I’ve been digesting and pooping all my life, and have a strange obsession with both due to a bad gut, I am a master of the poop tract. (Don’t worry, I did have to good sense to list it as “Digestive System” on my formal documents as calling it the Poop Tract might be frowned upon by the higher ups.) I figured it would be a slam-dunk unit that would require little research / relearning on my end.

I needed a unit I had full comfort in this year because last January I spent every damn night re-learning physics so I could break it down and teach it to middle schoolers the next day. (Full disclosure, I didn’t really get physics the first time through back in the 90s so trying to teach it nearly killed me.) I was not going to fall victim to the same fate again.

Given my WebMD research on the esophagus, gall bladder, gut micro-biome, intestinal absorption, and because I love a good highball, the liver, our study of the poop tract was going to be an easily digested piece of cake. I planned labs and projects from analyzing enzymes in saliva to building 3-D digestive systems. This was going to be epic.

Then we actually began.

It was the moment I uttered the word mastication to a group of 8th graders that it hit me. I tried to keep my adult-cool and not don the same shade of red as those seated at the lab tables before, me but I could feel it rising. I couldn’t suppress the giggles. I was going native.

After altering my delivery from mastication to “chewing really hard” for the next class, I thought I might be in the clear. I hadn’t even considered that eventually we’d hit the anus. As a woman who cannot speak the name of the 7th planet from the sun without uncontrolled giggling, (Uranus…hehehehehehehe. If you missed my struggle with this last year, go have a look here.) this did not look promising. I’ve been in middle school all these years for a reason.

I made the executive decision to spend a portion of our first class on an anal extravaganza. I gave each class of middle schoolers free rein to gawfaw wildly at my every mention of the word anus to get it out of their system (and mine.) Was this my best teaching moment? Perhaps not, but it get the job done and there has been ample anus discussion in the past weeks with the only giggles being the ones I suppress.

Honestly, what human with any sense of humor would not chuckle when an excited 10 year-old responses to the question, “What is the job of the anus?” with an exuberant, “Well Mrs. O, that is where the magic happens.”

What could elicit such a response? See, in that guy’s class, we magically made poop. We tore up bagels, mixed them with ginger ale (aka stomach acid) and shoved our concoction through a variety of contraptions including a pair of pantyhose that served as intestines. We hit the highpoint as the glob that began as bagels came out the bottom of the pantyhose as a perfectly formed, rather realistic turd. The crowd went wild and a high-pitched “POOP!!!!!!” punctuated the hallway. Magic indeed my friend.

If making poop were not exciting enough, I’ve also filled the minds of my cherubs with fun facts like: the average human farts 14-21 times daily (more if you eat Taco Bell) and the loudest fart ever recorded clocked in at 194 decibles for 1/3 of a second which is louder than a cannon blast. (FYI, the perpetrator suffers back pain from that honker to this day. No mention of Taco Bell consumption prior, but I’m guessing yes.)

As we’ve moved into building models of the digestive track I’ve gotten to say things like, “That purple anus is too big.” And “Your rectum is on the floor, don’t forget to attach it. Or my favorite, “Don’t forget to paint your anus.” 

Fortunately, we’re about to move out of this unit because my heart can no longer handle the stifled laughter that occurs with walking the line of going native. A few more days of this and I’m going to blow. Next week we move on to nutrients. Its time to say goodbye to the anus but I’m sure it won’t be gone forever. After all, that is where the magic happens.

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