Conversations with the Students

Another classic set of conversations with my students:

From a class of seniors:

[Bell rings. Kids are running out of the classroom.]

Student 1 (Running out the door): Have a good day, sir!

Me: What was that? Sir?! I’m not that old!

Student 2 (Running out the door): You’re getting there…

From a lower-level Geometry class…:

Student 1: Mr. Mehta! I found a math video online that you have to watch!

Me: Oh? What is it? I’ll check it out sometime tonight.

Student 1: 2 Girls, 1 Cup.

Me: … [Internal struggle over the proper way to react]

  • Ngeli

    The best way to react is IMHO complain on the next day that the music in that video was horrible! ;)

  • Gabriel

    I haven’t got a clue on how to react. I still want to scrub my brain with steal wool.

    As far as the sir. That was pretty encouraging. Where I come from it isn’t about age it is about respect.

  • Ron in Houston

    I’ll bet you’re viewed as one of the “cool’ teachers. Here’s hoping you remain that way.

  • http://msatheists.org Oliver

    2 Girls + 1 Cup = I vomit 3 times.

  • http://atheistblogger.com Adrian Hayter

    The problem with that second conversation is if you react in any negative way you are admitting to either having watched or heard about the film…

  • Jake

    It’s too bad both conversations weren’t with the same students…you could have refuted the claim in the 1st with your reaction to the 2nd.

  • andrew

    HAHAHAHAHHA 2 girls 1 cup…..how did you really respond!?!?!

  • Maria

    lol

  • MathMike

    Here’s the one that left me speechless:
    A girl nervously comes over to me just before the end of class with a question stuck in her head.
    “OK, I have to ask you a question and I’m not trying to be funny OK and you can’t get made ’cause I really want to know the answer to this.” She takes a deep breath and starts in again. “OK so when adults get together and they do that nasty thing that adults do, why do some guys last longer than others?”
    Know that I teach the same classes and level that you do.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    MathMike,

    The obvious answer is that some guys are thinking about 2 girls, 1 cup and others guys aren’t. Or vice versa.

  • MathMike

    NYCatheist,

    Oh well that works NOW, but back when I got asked that question that video didn’t even exist. I guess I could have said, “Well, some guys are thinking about you, and some are thinking about your mom.” :-) But that just goes to a dark and scary place.

  • Joe L.

    Hemant – Since you’re talking about your students, I’ll ask a question that I’ve been curious about for a while (maybe you’ve answered it in the past, i dunno).
    Do your students (all, or any) know about this website? What about their parents? I can imagine it would only take one parent who took offense to you simply being an open atheist, much less running a website about it, to start a shit-storm of trouble for you, your class and your school.
    Have you had to deal with this?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    Hemant – Since you’re talking about your students, I’ll ask a question that I’ve been curious about for a while (maybe you’ve answered it in the past, i dunno).
    Do your students (all, or any) know about this website? What about their parents? I can imagine it would only take one parent who took offense to you simply being an open atheist, much less running a website about it, to start a shit-storm of trouble for you, your class and your school.
    Have you had to deal with this?

    Do they know about the site? I’m sure some do. I don’t talk about it or mention it in my classes, of course. But some kids find out about my book and that leads them to this site. I can’t really control that.

    Do parents know? Not to my knowledge. I have yet to receive any comments about atheism (good or bad) from any parents so far.

    I doubt any parent could start a shit-storm over my being an atheist — not unless I proselytize about it. And I wouldn’t do that.

    For what it’s worth, my boss knows about my book. I assume she knows about my atheism. Most of my colleagues also know about my atheism and they joke about it in good fun. For example, in the winter, the teachers really wanted a snow day. A couple of them told me I should pray for one… because if a prayer came from me, it’d mean a hell of a lot more :)

    I’m sure there’ll come a time when my atheism bothers someone… but I had many openly religious students in class last year and there was never any issue with any of them. Just as PZ Myers says, and I’ll say it applies even moreso in high school, students should be graded on their classwork (and in high school, perhaps their behavior), not their beliefs.

  • Joe L.

    Cool, thanks for the reply. I was curious because if anyone were to Google your name for some reason, it turns up all sorts of links and pages that would scare the hell out of a “good Christian parent”. My wife is a teacher who has a similar phenomenon, except not one that’s likely to get her into any hot water. She started teaching high school this year, but for the previous 5 years she has been a full-time, professional cyclist and triathlete, and she still does that during school breaks and the summer. We have a website registered for her athletic career which comes up first when you search for her full name. She has had several students in her first semester of teaching who have already stumbled across her website and of course have all sorts of questions for her and want to talk about it all the time. It’s very weird for a student to see a teacher outside of the classroom situation, and then to see pictures and videos of her doing triathlons at the professional level is very intriguing for her students.

    Anyway, of course I would never expect you to proselytize or even talk about atheism in the classroom. But you cover stories like this all the time – do you think it would really be that outlandish if some uptight Christian parent ran across your website and saw you as an outspoken atheist and brought it up at a PTA or school board meeting? Even if you never say anything in the classroom, a group of PTA moms could get very upset, very quickly because of this. Obviously you couldn’t be fired unless there was clear evidence of malfeasance, but I could see, for example, parents yanking their kids out of your classroom. I dunno, maybe it’s just because i’m from North Carolina – maybe you live in a city where this wouldn’t happen!

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    MathMike,
    lol :-D

    Hemant,
    I was going to “me too” Joe’s question but I see you answered right away. Very interesting! I often wondered about that.

    But I suppose math is a much safer subject for an atheist to teach, then say… biology. Unless you start getting pressured to teach the alternative theory “Intelligent Integration”. (What, those equations just appeared through random chance??) ;-)

  • Steven

    I have to agree with you Mr. Mehta, Sir, as soon as I started getting the “Sirs” it made me feel old.
    It didn’t help that I had grey hair in my 20′s and nowadays much of it is white (I’m still – barely – under 40).
    The upside is that I sometimes get more respect than I would otherwise – and I’m sure my wife secretly digs my ‘Mr. Fantastic’ hair (or maybe not…)

  • Christin

    Correct response to the 2 Girls, 1 Cup kid:

    “I love that you’d see something math-related and think to tell me about it! I’m going to e-mail your parents and tell them that you said I’d enjoy that exact video. I’m sure they’ll be proud.”

  • Scotty B

    With that second question, do you have some obligation as a teacher to report them for breaking the law? If I’m not mistaken, you have to click “Yes, I’m over 18″ to get into those types of sites…

    /maybe its not a law, just a suggestion.

  • ubi dubius

    As an Army brat and an Army officer myself for 4 years, I got quite used to “sir” at a young age. It has nothing to do with age, it has to do with respect. And, I hope teachers get more respect than they do.

    Ubi Dubium was not so used to the idea, however. When she visited my unit before we got married, the troops addressed her as “ma’am” and apologized for using foul language in her presence. As a 21 year old college junior, that took her aback.


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