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Virginia Journal of Education

One of the reasons that it’s so much fun to work in schools is that young people can often be flat-out hilarious. We asked you, our readers, to share some of the funniest, most entertaining things you’ve ever heard come out of your students’ mouths, and here’s a sampling of what you told us:

Our Modern Economy
While teaching a lesson on economics, I asked, “Does anyone know what the term ‘distribution’ means?” One student replied, “Yes, it’s what my cousin went to jail for.”

Afreen Gootee, Hanover County

That’s a Party!
In a back-to-school essay about “What I Did This Summer,” one high school freshman included the sentence, "We attended the wedding and the conception."

Barbara Wilson, Louisa County

It’s in the Forecast
A couple of students were discussing the possibility of snow, and Jessica (a junior) was optimistic about the chances: "There's 70 percent chance of snow tonight and 30 percent tomorrow! That's like 100 percent!"

Jeff Walker, Culpeper

A Holy Man
During a high school mythology lesson, one of my students asked me why gods of various cultures are so often depicted semi- or fully-unclothed. I responded that many ancient civilizations valued physical perfection. Attempting to add a bit of humor, I let my considerable girth relax as far over my belt as I could manage and added, "Needless to say, I would never have passed for a deity in any of the cultures we have studied." Immediately a hand shot up in the back of the room. When called upon, one of my usually most taciturn students said, "That's not true, Mr. Follett - you definitely have the body of a god." I heard myself say "Oh?" The response was instantaneous: "Yeah ... Buddha."

Rich Follett, Warren County

Sticking Close to Home
Upon the death of Osama Bin Laden, a middle school student asked a teacher, "Why did they kill the tourist? Why is America killing tourists?”

Charlotte Kelso, Arlington

Irregular History
One of my fourth-graders referred to James Madison as the “Father of the Constipation.” He was completely serious, and couldn’t understand why I was laughing so hard. Another time, while reviewing the Civil War, I was trying to elicit a nickname for the southerners. My students were unable to locate the word in their memory banks, so I began to give them the letters of the word. When I got as far as r-e, someone called out “Redneck!” 

Carolyn Molly, Gloucester

It’s Probably Not Terminal
While doing a context clue vocabulary activity on a story about schools banning the sale of sugary sodas, the class listed unknown words, including "adolescence." When we started proposing possible definitions, I called on a student to share his predicted definition. He said he thought adolescence meant some kind of disease. I lost my struggle to not to laugh. After I calmed down, he asked what was so funny. I told him I was about to say he was wrong, but after thinking about it he was right, and everyone in class was suffering from it. They looked concerned until I told them it wasn't fatal but symptoms do last six to eight years.

Peter Pfotenhauer, Spotsylvania County

Who Needs eHarmony?
As all my students know, I am one of the few teachers who is "still single" at my middle school.  Every year they seem very concerned about this and have been known to bring up this issue to their parents, uncles and apparently even their pastors. 

Last year, one girl came to me in the morning and relayed that she had been discussing my tragedy of singleness with her preacher, who then informed her that no one was truly alone because God was always with us.

"Miss Karnes, my preacher said you're not really single!  You're married to Jesus!" she later told me.

I responded with a chuckle and said, "Well, that's good, but Jesus hasn't been cleaning my gutters or weed-eating my yard."

She carefully paused, furrowed her brow, and exclaimed: "He weed-eats your soul!"

Kristina Karnes, Bedford County

Looking for an Eyewitness Account
When I was just in my second year in a new school, I had a conversation in the library with a precocious second-grader who was there presumably to check out books, but seemed far more interested in interviewing the new librarian.

Very seriously, he asked me if I had been alive when Abraham Lincoln was president. I was completely taken aback (I was only 25 at the time), and not yet tuned in to the fact that time means little to young students.

I responded with a nervous little laugh and said, “Are you pulling my leg, Jeremy?”

With all of the seriousness of a second-grader trying hard to be patient with a clueless adult, he responded, “No, Ms. Boitnott, I ain’t yanking your leg. Was you?”

In addition to learning that eight-year-olds find it perfectly reasonable that I might have been alive during the Civil War, I also picked up that the use of idioms can be lost on the young—so be careful about the use of expressions that they may interpret literally.

Dr. Kitty Boitnott, VEA President

Foreign Relations
A group of Japanese teachers once visited my school, going from room to room to observe and, in some classes, interact with students during lessons. One third-grader, asked about the visit at the end of the day, said, "They couldn't speak good English, but that was okay because they had an exterminator with them." We believe he meant “interpreter.”

Jim Amaral, Prince William County

Where’s the Remote?
While an elementary librarian in the 1990s, before some of the projection devices emerged on the classroom scene, I would use a video camera to show the illustrations as I read stories to students. Seated in a rocking chair, with the camera hooked by wires to a television serving as a monitor and positioned on a tripod above my shoulder, I was able to project the image onto the screen so the entire class could see the pictures as I read the story.

One day, as I was reading the story to a class and the image of the illustrations were appearing on the TV screen, one of the youngsters in the class, seated about 10 feet away, commented loudly, “Could you turn up the volume?”

David Winship, Washington County

An Upbeat Orientation
One day one of my high school students asked to speak with me privately. “I think I’m gay,” she told me. Trying to approach the subject carefully, and a little worried about how I would handle the conversation, I casually asked why she thought so. “I’m happy all the time,” she answered. I taught students with mild mental disabilities and her answer definitely resulted in a sigh of relief.

Linda Marks, Chesterfield County

Stage Fright
Each May, third- and fourth-graders share their singing talents at the community-sponsored Amelia Day festivities. With great seriousness, one of my third-graders told me how nervous he was about his upcoming performance with the group. After about a 20-second wait, he further commented, "Mrs. Lewis, I just can't mess up. If I do, this will live on in my family for generations!”

Carolyn Lewis, Amelia County

‘F’ Words
I was working with a group of first-graders on "f" words. When they had exhausted their list of ideas, I was prompting them to think of more words. Upon giving the following clue, "What do you do when something is broken?" a little freckled-faced boy in my class said, "You f- f- f- frow it away!"
Ann Reighard, Prince William County

Foreign Relations, Volume 2
I had a third-grader transfer to our school about two weeks before the end of the year. We were knee-deep in the SOLs, and I had to give him his test alone because he required accommodations. He sat in the office waiting until I finished testing another student. When I picked him up, I began chatting a little to break the ice, since it was the first time we’d met. We talked about his pets, including the "boa" that lived in the backyard, but the best part was when he told me, "I was born in Europe. In fact, I speak a little European."

Barbara Rohr, Manassas

A student working in the library on a research project scanned a couple of biographies and noted, "These books are boring—they’re nothing but facts."

Claire Scholz, Loudoun County

Swing and a Miss
I am a kindergarten teaching assistant and we talk about bullying a lot these days, even in kindergarten:  how to spot a bully, how to keep yourself safe from a bully, etc. After a session of discussing bullying, we had our group of five-year-olds sitting on the carpet. All hands were raised as the kids really wanted to talk. We called on Aidan, who had taken it all in, and he declared, “If I saw a bully, I would hit him.”

Hmmm. Perhaps we have a little more work to do…

Susan Ray, Haymarket

A Slimy Strategy
I was teaching the Civil War in my history class and telling students about how the North used a strategy called the Anaconda Plan to choke off supplies to the South by land and water. The strategy would choke the South in the same way an anaconda chokes its prey. One boy asked, “How did the North get all these snakes they used?”  

Mary Massey, Prince George County

Anatomy of an Injury
One of my students was walking down the hall after getting off bus in the morning. I asked how the football game was the afternoon before. He started rubbing his chest in a circular motion and haltingly told me, "I got hit....Got hit by the football... right here, in the middle of my scrotum."

Also, some test answers I’ve gotten over the years:

During the rule of the Middle Ages in Russia, the majority of the people were either pheasants or smurfs.

The disease the killed much of Europe's population in the Middle Ages was the Blue Bonnet Plague.

Halfway through a session of the General Assembly the bills that began in the House of Delegates must go to the Senate and those that began in the Senate must go to the House of Delegates. This day is called Passover.

Judy Faust, Hanover County

Adult Education
At the end of the day I asked my kindergarten students what they had learned or to name something special that we had done that they would like to share with their parents when they got home. This may date me, but one little hand went up and Sarah said, "We saw a strip film today!" Of course, she meant she had seen a filmstrip! I quickly responded with a comment about the interesting filmstrip we had seen about careers. I could only imagine the comments at home when she shared her news!

Tricia Gregory, Henrico County

A Dirty Job, But Someone Had to Do It
The social studies teacher on my team was doing a lesson on the geographic regions of Virginia (Tidewater, Piedmont, Mountains, etc.) and was quizzing students on the source of the soil in each region. When he asked the class, "From where did the soil in the Piedmont come?" a seventh-grader raised his hand enthusiastically and answered, "It was brought over by the early settlers."

Sheila Majka, Hampton

Rose-Colored Glasses?
I taught mostly secondary students with learning and emotional disabilities. Everyone knows how literally an LD student can view the world.  Once, after viewing a black-and-white film, a freshman student asked me, "Is that that the way the world used to look?"
Jana Privette Usry, Richmond

Tough Sentence
One of my fourth-graders once told me that she couldn’t do something because she was "on groundation for life!"

Joyce Jones, Virginia Beach

How Did You Know?
I had a substitute teacher one day and a young lady came in and announced loudly, "I'm late!" The substitute said, "You must be clairvoyant." The young lady replied, "No, I'm Claire Smith."

Michelle Gittens, Chesterfield County

While making Valentine cards in class, one of the boys raised his hand and asked, "How do you spell Happy Valentine’s Day, Sucker!"? Years later, when my wife, a fourth grade teacher, or I see the other addressing a card to someone we instinctively repeat that phrase. It still gets a laugh. 
Dennis Benjamin, Prince William County


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