Toplessness – Always Good For A Laugh

All right, friends.  It’s Friday.  It felt like this week went on forever.  It feels like we could all use a laugh.  By the by – I know our job is CRAZY IMPORTANT and, in my opinion, more important than most jobs, but when did it become so heavy?  Ugh!

So, here is a hilarious story as a bit of a TGIF-go-grab-a-cocktail-you-made-it-through-the-day celebration.  Full disclosure- I am actually about to retell one of Big Mama Mimi’s famous stories.  (And before you ask, no, this story does not involve my mother getting topless.  Sheesh.)  This is a story she told during her retirement dinner at the end of last year and brought down the house.  Seriously, I’m talking people gasping for air laughing.  I have never been more proud.  (Also, remind me to tell you guys sometime about this dinner.  Epic celebration of an amazing educator.  Epic.)

Evidently, back in the day (and my mother had taught for many days), people watched 16 millimeter films.  I know I myself watched them as a wee lass sitting in a classroom in a galaxy far far away, but you have to forgive me because I was not paying attention to the particulars of said-filmstrip, I was probably peeing in my pants excited about getting to watch a movie.  So there’s that.  Anyhow, according to my mother, filmstrips came in these gigantic canisters, which, occasionally made them a bit daunting to preview.  (Insert ominous music here…because you know that everyone’s first year of teaching is PRIME for some hilarious stories of disaster.)

Cut to my mother in one of her first years of teaching.  For many years, she taught with the same Super Colleague who is like a member of our family.  Together, they decided to show Nanook of the North, one of the first documentaries ever filmed.  Figuring that it was a silent movie shot in 1921 (and came in a massive film canister), my mother and her colleague decided NOT to preview the movie. I mean, what could go wrong with Nanook and his clan?

They dim the lights.  Nanook and his family race across the ice in a dogsled.  So far, so good.  Nanook and his family stop for the night and make an igloo.  Fantastic.  Nanook and his family arrange furs to stay warm for the night.  Great!  The kids settle down to sleep while Mrs. Nanook straightens up the igloo. My mother and her colleague high-five their teaching fabulousness!  Mr. Nanook takes off his shirt and gets between the furs.  Huh.  Okay…  Mrs. Nanook heads for the furs.  Hmmmmm….  She reaches for the bottom of her top.  Wait, what?  She wouldn’t.  Would she?  Annnnnnddddd…BAM!  This is the part where a room full of 9 year olds learn that women living on the tundra in the 1920s do not believe in wearing foundational garments.  Yes, friends, we’re topless.

Like shots from a cannon, my mother and her Super Colleague were out of their seats.  My mother blocked the screen while her colleague silenced a room full of preadolescent hysteria with one single Teacher Look and the following words:

I don’t to hear one sound out of any of you.  That woman…could be…your mother!

And with that, my mother’s super colleague launched into a brilliant, impromptu speech about cultural sensitivity. Crisis averted.

So, cheers to that, eh?  I hope you had a fabulous week, that you have an even better weekend and that you can find some places to laugh in your classrooms next week.

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  • In the early 70s NASA sent out the Pioneer space probes to traverse the universe and take information about humans and Earth to the stars. NOVA, the long running PBS tv show did a special on Pioneer. My third graders and I were studying the solar system (back when there were 9 planets ) so I thought it would be great to show the NOVA episode to my students…

    I didn't have a teaching partner to high-5 as the video started, but it wouldn't have lasted long even if I had…

    A short way into the episode the camera focused on the plaque, which Carl Sagan had insisted be included on the probe, which depicted the dominant species on our planet as well as some symbols designed to identify the origin of the space probe. The drawings of the humans were line drawings…completely and totally detailed in every biological way. In this case…topless and bottomless. (See

    Needless to say, I got in front of the screen as quickly as I could…and, as I recall, said, something like, "This isn't working right. Let's go to recess."

    For about a week I waited with great anxiety for the call from irate parents. The kids, however, must not have said anything…and I was allowed to continue teaching.

    That was the last time — and only time — I ever presented something without previewing ahead of time.

    October 19, 2012 at 6:11 pm
  • I've got one of those stories too! My first year as a teacher, I was completely overwhelmed and needed some time to sort through the Mt. Everest of paper on my desk. I scheduled a science video through our library media system. I pulled the tape earlier in the week and read the back, Animal Adaptations – survival skills, hunting, camouflage, you name it, it covered it all. That year I had a sign language interpreter for my students with hearing impairments. I'm sorting away at my desk across the room and I look up at the TV to see an egg being fertilized under a microscope. With horror I look at the interpreter who is frantically trying to get my attention while signing, "make babies, make babies." I couldn't believe picked a video that literally showed my fourth graders the birds and the bees. I casually walked over to the TV and said, "Well, boys and girls that was all I needed you to see today. Maybe we will finish this up tomorrow." I waited for the phone calls too. Thank goodness, none ever came. I always check those videos now.

    October 20, 2012 at 3:13 am
  • This has totally happened to me! My second year of teaching I decided to have a "video literature" afternoon (aka: movie afternoon). I picked out a "safe" movie: Make Way For Ducklings, Owl Moon, and (one I hadn't seen) The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak. Well, I should have previewed it. In the middle of grading at my desk, I hear laughing and I look up to see a picture on the screen of a little NAKED boy flying about the kitchen. There was no mistaking his little -ahem- part. I ran up, and started fast forwarding it. Well, it was VHS, and the little wavy lines did nothing to hide the naked boy. I turned off the tv and fast forwarded it until I thought it was the beginning of the next story. I push play. Still the naked boy flying around. I finally turned it off and read a funny story I thought would take their minds off the nakedness. THANK GOD there were no parent emails/calls.
    The second time this happened was when I was using VHS videos to teach about families around the world. We watched Sweden, Finland, China, Mexico, India, and everything was great! The last one was Thailand and I hadn't previewed it because the others were so great. In the middle of the movie I hear "The baby drinks milk from the breast." Yep. Full frontal view of a baby feeding from a topless woman.
    "Ok first graders! Time for recess!"
    Lessons learned: Be careful to ALWAYS preview movies. Even when you are sure it's safe. 🙂

    October 20, 2012 at 3:13 am
  • This is hilarious! Thanks for sharing.

    October 22, 2012 at 6:50 pm

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