Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 03 2010

And by “gay”, I mean happy

Today one of my students loudly and rudely called another student gay. I called him out on it, and he was amazingly quick with the comeback that gay means happy, and he shouldn’t get in trouble for saying another student was happy.

This is the problem with smart yet difficult students. I KNOW what you meant, but that is brutally legitimate. Gay can mean happy, and I’m not going to argue with the dictionary.  I gave him my best “we both know you’re a liar but now there’s nothing I can do” look, and he smiled sweetly back at me. I told him that unfortunately, so many people use the word “gay” in a negative way, that if he wanted me to not get angry, he would have to specify which way he was using it. I thought that was the best way of compromising. OF COURSE this was a mistake in middle school.
Suddenly, the rest of the class was all calling eachother and everything around them gay.

“You’re gay, and by gay I mean happy!”

“Yeah, well you’re gay all day every day. And by gay I mean happy.”

“Teacher, you are very gay today… and by gay I mean happy.”
“Man, he’s so gay, and by gay I mean colorful. Look at that shirt!”

This was really a moment of sudden chaos in the middle of my lesson. The entire room was delighted with this “permission” I accidentally gave them to use a word they normally aren’t supposed to use… and since “gay” isn’t a bad word unless used negatively, they really were taking all the force out of it by grinning away and complimenting one another on how happy and colorful they all were. The toughest, meanest kids were politely informing others that they were so very gay today… and by gay I mean happy.

That’s what it’s like to teach middle school.

4 Responses

  1. Giselle

    Do the boys constantly hit each other too? It doesn’t get any better in HS, especially freshman year…lol!!!

  2. Hey, if you’re looking for a really good way to actually curb this issue, I can explain it over email. Just shoot me an email.

  3. Thierry

    “The toughest, meanest kids were politely informing others that they were so very gay today…” I find this hilarious! Reading through this and some of your previous posts, all of a sudden I regret not having sat in at least a few psychology classes back in college.

  4. Kristin

    Sorry, I’m just reading back through your blogs for helpful tips and someone who can relate to me ;) I have this SAME problem! It’s began happening with “queer” as well. After outlawing the use of the word, student have started saying , “you’re so ‘g.’” It’s disheartening that I can’t teach these students the importance of being respectful to others. I’m not sure how to stop this…

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