Friday, January 7, 2011

That Terrible, Sinking Feeling

When I taught 3rd grade in my former life, we used to teach a really long ocean unit. Our readers had lots of ocean themed stories, including one about the Titanic. We would turn our classrooms into oceans, with blue saran wrap on the ceiling and seaweed going up the walls. And stupid dangly fish hanging from everywhere to walk into for a month. It was awesome.

With a little research, I found that National Geographic had a video about when Dr. Robert Ballard discovered the wreck of the Titanic. Nat Geo is known for great videos. The box said something about "National Geographic Family Video Series" or something like that. In addition, there was a class set of colored, glossy books full of photos about the Titanic. Score!

Still, I watched the video at home before I showed my class. Boy am I glad I did because Dr. Robert Ballard, in all his excitement, at the exact moment he realizes he's found the Titanic, lets out the mother of all cuss words. Just so we're clear how bad it was, it's initials are g.d. National Geographic didn't feel the need to edit this out for their "family video series." Sigh.

So, I figured I could handle it. I memorized the exact part where the word would take place and while my class watched, I simply muted that part and talked over it.

"Now class, what he's doing here is....." and then I hit un-mute. Perfect.

The next year 2 classes were watching the video together and I hadn't had a chance to warn Mr. A (a very conservative Christian teacher with a picture of Ronald Reagan over his desk), about the word. I had the remote so I just "accidentally" his fast forward. Oops! I "fumbled" with the remote and hit play. Problemo solved. I was so slick.

My students LOVED the Titanic unit. The movie came out when they were in 5th grade and I think they ALL stopped by my door to tell me "Mrs. E--there's going to be a Titanic movie!!!!!" My heart swelled with pride that my students still had that spark of excitement about learning that I had placed inside of them.

A few years later, I got around to watching Titanic and what I learned was my students had watched Leo and Kate steam up the inside of a car. Niiice.

We began a program at our school where we stayed with our class for 2 years, through 3rd and 4th. Then, we would loop back down to 3rd and pick up another class. So we were switching everything around, preparing to be 4th grade teachers and they to be 3rd grade teachers. I gave Mrs. G (another Christian teacher, in her late 50s at the time) all my stuff for the Titanic unit and I warned her about the video.

I reminded her before the ocean unit came up about the video. She thanked me. What happened next is one of my favorite stories ever.

She said she put the video in and then settled in at her round table in the back of the room to grade papers. I mean, this is why teachers show videos--to get caught up on paperwork and planning. She remembered about the word, but in her paper grading, the remote control got lost in the piles. She said she looked up and realized it was the part I had warned her about. She scrambled around at the back table, furiously looking for the remote and then realized she just didn't have time to find it. She sprinted to the front of the room through a sea of children, her arm extended in order to hit a button--ANY button quicker. Just as her index finger was INCHES from the TV...

...Dr. Ballard found the Titanic.

She quickly turned around and faced the class. A girl on the front row gasped and crossed herself.

All was forgiven. Mrs. G apologized and the class said it wasn't her fault. She asked them to please not go home and tell their parents Mrs. G had shown a bad movie.

So last night we were watching Annie. For the first time ever in my life of watching this movie, I heard FOUR cuss words.

Two of them were the Dr. Robert Ballard kind.

But I think I can cough over 'em next time.

What do you do when a perfectly good movie is ruined by one or two bad words? It's so discouraging!


  1. I love it! I love your story telling - will you please come teach me? The kids I can handle, it's me that needs your teachin'! Pick something - sewing, proper speaking, phonics for hicks, how to remember important things.. any of them will do.

    Favorite paragraph - the first one. Laughed out loud.

    Yeah, we didn't preview Annie. Didn't think we needed to. I was shocked. And not just by the language - the drinking, the hanging all over the men in her nightgown - ugh, makes me cringe.

    I turn them off. Or skip forward as you do. Matt chooses his mom's method: sit real still and pretend you didn't hear anything. As you so eloquently put it, "Niiiice."

  2. We own this:

    I will be blogging about this soon! :)

  3. I'm pretty quick with the remote mute button when I know in advance. If not, we will sometimes discuss the importance of appropriate language in a calm and reasonable way--if I'm feeling calm and reasonable, that is. Most of the time I give the dreaded "Mom Eye" and threaten with, "I had better not EVER hear that word come out of your mouth--or else!"

  4. Mrs. Fuentes! I THOUGHT there was some kind of technology for this! Wow. I can't wait to hear more!

  5. I am almost 100% sure that my girls do not know that word so I don't think it stood out to them. I certainly never heard it on Annie as a child! But would be nice to not have to worry about it.

  6. I usually apologize to the kids and remind them that the lost use those words so often that they forget there is anything wrong with them. I also remind them that when they are adults in the "real" world, they will hear those things often. That it doesn't make it okay, but it's life. We just need to use those as reminders to check our own behavior (cursing is not worse than lying, being deceptive, being disobedient, etc.) and we also need to be reminded to continually pray for the lost.

  7. Isn't it amazing the things we watched as children and didn't really notice how "bad" they were until we're watching them with our children?! In some ways, that gives me hope that perhaps they won't notice, either... but that definitely does NOT stop me from previewing everything! We learned our lesson the hard way, after kicking ourselves for not previewing things. Even, as your example demonstrated, educational videos! Its a tough job being watchdog, isn't it?

  8. I usually look up on line where the offensiveness is and then we mute it or cough really loudly! I used to know a man who was very tech savvy, who would download the movies on to his laptop and watch the movie before his kids and personally edit the language in the movie or delete entire scenes out of it. He was a mac daddy of computers though. It's a shame that kid movies are no longer kid movies, they all have to have some innuendo.

  9. I just hate that when this happens! I mean, they could choose other words to get the point across....ugh.

  10. first when they were younger we didnt watch anything if we couldnt explain it... topic wise.

    Now, I usually do preview or READ a lot of reviews. If it is something I am very uncomfortable with we dont see it. If it a life issue that they will have to deal with "cussing" or abuse of some kind we watch with the stipulation: dont repeat and there is discussion! there is of course a boundary that would NOT be crossed. I have let the kids watch a lot or at least a lot of parts of movies for school.. for instance they watched a ton of parts of TROY with Brad Pitt becasue we had read the Illiad and the movie is an AMAZING representation of the story- there is nudity (which of course they didnt watch) :) But I had all the parts I wanted them to see marked timewise.

    if it is a movie that I am not fond of (tinkerbell- my personal irritation in this lifetime) I am fine if they watch and and then we are done, we dont buy it and watch it daily.

    For instance...we have allowed Matt to watch Jurrasic Park- there are a few cuss words but mostly it is a clean, although suspensful, movie. We just reiterate if you are caught repeating it... it's over!

    I think a lot of movies my mom allowed us to watch: Annie, ET, Grease etc are not movies that I let the kids watch minus Annie (once) because I think the subject matter is something I am not ready to discuss no matter that i watched EVERYDAY for entire summers!

    But for instance I wont let them watch Spongebob or Scooby doo... so my METHOD for picking and choosing what they watch is skewed for some people.. I do have a method and a criteria!

    on the topic of clearplay I am really interested in hearing your thoughts because I have a not so great opinion but it is really just my own personal "thoughts" on it. I would like to hear others opinions! :)

  11. Well, there is TV guardian, but it's a waste of time if, like my in-laws, you use it so the kids don't "hear" the word but you watch the movie with captions because the adults want to know exactly what is being said. So kid can still read.

    I was watching a movie with my (then 18 year old) sister in law once, an she had on TV guardian without the captions, but every time they bleeped something, she turned around and told me what word or phrase they just bleeped. So what was the point?

  12. i, too, have different memories of what i watched as a kid. i remember when watching annie with the girls... completely forgot how much alcohol was involved, too. ;) imagine my surprise when watching steel magnolias... men's locker room. full moons. oi.


I don't get to talk to a lot of actual grown-ups during the day, so your comments make me really happy! :)