By Mordechai Schmutter
As a high-school English teacher, I noticed something that happens to my students over the summer: Somehow, they forget everything they ever knew about school. Mostly they forget the rules. I know this because I sometimes have the same students two years in a row. This isn’t because they’re left back. It’s because I teach several grades. And believe me, it’s a real treat to have the kids come in the first day and say, “You again? Oh.”
So I guess they do remember some things.
To be fair, I don’t know if they’re actually forgetting the rules over the summer. I see them gradually forgetting over the course of the year. It might be smart to sit down about once every two weeks and go over the rules again. But seeing how many rules there are and how long this usually takes, all we’re going to end up learning all year is the rules.
So every year I give my repeating class a quiz about the rules—on the very first day. This totally blows them out of the water, because another thing they forget over the summer is that there are going to be quizzes.
1. Why are you here?
a. To see if maybe this is the year that Mr. Schmutter will actually teach us something. You never know.
b. My parents said I had to be here.
c. Yeshiva policy.
d. Wait. Where am I?
2. Approximately how many people are in this class?
a. You mean on a good day?
b. There’s just me. Everyone else is here to observe.
c. Hang on, let me check. I just stole the attendance sheet.
3. So why is everyone else here?
a. To listen to me argue about my grade.
b. Same as me: Either to learn, to pass English, or to make their parents happy.
c. To wait for me to come back from the “bathroom.”
4. Yeshiva policy is not to eat in class. Why?
a. Who knows why the yeshiva says anything, really?
b. Because even though we’re in eleventh grade, we can’t eat a thing without spilling it all over ourselves. And our neighbors.
c. Because instead of thinking about the lesson, everyone around us is thinking either, “I hope he gives me some,” or, “I’m gonna make myself some of that too. But with more butter. Obviously.”
5. Are you allowed to copy off other people’s worksheets?
a. For this question, the guy next to me chose “a.”
b. Worksheets aren’t tests. I can copy whatever I want, and then when it’s time for the test, I’m going to somehow know all the material despite never having practiced it.
c. Don’t worry; I don’t actually look at his answers. I just photocopy the whole sheet, and write my name at the top.
d. It’s okay; we’re all copying off each other. No one’s sure who’s actually doing the work.
6. What time do you have to be in class every day?
a. There’s class every day?
b. At least 15 minutes after it starts. It’s not like I have to make Borchu.
c. About 10 seconds before the principal checks in.
7. What are you expected to bring to class every day?
a. Something to write with, something to write on, and something to keep it in.
b. Enough food for everybody.
d. How on earth am I supposed to come to class on time if I have to go on a whole scavenger hunt first?
8. On what do I base your grades?
a. On how much time you spend whining at me the week before report cards.
b. 1/3 tests, 2/5 worksheets, 1/6 class participation, 1/4 homework, and 17/64 final exam.
c. I put a bunch of numbers in a hat.
d. People I like get good grades, and the only people I like are the ones who pay attention.
9. Complete the sentence: “If I get to class and Mr. Schmutter isn’t there . . .
a. I’m going to go bug him in the copy room, so he comes in even later.”
b. I’m going to assume he isn’t coming. It’s not like he gets paid to be here or anything.”
c. I’m going to stay put, because Mr. Schmutter hasn’t been sick in years, b’li ayin hara, unlike some of the guys in this class, who get sick at least once a week between the hours of 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. That dorm is like a petri dish.”
10. If you’re ever absent, you can assume that . . .
a. The rest of us did absolutely nothing important in class while you were gone. We just sat around in sackcloth and stared out the window.
b. We managed to pull ourselves together and move on without you.
c. Someone else stepped up and took your place, and hassled me while you were gone.
11. The summary sheets that I hand out with the worksheets are . . .
a. Placemats for the guys who eat fleishigs in class.
b. Target practice for the garbage.
c. Something that I went out of my way to do for you so that you would have something to study from, because L‑rd knows you don’t actually take notes.
12. If someone asks me a question about a lesson, worksheet, or anything else about the class, you should assume that . . .
a. If you ask the same exact question 30 seconds later, the answer will be different.
b. You will definitely not have the same or a similar question when you get up to that part of the worksheet.
c. When you ask the same question later, I’m going to give the same answer, but in a more annoyed voice.
13. If Mr. Schmutter had important things to do at home but nevertheless dragged himself into yeshiva, what are the chances that he’s going to waste his own time by giving you a free period so you can go play basketball?
a. Pretty high.
b. Not very high.
c. I don’t know. I might as well ask him.
14. Which of the following is considered the most batalah, in the long run?
a. Going to English.
b. Going to English, but not trying to learn anything while you’re there.
c. Going to English and making sure that, one way or another, no one else is able to learn anything while you’re there.
15. Which of the following interruptions are not allowed in class? Check all that apply:
• Getting up
• Water aerobics
• Jumping out the window
• Standing between the board and my desk, so that you, and only you, can see the board.
• Raising your hand and waiting patiently to be called on so you can have an excuse to say whatever random tangential thought came to your mind. (“What? You called on me.”)
• Making the lesson take longer by continuously asking me to let you out early.
• Bothering me about taking off your “warning,” when all your warning does is warn you that the next time you do something, you’ll actually be in trouble. You don’t want to be warned? Fine.
• Throwing things toward the approximate side of the room that the garbage is on.
• Throwing things at other people.
• Throwing other people.
• Turning the lights off and going, “WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”
• Claiming that you’re still talking because I haven’t started teaching, when the reason I haven’t started teaching is because you’re still talking.
• Facing a direction where you can’t see the board without the kind of aerobics that are not allowed in class.
• Interrupting to tell me that I didn’t teach something that I happened to teach in the 15 minutes of class before you decided to walk in.
• Asking me to help you with a worksheet that everyone else did yesterday right after you decided to leave early.
• Telling me that I should stop teaching something because everyone already knows it, and then asking me how to do every single question on the worksheet.
16. The point of this test was:
a. So you could bother me about every question and stress about which answers are right or wrong.
b. To realize that the individual questions don’t matter, and that the whole point of this was to get you to read the rules, because for me to say the rules usually takes the better part of a week.
c. To read it in the newspaper before school even starts, so we can start actually learning on the first day, for a change. Because the first day of school is the one day when everyone’s minds are supposed to be freshest, and what do we do with it? We talk about the rules. v
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of four books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.