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  • Paulina Campanella

Ranking Teacher Slang

When you become a teacher, your entire vocabulary set changes once the bell rings. Of course, you have to filter out language that isn’t appropriate for school—well, you’re supposed to, at least—but that’s not what I’m talking about.

There are forces looming over all teachers compelling them to say certain phrases in the classroom, like “Let’s switch gears now” and “Shoot me an email.” But outside of these universal catchphrases, teachers have their own individual expressions that they use in class. I’ve coined this phenomenon “teacher slang,” so enjoy my personal ranking of the phrases Edgemont teachers use below. Teachers, kindly remember that this article is all in good fun…so please don’t hold what I say against me on any future recommendation letters.

Mr. Alter

Mr. Alter is famous around Edgemont for his crazy stories, most notably “The Basketball Story.” But, just as he teaches history and psychology and also coaches basketball, he is well-rounded and on his A-game with teacher slang, too. Mr. Alter refers to his students as “folks” more than almost any other Edgemont teacher (see Mr. Darby’s section below for more details), and he connects them to the material with his classic phrase, “Let’s hold the world in our hands.” Plus, he has a whole second set of slang for students who get distracted by their laptops. Ranging from the moving speech, “You’re here, but you’re not here,” to the more effective “Shut your screens” that he calls across the Cafe Annex at least three times a class period, the phrases he employs display impressive variety.

I rank Mr. Alter’s slang 7/10, even though you can hardly hear his slang if you’re sitting in the back of the Cafe Annex. The number of times he says “folks” in a single period is astounding, and the class in which he tells “The Basketball Story” is guaranteed to be single best 55-minute interval you ever have in high school.

Mr. Darby

The only person who rivals Mr. Alter’s use of “folks” is Mr. Darby. With Mr. Darby, though, the word “folks” is often preceded by the phrase “clutch point,” and accompanied by commentary on the importance of and his great love of maps. Also like Mr. Alter, Mr. Darby teaches psychology as well as history, which is where his classic psych phrase was born: “If psychology was easy, they’d call it physics.”

As someone who proudly chickened out of taking AP Physics senior year, I’m not entirely sure if he’s right on that last quote. Still, as a loyal Darby alum, I don’t doubt that this could be true…if Mr. Darby made his iconic colored packets for AP Physics, of course.

I rate Mr. Darby’s slang 8/10, because after taking his class, you’ll never hear the word “clutch” again without thinking of him, and because his packets will carry your grades more than Khan Academy, Crash Course, and AP Classroom ever could.

Dr. Good

Of all the teachers at Edgemont, Dr. Good has the greatest quantity of slang. After teaching at Edgemont for nineteen years, he is equipped to combat every possible student quip, from muttering “behave yourself” three times a class period to ticking off his four classroom rules—most importantly, “don’t irritate the teacher.”

There are of course the classic Dr. Good phrases, “Googlie,” “you, me, and broccoli,” and “shuffle off this mortal coil,” along with the variety of “Good” puns he slips into class, from “Dr. Good Bar” to “Dr. Goodsite.” And I can’t forget the amazing range of phrases he reluctantly utilizes each AP Biology period, as he is further disappointed by the immaturity of his juniors and negligence of his seniors. Often accompanied by an exasperated sigh, Dr. Good will say, “Such is life” or “Ah, me,” before sending a student to sit in the lab in the back and then resuming class.

When you think he’s finally done talking about DNA, and when you think he can’t possibly have any more slang, he says, “But wait, there’s more!” and introduces yet another genetics unit with a whole new set of teacher slang.

Before I share my final review, I’d like to share a quote Dr. Good personalized for me in our Mendelian Genetics unit. After I answered a question about X-linked genes, Dr. Good said, “Hm, yeah, that’s technically the right answer, but that’s a really convoluted way of saying it. Kind of like most of your writing, Paulina!” Oof. That one hurt. (In his defense, I did use four pages for our first water FRQ, but still—ouch.)

Despite the genuine pain caused by his above comment, Dr. Good can rattle off teacher slang like no other. For this reason, I also rank Dr. Good’s slang 10/10.

Ms. Fischer

In Ms. Fischer’s classroom, “lasagna” is synonymous with “effort.” For instance, someone who “brings the lasagna” is someone who participates and puts all their effort into class that day. The word choice of food is very in tune with her class, since Ms. Fischer celebrates every student’s birthday, and she even once brought a leftover cake from her daughter’s party to share. (Sure, her class may be the primary source of the D-building mice rumors, but that’s a problem for the seventh-graders to deal with.)

On the other hand, to Ms. Fischer, someone who “brings the napkins” doesn’t put effort into class, and you never want to eat at a potluck where everyone just brought napkins. Still, her English 12 Honors Seminar often feels like a napkin-only potluck, when everyone fails the reading quizzes that ask which obscure character said which obscure line of dialogue. (We haven’t had class in five days because of the new schedule! How was I supposed to remember that in Chapter 5, for once, Nick says something other than “I love Jay Gatsby”?)

I rate Ms. Fischer’s slang 5/10, because, while I appreciate the food analogies and the Italian nature of the slang, I’ve never seen any real lasagna brought into her class.

Mr. Baum

Mr. Baum may not be teaching at Edgemont right now, but the legacy of his teacher slang lives on in his seniors. If any of them didn’t already frequent the word “arbitrary” in their vocabulary, they certainly do now—in fact, I estimate he said it at least six times a class period (but that’s just an arbitrary guess). He described long and often painful bouts of algebra as “algebraic tomfoolery,” an expression Calculus students across AB and BC quote to this day. Some say they still see his number-line-teaching-assistant, Petey the Particle, bouncing around particle motion problems and argand diagrams.

Despite teaching Honors Math and AP Statistics, Mr. Baum’s experience studying English Literature in college shone through in his Google Classroom posts. He once employed the phrases “undoubtedly find this information salient,” and of course, now-iconic among seniors, “ethically dubious behavior.”

Conor Feldman (‘23) says: “I try to keep Mr. Baum’s legacy alive, by saying ‘dubious’ in at least every other sentence, and by looking out for ethically dubious behavior in every corner of EHS.” Plus, it was always a thrill to guess if Mr. Baum would start a Classroom post with something other than his classic “All” (which, according to my counting, he used 29 times last year), like the three times he went crazy and began with “Hi all” instead.

And, in arguably his greatest feat as a teacher, Mr. Baum managed to encapsulate the insignificance of human life in the grand scheme of the ever-expanding universe with five short words: “We’re all just ants, man.”

Because of the permanence of his slang, his preference for improper fractions over decimals, and how much we miss his class, I rank Mr. Baum’s slang 11/10.

Ms. Earle

You’d expect an Honors English teacher like Ms. Earle to use eloquent slang, as she articulates advanced writing feedback to her students. However, unlike with her massive number of close-reading assignments, Ms. Earle adopts a minimalist attitude towards slang. She often responds to students’ work on Google Docs with one of three text abbreviations: 1) “awk” 2) “re:” 3) “?” An example of such a comment is “? your phrasing is awk re: the whole essay.”

I can’t fault Ms. Earle for her minimalist style of commenting, though, because more is never needed. If you haven’t experienced it on your own, I promise you, seeing “?” on your paper makes you reflect on your writing more than any extensive response she could’ve possibly given. To use another classic Ms. Earle line, there’s a lot more “nuance” in each of those tiny text abbreviations than any non-Mearle student could ever guess, whether you like it or not.

Even so, I rank Ms. Earle’s slang 4/10, because truly nothing hurts more than submitting what you thought was the best writing of your life, only to see an entire paragraph highlighted with the three letters of “awk” as the sole comment.

Mr. Rosenberg

Speaking of teacher comments that cause physical pain, Mr. Rosenberg has quite a few. I enjoy getting an appropriate amount of sleep a night, so I did not take APUSH junior year. Still, I’ll report on my experiences in his Regents class and what I know from my APUSH friends.

Like Ms. Earle, Mr. Rosenberg shows his slang via comments on student writing. He returns each essay with an eloquent articulation of every flaw in the piece, nearly as long as the paper itself. You can’t complain about his criticism, though, because he clearly put more work into ensuring you understand your paper’s mistakes than you spent actually writing it.

Throughout the piece, he sprinkles comments, favoring “off to a rough start,” “significant problems here,” “problematic,” and “no.” And, of course, on DBQs, he always distinguishes between a “good” response and an “ok” response, although they are both correct. The best praise I ever got from Mr. Rosenberg was “Well-handled, in general” on my unit projects—I appreciated the positive feedback, but I always wondered what was “poorly-handled, in specific.” However, no matter how low your grades go, his surprisingly good music taste resonates in his classroom, as the new Boygenius EP quietly comforts you after getting a 13/25 on your in-class essay.

I rank Mr. Rosenberg’s slang 8/10. His comments can be devastating, but they are always instructive and certainly impactful. Every APUSH alum agrees that his class made them stronger students and writers, more than any other class in high school, and was the only AP to prepare them truly for college rigor. Plus, for every ten of your DBQs he tears apart, Mr. Rosenberg might praise your work in one. Should you ever be blessed enough to achieve this triumph, you will know then, that your life has reached its highest peak.

Ms. Schutt

I don’t have any slang from Ms. Schutt herself—unless you count her constantly saying words of encouragement and being a saint to her students as slang. I’m talking about the slang of people around her, of the high-schoolers who, in her presence, immediately cease all thoughts of cursing and turn into perfect and wholesome cherubs.

There are a few phrases commonly used regarding Ms. Schutt. Ava Min (‘23) and Diana Yamada (‘23) say, “When we’re struggling with a writing assignment, we say a prayer: ‘O Holy Schutt, please bless us with the strength to survive this essay.’”

Plus, there are all the mysteries surrounding Ms. Schutt and her past, such as, “Did she really drive a motorcycle to school?” and “Was she really in the Peace Corps?” that come up from time to time. Hopefully she’ll give us some concrete answers before she retires this year, but to be honest, Edgemont students and faculty revere her so much that I don’t think it would change anything.

Ms. Schutt is an angel to her students, and manages to turn high-schoolers with unimaginably vulgar vocabularies into exemplary students. For that astonishing feat alone, I rank her slang 9/10.

Mr. Weitzman

I’ve never had Mr. Weitzman as a teacher, only as the faculty advisor for Campus, so I asked his students for examples of his slang. Without fail and without hesitation, every one of them replied, “Good stuff.” I wasn’t surprised; Mr. Weitzman says “Good stuff” so often he probably could get the rights to trademark it—along with his classic baseball cap.

There are also the Weitzman phrases stemming from his lack of understanding of technology, like how he refers to computers as “machines” and asks Ms. Spiegel to orchestrate his Google Classroom posts so he doesn’t mess them up (along with asking her what time class ends, because he still doesn’t understand the schedule).

Mr. Weitzman is not a teacher with brightly-colored motivational posters plastered all over his room…or at least, not in the typical sense. From “Hang On – Never, Never, Never, Never Give Up” to “Just Because You Are Unique Does Not Mean You Are Useful,” the messages on these posters are questionable, to say the least.

Students who don’t know about Mr. Weitzman’s love of satire may be confused when he randomly approaches them in class while everyone’s working quietly, and he points at a poster, saying “Always Believe in Yourself.” But once you’ve spent enough time in his class (meaning you’ve watched him slurp a Diet Pepsi on his desk at least seven times), you’ll understand all the quirks of his classroom atmosphere. You might even find yourself talking to random people about The Onion, as he does on the daily, and even asking them, “Have you ever seen the movie, Airplane?”.

I rate Mr. Weitzman’s slang 7/10. It’s unique, quoteable, and you’ll never see an over-decorated high-school classroom the same way again. Plus, he gives you time in September to finish your summer reading, and it doesn’t get much better than that.


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