The Hiding of the Blue Penis

Everyone has done at least one embarrassing thing in the classroom. Most of us have done more than that.

Here’s mine…

It’s September 2007 and my classroom is the departmental showcase for the annual parent’s open day. The event is critical – it’s where local parents come, look around, and decide whether they want to send their child to us when they move into secondary school.

I teach citizenship and PSHE, and am very excited that we’re being given a ‘room’ for the subject. It’s our first chance to be taken seriously. In response we’ve created a ‘healthy eating’ area where the kids can make smoothies, a display of children’s presentations from last year about environmental issues and have students on hand to talk about their Model UN work.

We have also decided to showcase sex education. This is risky for our community. Super-conservative and largely muslim, several years earlier a parent-led campaign had raged to try and stop sex ed in the school altogether. It was only years of negotiations with the local religious education board that got us back on track.

We therefore wanted to share what we were doing in sex ed, but needed to not terrify parents. I made the decision to diBlue condom demonstratorsplay one of our ‘sex ed kits’ – a bright red plastic briefcase that included examples of IUDs, images of STDs viruses, leaflets of advice. BUT to save everyone’s blushes I decided to remove the condom demonstrators, which – to be blunt – looked like a bright blue penis. (See picture right).

The event starts well. Parents and children are merrily making smoothies and reading the children’s work. No one is spending too much time with the sex ed kit, but no one is offended either.

A parent notices a book I have on the windowsill about supporting children with literacy. We chat. She asks if I can write down the name of the book.

No problem, I say, and dive into the top drawer of my desk to grab a pen.

Only, the drawer is messy and I can’t see a pen. I first remove my keys, flinging them on my desk … and then I remove the bright blue penis-shaped condom demonstrator I have neatly stowed in there which, for some reason, I continue holding in my left hand while I root around with my right.

It is only when I look back up and see a somewhat red-faced parent looking wide-eyed at me, and another parent double-taking, that I realise I have spent the past 20 seconds waving a phallic object at them. An object which appears to normally live in my top drawer.

My mortification is obvious. Cue a red face, masses of apologies, a throwing of the penis back in and shutting the drawer quickly. I then, inexplicably, decide to get the demonstrator back out again and show how it fits the gap in the sex ed kit, before realising that the best thing to do was to get the darn thing away as quickly as possible before any children see it.

It finally goes back in the drawer; my embarrassment is complete.

Thankfully, the people who noticed were very understanding. I vaguely remember writing the literacy book name down, laughing with the parent, and then slowly (very slowly) regaining my composure.

I spent the rest of the evening convinced a complaint would be made (none ever was) while my very understanding boss laughed it off and calmed me down admirably. It was an honest mistake and completely explainable. But it did mean I never again hid a condom demonstrator in my top drawer. I recommend you follow that lead.


I wrote a book! With Drew Povey (from Educating Manchester)! It’s called The Leadership Factor, and it’s short, and cheesy, but funny. Get it here.

9 thoughts on “The Hiding of the Blue Penis

  1. Love it! (The story, not the big blue condom demonstrator!)

    I’ll share my story.

    First year of teaching (isn’t it always). Year 8 middle set maths.

    Starting an angle topic and was encouraging pupils to name the types of angles.

    One portly young lad in the front row put his hand up and offered the answer “obese” instead of the word obtuse.

    Me, noticing that the pupil had triggered a memory casually said. I can see why you’ve said that meaning the words share similar sounds and his guess was close… The class however started howling with laughter. “AAAAAHHHH SIR CALLED YOU FAT!”

    They destroyed that poor lad! Luckily I managed to calm them all down and the lad thought it was pretty funny too.

    Made me realise that someone in the room WILL be listening during every point of the lesson.

  2. A colleague came to me profusely apologetic ” should a parent” contact me. “I had meant to say that the yeast I was using was an organism”

  3. Lovely story. I have to admit that the reason for having them in the desk did seem a little thin.

    I would share one that I still cringe about. I was teaching ICT in 2009 and a kid had managed to download a pornographic movie, one of which involved 2 females, 3 males and lots of teamwork and interaction. He didn’t realise that with my network console I could dontrol his PC. Of course I took a copy, invited his mother into school and the 3 of us watched a very short, more innocent snippet. Kid was duly embarassed.

    Several months later I was delivering a lesson supported by a TA which involved a short clip showing the use of ICT to control a rollercoaster at a theme park. I set up the video clip, whacked up the volume, clicked play and waited for the “missile” to appear on the whiteboard.

    I am sure you have guessed what happened next. What appeared, in full dolby surround sound were the 5 individuals described above engaging in some creative groupwork activities. It could only have taken 2 or 3 seconds to pull the plug on the data projector but that was more than enough.

    Yes I should have deleted the file but luckily all had been previously documented and other than a slap on the wrist I got away with it.

  4. Every single year, teaching the Medicine Through Time to a class of Year 10 girls, I have to teach about Koch and how his work on Germ Theory helped develop medicine.

    I’ve tried “Ko-tch” (like “botch”), “Kockkkhh” (with emphasis on a “bringing-up-spit” sound at the end to hide the hard “K” sound), even “K-oh-ch” (like “coach”). The attempts to make it sound different just heighten the snorting and giggling.

    I’ve tried being strict, I’ve tried doing the world-weary “yeah, yeah, let’s get on with it” stance. I’ve tried pretty much everything. But once you’ve asked, without thinking fast enough, “So, Laura, why do you think Koch’s important ?”, well….

    Every year. Ten years now. Almost worth changing the course just to avoid it.

  5. This is from the grammar school I attended; my memory is hazy but it definitely happened in the late 60’s early 70’s.

    The Art A level teacher allowed his students to make plaster casts of a stylised penis and breasts using balloons. They were fairly abstract but obvious and no-one batted an eyelid as it was an interesting process.

    One fateful afternoon – he came rushing in and brushed them off the shelf and into a cupboard. The headteacher, a priest, was making an ad hoc tour of the art department (top of the new block in the grounds) – and breezed through oblivious to the blind panic.

    Afterwards everyone thought it hilarious – no-one shopped him.

  6. I once got my words mixed up during a GCSE Business Studies lesson on marketing – instead of saying either “warehouse” or “wholesaler”, what I actually said was, “Many large businesses have their own whorehouse”. Oooops.

  7. As an NQT…
    Y9, Science Week
    Cornflour and water.
    Need I say more? the lab was out of action for the rest of the day

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