As a middle school educator, my job is fraught with challenges. Maintaining student interest, juggling parent conferences with test and classwork grading during one planning period, and playing psychologist are some of the hats I have to wear on a daily basis.
On my way out of my portable classroom after a typical school day, walking my middle school students to the buses, the very last thing I want to see is a strip tease by Howie Mandel. But the second-to-last thing I want my weary eyes to discover are Hanes boxers accompanied by a student waddling in them in a desperate attempt to keep his pants up. It remains a miracle of gravity that some students’ pants, often twelve sizes too big, do not collapse in a heap around the ankles of the child trying to make a tired fashion statement. Consider me old school if you must, but I believe underwear should be kept a secret; it should be worn but never flashed to the public.
Another teacher walking to the buses with me (let’s call her Mrs. D) apparently saw what I did. But before I could admonish the offender (which, by the way, I think I have warned this student about dress code approximately 300 times in the past month) she started to break out into song: Pants on the Ground, Pants on the ground, lookin’ like a fool with your pants on the ground!” I could not believe my ears. Now, not only were my accursed eyes seeing a pair of middle school boxers, but I also had to hear the unkindly rap of a here today, gone tomorrow “contestant” from American Idol.
Senior-aged Larry Platt baffled the judges with this strangely addicting chant several months prior, and much like New Coke and Pokemon cards, it had its moment, then receded. VH1 will probably host a show regarding his rap. (Instead of “I Love the 80’s” will they call it “I love the 10’s”? Sounds strange!) B-list celebrities will guffaw at how silly this chant was. Admittedly, I agreed with Simon Cowell at the time when he predicted that this little ditty would take America by storm. But using it to conquer a dress code often vilified by students? The thought is total blasphemy!
But something strange happened that day. The student turned, smiled, and…wait for it…pulled his pants up and laughed! “Hi, Mrs. D,” he said sheepishly and scurried on the bus. Two other students smiled, waved and did the same. Were my eyes deceiving me? Mrs. D winked at me and we both started to sing. (Now my ears were really bleeding. I am not a crooner. I do not even sing in the shower to spare my wife in the other room.) One by one, students pants were up, belts tightened, and smiles abounded!
Months later, I give a humble thank you and props to Larry Platt. A man who had 15 minutes of fame, millions of youtube hits, and a silly song has changed the face of the campus I work. Do I still see underwear? Of course. Kids will be kids and fashions aged and new are created by celebrities that these students admire. But for the time being, all I have to do is sing a short rap and pray to the fashion Gods that Nelly or the next big thing bring tightened belts into vogue.