Butthead. Poopy. Stinky head. And my class’s current favorite—tootiefart. Potty humor is not only a given for young kids, but honestly, I’d also argue a right of passage. Is it annoying? Sure. Is it harmful? Not really.
Yet one school in Mississippi thought it was. According to The Guardian, assistant principal Toby Price read the book I Need a New Butt to a class of second graders over Zoom and subsequently, was fired. The book is the epitome of silliness—a little boy realizes that he has a crack in his butt and goes on to try out different butts that will fit him best. The character sports a knight’s butt, a brightly colored butt, an alien’s butt made from metal or titanium, and many others. The pictures that go along with the text are simple, creative, maybe a little bit kooky, and definitely silly.
In my Pre-K class, we talk about butts all the time.
The kids talk about their own butts when they go to the bathroom (which, as any teacher versed in body safety knows, is the correct way to talk about that body part), they talk about their friends’ butts when they are trying to get a laugh, and we even talk about animals’ butts and what comes out of them. Whose Butt? is one of my students’ favorite books, and as the year has progressed, you bet they know what scat is and how to identify it.
Although we try to limit potty talk throughout the day, it’s a bit of a futile job and one that my teaching team and I try to work with, instead of against.
Rather than outlawing all potty talk, which just leads to them trying to sneak it in, we use it as a learning moment. When is potty talk or being really silly allowed? What if a person at our lunch table doesn’t like the potty talk; should we continue? What might people not like about potty words?
These questions can relate directly back to other ways that we show respect to other peers, adults, and the world. The students learn self- and impulse-control for when it’s okay to be humorous during the day and when we have to be a bit more serious. They learn to pay attention to their peers’ facial expressions, how to listen to their words, and how to read emotions. Then they learn how to make a helpful or hurtful choice, a pillar of social-emotional learning and empathetic-perspective taking for young kids.
Assistant principal Toby Price was simply letting kids be silly.
With the high aim of academics in our current education field and less time spent learning social-emotional intelligence and giving value to play, a break during the day is exactly what kids need. Studies show that laughing can not only reduce stress but also increase pain tolerance.
Silliness is a right of childhood. Instead of harping on and even firing teachers who promote nonsensical times, shouldn’t we applaud a teacher who connects learning and silliness? Shouldn’t our kids’ safety and happiness and joy in school be more important than “no potty words at the table?”
My students are always trying to make each other laugh and will eventually grow out of their daily potty talk, but they are kids—they are supposed to be silly. And honestly, as a person in their 30s, most of my conversations with my older brother still revolve around farting. The memes we send back and forth are both a throwback to our time growing up together and just to make each other laugh. And, yes, most fart jokes still do genuinely crack me up.