Quotes from a former career

In the late 90’s, I was a high school math teacher in San Francisco. A young mathematical enthusiast by the name of Enrique was kind enough to write the document below. Those were some fine times– I was even younger and more foolish than I am now.

A few notes of attribution: the bingo line was actually stolen from a high school science teacher of mine, and the line about Jesus swimming on land was more or less stolen from a King Missile song.

I think my personal favorite is, “This is America; if you don’t like it, go back to England!” I have reused this line several times in recent years. Mistaking the modern world for colonial times is a rich, satisfying experience for those of us whose humor is focused on changes in reference frame. It also provides chances to employ one of my all-time favorite lines (from Finn Smith, referring to the Esther Forbes classic Johnny Tremain): “a story about a jingoistic colonial with a crippled hand.”


“Mr. Stafford was my algebra teacher during my sophomore year in high school. He is now getting a graduate degree or something. He majored in English, but because of a lack of room, he was forced to become a math teacher. Because of this, he claims he can feign ignorance on any subject. He can tell anyone that he doesn’t know something because he majored in English. If the topic is English, he could say, ‘Hey, I don’t know. I’m a math teacher.’ Kooky guy. He was/is damn funny. Over the course of the year, if I had a pen or pencil I wrote down funny things he said. Everyone has a right to bask in his humor, so enjoy.”

“You appear to have your hand raised, or are you just pointing upward?”

“I control most of mathematics, but there are still some ‘rogue parts’ that insist on doing that.”

“Would you like some dungarees?”

“I said I’m sorry, but I’m not.”

“Oh, you were going to ask something else. Curses!”

“Gabby, you need to stop, as they say, ‘gabbing.’”

“First name? Brandon. That’s the name I usually go by.”

“The difference between two numbers is 11.”

“I guess that is kind of funny, so I’ll laugh at it. Ha ha ha.”

“False. You’re causing a ruckus.”

“What excitement!”

“Hey Loren, what are you doing here? Oh, class!”

“Ah, yikes, a guitar. I’ll play that later.”

“I’m Mr. Stafford. Hi, etc.”

“Hi, welcome to Drew. Wanna learn math?”

“I was robotic as a child too.”

Student: “I’ve had trouble with percentages.”
Stafford: “Myself I’ve had problems with history.”

“Has the CIA been around here distributing?”

“This is America; if you don’t like it, go back to England!”

“A teacher without chalk is like someone who’s trying to write something, without something to write with.”

“If you see my hand shaking, it’s probably from withdrawal. I’m trying to cut down on food.”

Student: “Hey, Mr. Stafford, what are you going to be doing over vacation?”
Stafford: “Oh, calculating things.”

“There will be great rejoicing. The town people will revolt.”

“If I were in your position, I would drop out of school and become a farmer or something.”

Student: “What are you doing?”
Stafford: “Keep watching, and in a minute, you’ll go, ‘What are you doing?’”

“I have a suspicion that Jesus was able to swim on land.”

“Those are some nice denim trousers.”

“I’m just a human. I have no supernatural powers. Except in the realm of cereal.”

“Yes, the Y1K problem. It caused a big glitch in abacuses. They had to add a whole other post.
    People thought they were bartering their sheep and they lost all of their eggs.”

“As Run-DMC said in their 1988 classic, ‘It’s Tricky.’”

“Oh, there’s a minstrel in our midst, a troubadour, if you will.”

Student: “I saw a mouse run across the street this morning.”
Stafford: “Did it wait for the walk signal?”

Student: “If you were me, would you do this?”
Stafford: “If I were you, I obviously would.”

“You are a ratty weasel, E.O.E.”

“Hey, is that a red vest on your head? Oh, it’s your face.”

Student: “Quit being a jerk.”
Stafford: “Sorry. It comes to me naturally.”

Stafford: “Bingo! as they say in church.”
Student: “That’s not true.”
Stafford: “Well, I guess it depends on what church.”

“Although your dumb jokes are entertaining, they are not.”

“What? Do I hear witticism?”

“You’re shellacking the wax leg. You’re peeling the empty banana.”

“If by wrong you mean right, you are correct. I mean wrong.”

“Thank you for shouting out random comments, but… well I don’t mean thank you. Cut it out.”