Banned Ham {or why I have high expectations for my students}

Today this conversation happened in my second hour Spanish 2 class:

Me: From here on out the saying, “Going HAM” is banned from this classroom.*

Students:  Why?  Because it stands for bad language?  It’s a song, Mrs. Sluiter.

Me:  I am aware of the song.  I think we might even have the album at home.  Or not.  Probably not.  Do you know why?  Because “Going HAM” is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.  I think the day I heard it, I got a tad dumber.

Students: ::chuckling:: YOU know that song?

Me: Yes. We listen to the rap.  And while I could go on and on about how ridiculous and offensive the whole song is and how it makes me sad for Jay-Z that he collaborated on such a piece of garbage, my point here is that HAM? is a lunch meat.  Going ham sounds like something you are doing for lunch.  It does not sound like you are all hard and bad.  It sounds like you are craving pork. And really?  If you look at what it stands for it should be Going HAAMF.  Yeah, not as catchy, but more accurate.  So on the basis of good taste, accuracy, and overall common sense, I am going to have to ban that phrase from this classroom.

Students:  ::in between dying from laughter:: Ok, you have a point.  Can we say “Going Hard in the Paint”?

Me: Is that a basketball reference?

Students:  Yes.

Me:  While it’s still sort of dumb, it makes more sense.  So yes.  You may say that.

Students:  Deal.  Oh, and Mrs. Sluiter?  You have been Going Hard in the Paint this week on grades.  Good job.

Me:  Gee.  Thanks.

::end scene::

Why did I tell you this?

It’s not because I want to discuss rap lyrics and why teenagers are allowed to listen to it (if they are like me?  They probably aren’t allowed to, but they do anyway.  I mean, that’s what I did).

It’s not because I want to tell you how yes, Cort and I listened to (and still do listen to) music with vulgarity in it (but not in front of Eddie.  Because that kid loves music so much, he memorizes everything he hears.  Currently he is in love with “Brass Monkey” by The Beastie Boys).

I’m telling you this because I see the 100+ kids that walk through my classroom each day as my own.  And if Eddie tried to tell me he was Going Ham on his homework?  I would have had this same conversation with him.

I am honest and forward with my students.  The same way I would be with my own child.

This extends beyond just dumb rap lyrics.

Yesterday my Quarter 2 grades were due.  I had an obnoxious number of students failing because they weren’t turning in their work.

I told each and every one of those students that I was disappointed in them.  I told each of those students that this doesn’t fly with me.

I had kids argue that my standards were too high. That I expected too much.

I thought about this claim, and realized that what I expect from them is no less than what I would expect from Eddie.

When Eddie is in high school I will expect him to do his class work and his homework and study for tests and prepare for class.  I expect him to make up work in a timely manner if he is absent.  If he does have problems and do poorly or fail, I expect him to do what he can to right the matter as soon as he can.

Why would I expect less from my students?

They are not my  children, but….they are.

They are someone’s.

And regardless of whether those parents are still there for the kids, or whether something has happened along the way to where they are now, for the hour they are with me?  They are mine.  And I will treat them that way.

I will hold them to high standards.

I will expect them to treat me and others the way I teach my son to treat me and others.

And I will honestly tell them that Going Ham is the dumbest thing ever.

*warning: this is a Kayne West song and it includes vulgarity that may not be appropriate for work.

About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. I love this post! And I have to tell you, I WISH all of my kids’ teachers could be like you! Great job!

  2. Do you think you can be cloned and come teach in my kids’ school? We need more teachers who think this way. It’s sad how few teachers really take an interest in the kids they teach.

  3. Good for you! I want all my son’s teachers to have high expectations. I’d rather he fall a little short of something great than meet mediocrity.

  4. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve listened to any modern rap, because I’ve turned into an NPR Junie in my age. But, there was a time that I listened to everything – though my parents were, never, the sort to ban any music. I think that’s why I always wondered what the fuss over 2 Live Crew was about – there was better rap out there at the time.

    When I was teaching night computer courses, I always made it clear that, if I felt the person was working, and they never plagiarized (you’d be surprised how many would just copy & paste a wikipedia article & call it their own), they’d do ok. I knew stuff was going on, outside of the classroom, for each & every person, but if they put in some effort, I was going to do what was necessary to make sure they “got it.” Anyone who ever failed my classes, simply, never put in any effort. I never felt bad about those F’s.

  5. I wish my 17 year old’s teachers cared half as much as you do. I applaud you for that. I cannot stand the whole “going Ham” thing and I look forward to having my son read this post!

  6. I love Jay-Z and had not heard this song, so I had to Google it.


    My 7th grader has not heard of this HAM thing, so maybe it hasn’t made it to our school district yet.

    I hope.

    • it’s an old song. Old like over a year old. So it probably won’t.

      That was my other argument to my students. That song is old. No one says that anymore. Duh. 🙂

  7. I know exactly what you mean when you say they aren’t your kids…but they are.

    I averaged about 120 students per year during the 16 years I taught high school English.
    And oh hell yeah I loved them hard.

  8. My brother used to sing Brass Monkey when we were kids (he was probably 4 or 5) expect he missed the Br sound…gave me and my friends much amusement. My mom, not so much lol

    I had a teacher like you in high school, who expected nothing but the best. I hated it at the time, but now she’s a friend of mine and one of the peoples who opinions and thoughts I appreciate and respect the most. Annoying at the time, but amazingly worth it in the end.

  9. I think you are an amazing teacher who pushes her students to be more.
    That’s awesome in my book.
    Not like ham.
    Ham gives me the shits.
    Fo rizzle.
    Ps. We sing Brass Monkey in the house of Chunky Monkey…for obvious reasons.

  10. Well done, Mrs. Sluiter!

    I have to say, however, I freakin’ love Jay-Z & Kayne West.