Making Chicken Salad Out Of…

When my sister Lindy and I were young children, we would play “school” for hours. I loved to be the teacher and have Lindy be my student. I would mark her papers wrong with a big red pen, and I enjoyed using flash cards to help my dear sister with her math facts.

Later on, both of us decided to pursue teaching careers. By my senior year of college, I was not planning to teach school. However, Dad suggested that I get my teaching credential in case “I ever had to go to work.” Since I always tried to follow Dad’s suggestions, I immediately signed up for classes in the college of education.

And I have always worked at some sort of job.

Once I graduated, I found a teaching job in Fort Dodge, Iowa. I was teaching high school English which had always been my favorite class in school. Unfortunately, it was not my students’ favorite class.

My sister taught special education for a few years and we still use the language of one of her students who walked down the halls speaking his navigation out loud:

Straight, straight, straight…

followed by

Turn, turn turn.

It was my policy that students did not have to request permission to use the restroom when I taught seventh grade. They could take a large manila folder that had “Restroom” written on it in big black letters. One day a boy with autism who was in my class grabbed the restroom pass and tapped me on the shoulder with it.

I’m going to the restroom.

he loudly proclaimed. I explained that one did not have to say anything when leaving the classroom for the restroom and he replied:

I like to be noticed.

I told him:

We all do.

On another occasion, when I was teaching high school, one of the young women in my class asked me if I liked to play volleyball. I replied:

No, I don’t like balls that close to my head.

and my whole classroom erupted with laughter. After the fact, I got the word play. If only they had gotten the word play in MacBeth or Hamlet.

I was in the habit of going to an under-performing student’s desk and leaning over and quietly saying:

If this were a job, I’d have to fire you.

Most students looked chagrined and began working on their English assignments. On one particular day, when I tried my special move, the student looked up and said:

If this were a job, I never would have applied.

I couldn’t help laughing as I walked away. No one had ever given me that clever response before.

One year, I had a particularly difficult class (one that came with a special education teacher). When I gave a quiz that no one did well on, I was asking my partner teacher what I had done wrong that no one had learned the material. She looked at me and said:

You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken shit.

Teaching is a lot of hard work, but it can also be the source of some pretty amusing events.

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