Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Classroom Stories Four

One of the best days of the year to teach a class of fourth graders is April 1 or April fool's day. The students are old enough to appreciate a good joke as well as to initiate a good prank on their teacher.

During the five years I taught fourth graders before moving on to college teaching I played some great jokes on my students and they on me. One of the most memorable was the April 1 of, probably 1975. It was a large class I had that year, some 35 students and for some odd reason it included several sons and daughters of fellow teachers. On this particular day I walked in to classroom after morning recess and all the students were sitting and working  quietly at their desks. Recognizing this was a somewhat unusual situation as I usually had to quieten them down or redirect a few. I sat down at my desk and  a line of students quickly formed with questions about what they were working on. Sometimes I sat at my desk and they came to me and sometimes they sat at their desks and I came to them.  

As the students asked me questions each one had one hand at their chin gently stroking it as they asked a question. After I had responded to the third student in the row I looked up and realized that all 30 or so students still sitting at their desks as well as the few still in line were gently rubbing their chins; thumb up one side and fingers up the other in a pensive gesture. I stood up grinned and was about to say something when I realized that I, too, was gently rubbing my chin in exactly the same way all the students were. We all at once burst into unrestrained laughter and I never, ever rubbed my bearded chin pensively again.

Probably, one of the best April fool jokes I played on my students was to do a forty minute lesson on how spaghetti grows on trees in a certain part of Italy, I would draw a picture of a tree on the blackboard with bunches of long strands hanging from the branches. I would then draw the spaghetti harvesting tool that was a long rake-like implement with a  board on the shaft into which the bunches of spaghetti would fit when they were a meter long. This was the only sign that the spaghetti was ripe. The drawings would be accompanied by considerable writing explaining all the minor details such as farming licenses, climate conditions and so on. The class would end at 11:55 because in England April fools jokes are only good before noon. I would then tell the students that it was an April fools joke and that spaghetti really didn't grow on trees. I sometimes worry that the students, now in their early 50s still think that spaghetti grows on trees because "sir", as students called male teachers in those days, said it  did. 

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