In Teaching…Expect the Unexpected
In my grade 12 homeroom no voting was necessary to determine which student had come up with the craziest hat for crazy hat day. The student whose crazy “hat” included a live chicken won this distinction without so much as a discussion on the matter. She had obtained a traditional Ethiopian basket, acquired a chicken (it wouldn’t be that difficult here), made a nest for it in the basket, and tied it in. When she arrived with her “hat” happily bobbing its head as it looked around she assured me that she had taken measures to ensure that her “hat” wouldn’t poop in my room. Technically, it did not end up pooping in my room.
It did, however, suddenly jump out of the basket during the middle of another student’s presentation. We thought everything was fine after a couple of the students wrangled the chicken back in the basket and tied it in, a little more securely this time. We began to be concerned, though, when the students watching over the chicken announced that it was foaming at the mouth.
My first thought was whether or not all of the students in my class were up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations. We normally think of the stray dogs running around Addis as being the potential threat but a rabid chicken could also do some damage.
My second thought, however, was that I probably didn’t have a rabid chicken in my classroom but that I probably did have one that was going into shock because of its experience in my classroom. Some of the students could probably empathize with the chicken, although for different reasons!
At this point we were in danger of veering completely off course and I was in danger of losing control of the class, so I just told the students to take the chicken outside and take care of it. They did and returned a few minutes later. I thought everything was ok until the end of class when I checked in with them concerning the matter. At this point I learned that they had taken it into the teacher’s workroom next door and put it under a box with holes cut into it…without the permission of any of the teachers in that workroom!
Being pretty sure this arrangement wouldn’t sit well with my co-workers, I had to ask them to take the chicken out of the workroom. Their response to this was to drag the chicken, which had, in the meantime, pooped on the floor, still under the box outside the workroom door. So, now I had a live chicken under a box and a meter long streak of chicken poop extending out the doorway of the workroom to deal with.
My response at this point was to have the student clean up the chicken poop but she had to take an exam first. In the end, a teacher with more compassion than I bailed the student out and wiped up the chicken poop and I was assured at the end of the day that the chicken had been taken care of, although I still don’t know how.
None of this was in my teacher training, except maybe the warning to expect the unexpected!