I Should Have Known Better

Remember “Things I Can’t Teach,” where I shared the general lack of a sense of humor shared by many of my students?  The poor things just couldn’t tell a good joke if they tried.  And, oh boy, do they try. 

One joke I get told over and over is this:

Q: What do you get when you cross beef and jerky?

A: Beef Jerky!!

So not funny.  Except that it is terribly unfunny, which is funny in itself.  Until you’ve heard it six times.  Then it isn’t. 

However, it just so happens that I stumbled across a joke that actually makes sense of the “beef jerky” punchline.  It was on a Laffy Taffy wrapper, of all places.  This is it:

Q: What do you call a cow with a twitch?

A: Beef Jerky!

Still not a side-splitter, but if you heard that from the mouth of a nine-year-old, you’d chuckle.  Trust me, you would.  Otherwise you have a black, black heart.

I made sure to write it on a post-it as soon as I found it so that I’d remember to share it with beef jerky kid.  I told him that if he got to work and did a good job, when he was done I’d share an awesome joke with him.  He finished his work in record time and our conversation went like this:

Me: What do you call a cow with a twitch?

Him: (confused, squinty face) Eeeh…uh…a cow twitch?  No…a twitch cow?

Me: No…not a cow twitch or a twitch cow…

Him: Um….um…um…a horse twitch? A cow….cow…a cow with a twitch!

Me: No, that’s what I said.

We went on like this and he said some wacky things.  I can’t even remember them because they made so little sense my brain refused to hang onto them.  I tried to help him as much as I could, even twitching around like a seizure victim to help him visualize the vocabulary.

Finally I told him the punch line.  Beef Jerky!

He was honestly disappointed.  “What?” he said. “That doesn’t make any sense.”  His speech was calm and level, like he was breaking bad news to a very unstable person.

“Yes,” I said.  “It’s funny because beef comes from cows and ‘jerky’ is another word for ‘twitchy.’  So, see? Beef jerky.” 

“Wait, what?! Beef is cows?!”  Oh, seriously? We’ve got bigger fish to fry, apparently. 

“Yep,” I said, “beef is the meat we get from cows.  So hamburger, steak, all of that is from a cow.”

By this time he’d moved on to playing with some legos.  He said, “Oh, huh,” like he was going to let it drop.  Then he said, “Wait! Do they make eggs, too?!”

Friend, has anyone ever taken you to the grocery store?  “No, cows don’t make eggs. Chickens lay eggs, ” I said.  I’m pretty sure this gets covered in some kind of kindergarten “On the Farm” unit. 

So, forget the joke-telling IEP goals.  Let’s go with something like, “Kid X will correctly match food products to animals of origin on at least 4/5 opportunities on 4 consecutive occasions, increasing from 0/2 opportunities by 02/–/2012. 

I’m seeing a giant chart with yarn connecting cows to steaks, milk, and cheese and chickens to eggs, hot wings, and the KFC logo.

Having just recently posted about the gingerbread man debacle, I might have known not to be so confident in my ability to convince a kid that something is actually funny (or safe, or imaginary, etc., etc. and so on, and so forth).  Clearly if beef+jerky= beef jerky, which so extremely literal, I might have seen that the significantly more abstract cow+twitch=beef jerky would be a little tougher to swallow.  Meh.  So is actual beef jerky, so maybe we’ve come full circle?

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