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?

The Tour Starts Here

Something I’m thinking about doing is taking snap shots of items in my classroom and using them as a way to, over time, give you a little visual tour of where I spend most of my waking hours. There is so much weird that happens inside these walls.  You’ve heard about it, now you can see it.

The first stop on this magical, mystical adventure into the trenches of our public education system?

This guy:

He was a creative exercise in shape identification.  I call him “Snappy McSnarlsalot.”  I think his given name is “Mr. Monster,” but that’s lame.  He doesn’t even answer to it.  He vastly prefers to be called Snappy, or even Sir McSnarlsalot (but only on very formal occasions). 

I love that guy.  I love looking at him every day.  He makes me happy.  I’m exceedingly proud of his overall design.  Triangles played a central role, clearly.  Spiky teeth were easy enough to come up with, as well as spiky hair, but triangular eyes?  That’s thinking outside the box.  And you might not be able to see it in the photo, but he used a magenta color around the green pupil to add some dimension.  The kid creator would never say that.  He can’t read or spell “dimension” and I might not be far off in saying he’s never used it in a sentence, at least one relating to art and not to Lego Star Wars.  But it’s what he did intuitively, and that makes me so excited about the results of this little project.  All he had to do was glue some shapes together into some kind of form, but he did it with such style.  I’m going to stop there, though.  I’ll keep to myself all the wonderful things I have to say about his use of the color green. (I mean, those eyebrows?)

I’m not the only one who’s noticed Snappy.  Nearly every adult who walks into the room for the first time says, “Hey, who made that? It’s awesome.”  Oh, you know, just a kid with a history of some severe behavior problems who walks in to school every day already feeling like a failure.  You like it?  Please, oh, please, please, please go tell him.  Tell him specifically what you liked and why.  Tell him you’re proud that he spent over an hour on it when previously he’d only attended to a task in five or ten minute bursts.  Tell him how cool it is to see something he spent so much time creating, because in September he spent most of his time seeing what he could destroy or how many ways he could avoid anything remotely related to learning (including knocking over desks and throwing around his school supplies).   Tell him you think he’s rad.  Tell him he’s a fun kid.  Tell him he’s smart (and mean it).  Tell him all of those things because he’s working with a huge deficit of kind words in his life.  We’ve got a lot of time to make up for, but it looks like he’s starting to believe all those things to be true about himself and that sure is a victory.

Oh, and while you’re telling him all those nice things, will you tell him I’m sorry I called the name “Mr. Monster” lame?  I don’t really think that, it was for comedic impact.  Thanks.