Old dogs, same tricks. Old joke, new audience…

With only finals week (three of those half-days) before the two-week holiday break things had been a little off kilter at school most of the week; more fights than usual, people anxious about grades, students and teachers just fried out mentally.

Friday afternoon found my eleventh graders were in a fairly reasonable mood, a little on the mellow side – at least for them. I had put together a study guide outline for next week’s final, I had it up on the screen via my ELMO projector, and we were trying to walk through the whole thing, making notes as we went for American lit final.

Then came a series of interruptions; the pen I was using wasn’t projecting well, so I grabbed another. It didn’t work at all. Got back to discussing and writing, then somebody in class realized their pen didn’t work. There was a knock on the door, I answered – nobody was there, but I heard footsteps running down the hall. I started to read test question four. Then came an announcement over the P.A. system, that started with the usual “Pardon the interruption, teachers and students.” We listened, I started in on the same question again. The P.A. crackled back to life. “Pardon the interruption, teachers and students.” It was a missed detail on the previous announcement. Back to question four. There was another knock on the door, I cocked a wary eyebrow. “There is a girl with some papers, Mr. Lucker” came a voice from the back of the room. I opened the door at my end of the room, motioned for the young woman to come down. She handed me a stack of fliers to distribute.

I went back to the front of the class, put the fliers on the table next to the projector, got back to question four. P.A. system again crackles to life. “Pardon the interruption, teachers and students.” It was an announcement that some fliers would be delivered shortly. I smiled and started shaking my head. A couple of students laughed. I started back in on question four, got through reading it, began asking a question,

…and heard loud screaming in the hall.

A seventh grader was obviously quite ticked off about something. I walked to the door, looked out. Another teacher had it under control, though the girl was still screaming at her. I returned to the front of the class, abandoning the projector set up, started to explain some more aspects of the final, cranky girl in hallway still loud enough to be heard – including the expletive that she hurled at (apparently) another teacher or administrator that had come on the scene.

“Pretty crazy place, huh Mr. Lucker?” said Gavin, one of my more astute eleventh graders, shaking his head.

“Well, you know what I tell people about this place” I suddenly had everyone’s rapt attention. “(School name) has more flavors of stupid than Baskin Robbins does ice cream.”

A brief moment of digestive silence was observed before I heard a chuckled, head shaking, “Mr. Lucker, that’s lame.” from Gavin.

“That’s not lame, it’s actually kind of funny” said one girl, quite seriously.

“Man, Mr. Lucker always tellin’ lame jokes!” said another boy earnestly.

“Well his jokes ain’t as lame as Mr. Stevens jokes!” proclaimed another boy, about one of my colleagues – a 20-something social studies teacher.

“Mr. Lucker’s jokes aint lame, I just don’t get them.” chimed in another girl.

“Nah, you just gotta think about his longer” said Glenallen, one of our sharper junior brains.

I was struck by the civility and the depth of their discourse, while also being amused and exasperated; if they would put half of the analytical effort into class material, we would really be rocking.

“Okay” I said, “We’re moving on.” We finally got through question four, which concerned Indigenous people’s various creations myths, and how most of them are focused on an animal or animals of some sort. One kid asked if I knew of any such creation myths that were about pigs. “There are a few of those, I believe, but there aren’t any in our text.”

“Because I would just think it’s strange to have a pig in a story like that” said Gavin.

I nodded in agreement. “Yeah, maybe – but there are one or two. I’ll look it up. But as you see in the book, most of the creation myths involve air and water; fish, turtles,birds….”

“I saw a thing on Discovery the other night, where they’re trying to put dinosaur DNA into birds to tray and grow new ones – like in the movie” he continued.

“Why?” said another student incredulously, “Do they want birds to start eating us or something?” The class laughed.

“You know” I mused, “maybe they could combine the two things; start putting dinosaur DNA into pigs.”

“Why’s that, Mr. Lucker?” asked Glenallen

“Because then you’d really have something; dinosaur pigs…Jurassic pork.” There was a moment of silence, as Glenallen, Gavin and a few others shook their heads. I turned to Glenallen. “Was that so lame?” I asked hopefully. He didn’t miss a beat.

“Naw, Mr. Lucker…that wasn’t sooo lame – maybe ahhhhhhhh, six-point-five?”

“Well, allright then!” I said in triumph.

“Well allright then!” he echoed, smiling and shaking his head.

Reuse and recycle. Goin’ green in Mr. Lucker’s class.

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