One day this past week I was being observed by one of our administrators, a science teacher during her classroom days. I was working with my sophomores dissecting Edgar Allen Poe, via his use of allegories. This had us reviewing the topics of allegories and parables. One of the girls in the class was explaining to her classmates what the difference was between the two, and nicely used the biblical parable of the mustard seed to prove her point.
I helped her tie it all up with an allegorical bow, noting for some personal student connection that the tiny mustard seed does indeed provide us with the large plant and resulting greens that are such a part of local cuisine. Somewhere along the line in this discussion, the light bulb clicked on with a young man, ‘Daniel’, who usually doesn’t contribute much in a positive way to the class.
“Wait a minute! You mean the yellow spread, and mustard greens, come from the same plant?” asked Daniel, accusingly.
“Yep. They do.”
“Aw, that can’t be right.” His tone was quizzical, but with his typical, I’m-challenging-you-here, thug-wannabe edginess.
“It is. The same plant gives us both mustard and mustard greens” I confirmed, hoping to get us back on point. I was successful for about three seconds, and then…
“Mr. Lucker! You’re telling me that the spread…the yellow spread…” he motioned slowly, holding his hands high and pantomiming spreading mustard across a piece of bread, “…and mustard greens come from the same plant?!” in a tone of voice that suggested I had insulted a family member.
At this point, our visiting administrator jumped in and tried to explain how the yellow stuff in the jar is made from the seeds of the plant all ground up and mixed with other ingredients, while the greens come from the top of the plant, and where the seeds are located within the plant, which seemed to totally overwhelm the young man, and most of the rest of the class.
He stared at her with disbelief.
“I forgot we had a science teacher in the room today” I interjected, trying to steer us back on course. “But yes, mustard in a jar and the mustard greens that get cooked up come from the same plant.” Wishing that he would be satisfied with that, I was moving on. ” So” I asked hopefully, ” what is the parable about the mustard seed saying? What is the message of that story?”
“Mr. Lucker” said ‘Daniel,’ earnestly and sadly, shaking his head, “The spread and the greens comin’ from the same plant! That just. Aint. Right.”
“What can I tell you, Daniel. It is what it is.” He frowned, and with a sigh, rested his chin on his now crossed-on-the-desk arms.
We eventually got back to parables, allegories, and Poe – but I am pretty sure the key take-away from class for most of my students was unexpectedly culinary in nature.
All things considered, I guess I should be grateful the girl didn’t use the prodigal son as her example parable. At least we got Daniel to open up a bit.
Maybe that is my mustard seed.