Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Funny Thing About Leaving

One of my students is on a joke-telling kick, except he hasn't quite gotten the hang of it yet.

"Why did the cow cross the road?"

"I don't know. Why?"

"To eat the grass."

In fact, several of my students are interested in the joke-telling process, but few have mastered the art. They're sitting around this morning, listening to the rain and kicking joke attempts back and forth.


"Knock, knock!"

"Who's there?"

"My grandma!"

"My grandma who?"

"Just my grandma! She visits every Sunday!"

The funny part is, they all dissolve into laughter at the end of every joke, whether or not it made any sense at all. To my kids, it's enough that an effort has been made. This is another reason why I love them.

Speaking, by the way, of the rain, it has been coming down in buckets all morning. A toad-strangler, my best-elementary-school-friend's father used to call it. A gauly-washer. Except it was pronounced "golley-warsher." I share this term with the kids and they shriek with delight, then return to their jokes.

"Why did Ms. Dooley run down the hall?"


"'Cause she was late for a meeting!"

How well they know me. He's right, too; I am late for a meeting. I scoop up an armload of IEP paperwork and run for the front office.

The conference room is dark because of the rain, and everyone is a little bit sluggish. We all laugh lazily and talk softly, until the self-care portion of the meeting rears its ugly head and I'm forced to utter the phrase "complete the feminine hygiene repertoire independently" in front of my middle-aged, male school-to-work coordinator. He blushes to where he used to keep his roots and I rush to get back on safe ground, which, in this case, is cooking skills.

By the time the meeting is over, the lights have dimmed twice and thunder literally rattles the windows. I hear in passing that the auditorium has flooded, and think of those little theater students -- clothes dampened, spirits not -- huddled in the hallways, telling more traditional, and somewhat raunchier, jokes than my kids have thought up.

Back in class, I hear,

"Why did Ms. Dooley buy an umbrella?"


"Because it's raining!"


"Why did the fire truck go to the house?"


"To put out the fire!"


"Why did the lady go to the doctor?"


"Because she was sick!"

and more torrents of laughter and rain, and I think, no matter what choices I've made about leaving public school teaching, that there is nowhere I would rather be at this particular moment than here.


Mary Witzl said...

My students would think those jokes were hilarious -- if only they could understand them. I wish I weren't serious...

What is there about teaching that makes it both so infuriating and compelling? You've captured that very well here.

Paul Michael Murphy said...

Well written.

Monica said...

That story reminds me of the time when i thought my kids were old enough to know that a joke wasn't funny (humour being a thing i take quite seriously) One of my daughters told a joke similar to the ones you wrote, and i tried to (gently) explain that it wasn't funny, and this is why.. and what would make the joke better. She dissolved into tears. I worried that i might have damaged her psyche forever, but they both seem to have bounced back from that, and both have a excellent senses of humour, a quick wit and sarcasm dripping from their every pore. Yeah, you can't teach funny. Nor would i want to. Funny is in the eye of the beholder.