Why Is Horniness Coming Out from My Mom’s Feet? June 1, 2008Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
Tags: Elementary Science Fair Projects, English Language Learners, Humor, Science Fair, Science Fair Boards, Science Fair Projects, Teaching, Third Grade
NOTE: Desperately seeking information on Science Fair projects? Check out the link at the end of this post. Jan
Science Fair projects were due Monday with NO exceptions, so I was pleased to see my students lined up outside the class on Monday struggling to get get a grip on their oversized and overpriced presentation boards. American students lag behind the rest of the world in science, so this is serious business.
Teachers had already told students that we didn’t want to see the same old tired projects. After all, they’re third graders now. Time to move beyond the exploding vinegar and food coloring volcano or the emaciated plant that proves plants DO need sunlight. I’d provided an entire bin of books on science fair projects to stoke their imaginations, so I was eager to see what my students had come up with.
I have a cluster of English Language Learners in my classroom, five whose first language is Korean, and five who are native Spanish speakers. Some of my students hear no English once they leave school. Their parents have to ask friends or neighbors to help with translation. My Spanish is muy limitado. My Korean is kim chi.
My job was to sit in a chair at the back of the classroom and listen to each student’s presentation and ask questions. Some students are eager to get up and share. They’re the ones who excelled in show-and-tell in first grade. The shy students tend to stand behind their board, using it as a defacto human shield, and mumble inaudibly. Sometimes it’s all I can do to coax them to show their face.
The presentations began. “How are Crystals Formed?” One boy’s were home grown, the other’s from a kit. The ones from the kit hadn’t formed and the end product looked like an irradiated mashed egg yoke. The student had written under the heading “Results” that he’d followed the directions AND had witnesses to prove it. “Can A Needle Float on Water?” “Where Does a Carrot Store Its Food?” I can’t remember the purpose of one experiment, but it had great photos showing how far you can shoot a liter of soda using a Mentos mint. I made a mental note to buy a pack of Mentos and give this a try.
One of my Korean students – I’ll call her Esther since half the Korean girls in our school are named Esther, was reluctant to present. This is her second year in the U.S. and she’s made amazing progress this year in her ability to speak and write in English. Esther is incredibly bright, artistic, and eager to please. I’d take ten kids just like her in a minute, but like all ELL’s, at times she has difficulty expressing her ideas in English and navigating the intricacies of English grammar.
Esther was the last student to present. She set her board up on the front table for all to see. Without hesitating, I read the title aloud. My eyes widened and my jaw dropped. Could it be? No! I reread it again, this time silently. Oh my god! It said what I thought it said: “Why is Horniness Coming Out from My Mom’s Feet?”
Esther stood beside her board trembling with what I thought was laughter, until I realized she was crying. I thanked my lucky stars that no one in this year’s class had a clue what “horniness” meant. In years past, she would have been teased about this for years to come. No, Esther was crying because she realized her project was so different from everyone else’s. She’s a sensitive child and my heart went out to her. I reminded myself that Hari Kari is a Japanese, not a Korean, response to humiliation and shame. But I had to think quickly to help her save face.
“It seems to me that your mother has some problems with your feet,” was my response. Was that the best I could do? My mind was racing. Who on earth had translated this for her? Did her mother have feet that looked like a horny toad’s skin? Thank god, she hadn’t provided photographs! ”Let’s see now,” I continued. I ticked off the list of materials, absolutely poker-faced. “Low hills, high hills.” She meant heels, of course. If I didn’t handle this deftly, Esther could spend much of her adult life in therapy dealing with my inability to protect her from the quizzical looks of her classmates.
“You know,” I announced, “Foot problems can be very serious and I can see that Esther has put a lot of thought into how to solve this very important problem.” I was wearing open-toed sandals and took one off. “Now take my feet for instance.” My students stared wide-eyed at my feet. I might as well have stripped naked. Third graders don’t even think teachers ever go to the bathroom, let alone have foot issues.
“You’ve seen me put band-aids on my feet when I’m wearing new shoes,” I added, and all of the students nodded. “I’ve even had athlete’s foot,” I offered. I described the symptoms, which some seemed familiar with though they were convinced it was called ”Athlee’s Foot.” All of the boys who play sports, nodded knowingly. Why couldn’t I have athlete’s foot now, when I needed a good visual aid? I looked over and noticed that Esther had stopped crying and was now listening.
I continued reading from her board. “Oh, I see you gave your mother a foot massage,” I said, looking approvingly at Esther. “Everyone loves a foot massage. I bet your mother enjoyed that!” Esther smiled weakly.
I decided it was time to pull out the big guns. These are those memories from your childhood that can only be expunged by retelling them to future generations. “You know, when I was about your age, my mother dropped a heavy mixing bowl on her toe. It got infected and started swelling.” I had them hooked now. “Pus!” a student muttered under his breath. “Yeah, pus,” I confirmed. “It happened on a weekend and my father couldn’t get a hold of the doctor. He didn’t want to take my mom to the hospital cause they didn’t have insurance.” Actually, they did have insurance because my father worked for an insurance company, but I think my parents were reluctant to use it. I know many of my students’ families don’t have insurance so this made for a better story anyways. “Finally, my mother couldn’t stand the pain any more so my dad got a needle.” All eyes were riveted on me now. They knew what was coming.
“I can still remember the sound of my mother screaming as my father slowly poked the needle through her toenail,” I said to audible groans. “But after he did, all of the pus spurted out, and she immediately felt better.” I glanced at the clock. “Oh, look! It’s time for lunch.” The students sat stunned for a moment then eagerly lined up. I walked them down to the cafeteria. When I got back to the classroom, I folded up Esther’s presentation board up and set it behind my desk.
The rest of the day Esther was in great spirits. Just before dismissal, I remembered that I had a bag of foot care products in the bottom drawer of my desk, a birthday gift from the student whose crystals had refused to grow. The student who had witnesses. I looked through the bag and picked out a bottle of green Cucumber Foot Moisturizing Cream. When the bell rang, I called Esther over to my desk and discretely slipped her the bottle. “For your mother,” I said, smiling. Esther glowed with appreciation. I walked my class downstairs for dismissal, then staggered back to the classroom. I sat back and put my aching feet up on my desk. Boy, did I earn my pay today, I thought.
Note: If you’re looking for information/ideas for Science Fair projects, a great site to go to is Science Fair Central.