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Why Is Horniness Coming Out from My Mom’s Feet? June 1, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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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


1. Catherine Sherman - June 1, 2008

Darn, I always loved those exploding volcanoes! What a great story, including the paragraph about the pus. Do you a see a pattern in what I like? Your descriptions are so vivid, funny and heart-warming that I felt I was in your classroom with you. I enjoyed your dog and pony show post, too. You definitely should write a teacher’s survival guide.


2. Wendy - June 5, 2008

What quick and thoughtful thinking on your part. You’re going to be the teacher this girl remembers for life. And of course the part about the pus I’m sure saved the day for the whole class! Jan I think you should take these wonderful vingiettes and put them in book form. Every elementary school teacher would buy a copy and you’d be a millionaire and could stop teaching. Of course, then you wouldn’t be able to write a sequel, but what the heck! You could write about your menagerie of pets!


3. Jackie - September 4, 2008

Hahaha This reminded me of 5th grade. I simply just love it when teachers start telling their own life stories. Anyways, I can feel for this girl because of my parents. They immigrated not knowing any english. I remembered a situation like this when I was about 9yrs old and my mother had asked one of her white male co-workers to drop us off at church. I wasn’t familiar with that term so the only way to describe it was to take us to the “house of God”. I almost felt like crying when he pointed out it was called “church” like the chicken restaurant a few blocks from my home.

Jackie – This is priceless! Jan


4. Mary Dirkx Jorn - December 24, 2008

Actually, “Esther” is using the word “horniness” exactly correctly. All the definitions in the American Heritage Dictionary support this until you get to the very end, under “vulgar slang,” which is the definition I guess we all are thinking of first.

The true (non-slang) definitions describe things that are horn-like, either in hardness or in projection, and the third of these definitions is “tough and calloused: horny skin.”

What a wonderful, original, and helpful science project. And a great title for a blog entry! I am glad you were able to comfort Esther during her presentation, probably more than you know; at least her mom doesn’t have problems with pus exploding from beneath her toenail. I’d take horny feet any time. (And the skin on our feet does, sadly, harden and callous as we age.)

I am enjoying your blog. Now on to the Christmas cookies!


5. Tim Bradley - January 7, 2009

Great stuff. Your writing is far above the usual bloggorhea I’ve seen. It’s like real writing, with conjunctions and participles and everything.

Did you know (you must) that Van Morrison’s first wife went by Janet Planet?

Tim – No, I didn’t know. Sure you didn’t mean JAN Morrison. 🙂 When it comes to words that rhyme with Janet, I was most impressed when I first saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show and heard, “Dammit Janet!”

I see you’ve been to an “Alliteration 12-Step Program.” Congratulations! 😉 Jan


6. Vietnam Worl - April 27, 2009

You are really good
I really tired because i can search idea for my project

Vietnam World – I’m not sure if you’re tired or you really tried. In any case, I hope you find an idea for your project. Best of luck. Jan


7. andy - May 6, 2010

By the “12 Offbeat Science Fair Projects” list at odee.com i wanted to know more about this funny story. Well Jan, thank you very much! A very nice story, thanks to Esther as well, and you got me getting sucked into the story by your style. Saw a couple of posts in the meanwhile and me likey likey very muchy muchy!

Thanky, thanky, thanky! Jan


8. Katie - January 19, 2011

What an awesome story!.. helping my daughter look for a 5th grade science fair project idea i ran across your story and couldn’t stop reading. You made me remember my 5th grde teacher the one teacher through my childhood who made me feel important, she had so much compation for me. Thank God for teachers like you! Keep up the good work… I’m sure you will be the one teacher that a child will never forget! 🙂

Atlanta, GA~

Katie – Thanks! You made my day (and it’s been a l o n g one!). Jan


9. Katie - January 19, 2011

What an awesome story!.. Helping my daughter look for a 5th grade science fair project idea I ran across your story and couldn’t stop reading. You made me remember my 5th grade teacher, the one teacher through my childhood who made me feel important and had so much compassion for me. Thank God for teachers like you! Keep up the good work… I’m sure you will be the one teacher that a child will never forget! 🙂
Atlanta, GA~


10. Lesley - May 13, 2012

Just caught this story Jan and I love it….how good did you make her feel? It reminded me of a story about my own boy,(then about six) who took it into his head that he wanted to be a spider for a school competition.
Cue me cutting all the sleeves off black clothing,stuffing them with old tights until I had eight’legs’,sewing them onto another sweatshirt,black balaclava with yellow felt eyes…he looked great. However, big however….!
Halfway through the procession(and because he was gesticulating with his front two legs menacingly), my tights started to come out of the them.. I favoured coloured ones then, so he was trailing purple,red and even yellow nylon. He looked at me, puzzled. Loud stage whisper from me…
‘It’s your Spidey Webs!!!’
Heard by all his friends who ran with it, thankfully.
Michael’s ‘Got spidey webs…coo-oool!’
He didn’t win but we saved a bit of face.Phew…


It’s still Mother’s Day here. Nice save Mom! Just be glad he didn’t want to be a centipede. LOL Jan


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