You should check out Nerd In The Brain‘s Thursday posts, where she lists things for which she’s grateful. Reading about her dehydrated hot dog allowed a dreadful memory to seep back into my consciousness. I had repressed that one for good reason, but it may help you make better choices in your classroom.
I had been teaching my self-contained class of kiddos labeled with behavior and emotional disabilities. It was almost Thanksgiving and I was desperately searching for easy-to-make Christmas gifts for families. So many past projects had been fiascos; I was determined to do better this year. You know how magazines make everything look simple? I read an article on making adorable Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus figures from dried apples. Coincidentally, my students had just studied the types and flavors of apples AND I still had one unused bag. Talk about destiny….
The kids were impressed by the magazine photos of the Claus couple with their cute, wrinkled smiles. The project was easy-peasy. Nature would take its course as the carved apple heads lost their moisture. Like magic, the heads would shrink into miniature, loving faces. Once dried, we would create bodies using found materials, add bifocals of thin wire, and top them with tiny wigs (feathers? moss?) to complete our benevolent characters. Best of all from the kids’ perspective, they’d use REAL knives to peel and carve those little Claus characters.
That Friday, we started our awesome project with REAL sharp knives. Some students told me they were never allowed to use a REAL knife at home. Imagine that! A few kiddos sliced through their apples and had to start again, but at least no one sliced off their fingers. I encouraged the students to make small cuts for eyes and mouths. Just a tiny divet for the cheeks. Then we hung the apples on a long string, carefully labelling each one so the proud owners could reclaim them. I tied the string over a radiator to speed up the process over the weekend. Everyone went home happy, all those intact fingers waving goodbye.
When I opened my classroom door on Monday morning, I knew something was terribly amiss. The odor was stronger than fermentation. Apple juice had dripped and cooked all over the radiator. But it was the heads themselves that stopped me in my tracks. I was still immobilized as kids filed into the classroom. You know those delightful smiling mouths the kids had carefully sliced? They had turned into gaping leers. Those tiny, twinkling eyes? Hideous staring holes. The round cheeks? Gross holes that spoke of skulls and ghouls. The Claus faces had become gargoyles and worse. One student cried. Another declared that these heads had once been buried. I thought they looked like a string of shrunken heads from a cannibalistic tribe. After a quick vote, I tossed the so-called Claus heads. We made applesauce instead.