In the never-ending quest to be frugal, I refused to spend money on enough bingo markers for 30 kids. So, when we would play bingo, I would give each student a cup of dry soup beans to use instead. I only needed a couple bags for an entire class, and at $1 a bag, this was much less expensive. Before you think this is a great idea and run out to buy your own beans, let me tell you what happened...
My class full of tenth graders were learning animal vocabulary. It was a heated game of double bingo and I had just called out the word "oveja" when Sancho raised his hand urgently to siginify his win. The class let out a collective sigh and began to clear their boards. When I requested that Sancho repeat the words back to me, he informed me that he had in fact not gotten bingo. The conversation went as follows:
Sancho: I think there is a bean in my ear.
Me: What do you mean you "think" there is a bean in your ear?
Sancho: Wait, I might be able to get it out with my pencil...
Me: ABSOLUTELY NOT! DO NOT PUT A PENCIL IN YOUR EAR! Come here please. How did a bean get in your ear?
Sancho: I was trying to see if it would fit, and it did.
I sent Sancho down to the nurse who called me just a few minutes later to request a sample of the bean. They would be sending Sancho to the emergency room and needed to give it to the doctors there. Now let me remind you, this boy was 16 years old...I know it's easy to forget.
About three hours later, someone knocked on my classroom door. It was Sancho. He shared the good news, that they were able to flush the bean out of his ear. In his hand, he held a paper towel which he opened to reveal the bean. "Do you care if I keep it for my scrapbook?" he asked. Of course, I said "yes".
From that day on, he was known as "Sancho Frijoles".
My first year of teaching was a rough one for so many reasons. This was one of them...
The school that I taught in at the time had a curriculum that each teacher needed to follow to the letter. One of the requirements of all Spanish I teachers was to assign to students a take home piñata project. The students were to make a piñata of a "culturally significant" item and return it to school to be displayed and graded. I did as I was expected and assigned the project, despite the fact that I failed to see the educational merit.
A week later, the day arrived when the piñatas were due. Since they were too large to fit in lockers, a large pile of piñatas had begun to grow in the corner of my classroom. I watched as the children brought them in, proudly showing me their sombreros, donkeys, guitars, etc. One piñata seemed to be drawing a great deal of attention. Students I didn't even know were coming into the room to see it - this is great, I thought. Maybe this project will get some more kids interested in Spanish!
I had 1st period off that year, so I took the opportunity to start perusing the substantial pile. It was at that point that one piñata in particular caught my eye. I looked at it, and looked at it again. No, it couldn't be. No one would do that. I must be mistaken. Perhaps it is Gonzo from the Muppets? A rocket ship?
I decided to set my suspicions aside and go right to the source. Kurt arrived to class later that day. I had removed his piñata from the pile and placed it behind my desk, out of the view of the other kids. You see, as the day wore on, droves of children from every grade began coming to me room to see this piñata. I had to keep it's popularity to a minimum until I figured out what to do.
Me: Kurt, would you like to tell me what your piñata is?
Kurt: I think you know what it is.
Me: I would like you to tell me what you intended it to be.
Kurt: It's a penis, and you're holding it wrong.
Me: Thank you Kurt, we will speak more later.
I put the piñata in a garbage bag and brought it down to the assistant principal. He told me I would have to call Kurt's mom. The first parent phone call I ever made and I had to figure out how to broach THIS subject. I called mom and she was well aware of the piñata. She even told me that she had helped him make it and that the term "culturally appropriate" could certainly include this subject matter.
The administration forced me to give Kurt 100% on the project. We broke the piñata open at the end of the year teacher party. I found another teaching job that summer in the district where I still teach today. When I think back to that year, I am surprised I didn't become just another statistic in the attrition rate. I have never allowed students to make piñatas again. When they ask me why, I just tell them that I had a traumatic experience with one.