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.